How to Choose a Roofing Contractor

The greatest challenge for anyone responsible for any physical asset is how to keep it operating properly. The key is finding qualified maintenance providers to solve problems that are beyond our own abilities. With the advent of the Internet, our options are limitless. If we need a doctor, we Google the type of doctor we need and get a list of options. The same can be said for all other types of goods and services. But with more options, are we really getting more quality from these numerous choices?

Unfortunately, people and companies can make any claim on the Internet and, as long as they don’t slander anybody else, it’s perfectly legal. I get emails every day claiming to have a cure for cancer, obesity, hemorrhoids, etc., and all I have to do is log on to the website, enter my credit card number and the “cure” will be sent to my house within 72 hours.

Everyone knows this is a hoax, right? Yet more and more of these websites keep popping up every day. Clearly someone is falling for these frauds or there wouldn’t be any! But I digress. The topic of this article is “how to choose a roofing contractor”, not “how not to get ripped off using the Internet.”

Preliminary Questions

Consequently, if I have a roof leak, the first thing I will do is conduct a web search for roofing contractors in my area. I will probably look for ones located closest to my facility. I will call the company and say something like: “I have a roof leak. Do you fix those?” The contractor will probably say, “Yes, I can fix leaks.” I will then say: “Great! When can you be here?” And the rest is, as they say, history. Hopefully, the contractor I selected is licensed, bonded, insured and competent. As you can see, I didn’t ask any of those questions, so I really don’t know. But he must be good; he was listed on the Internet!

If he’s not licensed, there is probably a pretty good reason why he isn’t—he’s not a real contractor, just kind of a handyman. If he’s not bonded and there is a problem with the work he performs and he refuses to fix his mistakes, I will have no recourse to take legal action because he doesn’t have a bonding company backing his work. If he isn’t insured and he falls off my roof, he can sue me personally for causing him bodily injury.

Before any contractor comes out to your facility, make sure the company is licensed, bonded and insured. Always ask for the license number, bonding company name and number, and personal liability insurance policy number. Once you get this information, verify these numbers and providers. I once had a contractor give me his license number only to find out the number was made up! If the information checks out, set up an appointment for the contractor to evaluate your problem. Don’t set the appointment and then check out the company’s qualifications. If a roofer comes out, climbs on your roof and falls off without liability insurance, you are on the hook paying for “Mr. FastRoofs Inc.’s” medical bills or worse: he sues you for not having fall protection on your roof—not that you should know what that is—and rest assured you will pay his medical and legal bills!

Once you have determined a certain level of legitimacy, you should also check what other types of certifications the contractor has attained. I would determine whether he or she belongs to the Better Business Bureau. This is no guarantee that these companies won’t have problems, but it does show a willingness to be responsible once the work has been completed. Also, determine whether the company belongs to trade associations. A roofing contractor should be “a member in good standing” and belong to the Rosemont, Ill.-based National Roofing Contractors Association or one of its affiliates.

Don’t assume just because a company says it belongs to a trade association it does. I once dealt with a painting contractor that listed on its website belonging to the Painting and Decorating Contractors of America, Maryland Heights, Mo. I called the trade association and learned the contractor did not belong at all! In other words, if a contractor makes a claim, make a call and check it out—no matter what!

The Proposal

Once you have properly vetted your prospective contractor, call him and describe your problem in the most basic terms. Most people want to solve the problem themselves and then just have the contractor effect the change.

Customers often will call and say: “I have a lot of problems on my roof. Can you come out and give me a quote for a new roof?” I am sure many of you are reading this and are completely incredulous this happens but, be honest, it’s human nature to not want to seem ignorant. As a matter of fact, I find those with the most experience are quickest to opine on their problems when they really don’t have a clue as to what’s wrong with their roof.

About the Author

Jeffrey Blank
Jeffrey Blank is the vice president of Research and Development for the SR Products Division of Simon Roofing, Youngstown, Ohio.

24 Comments on "How to Choose a Roofing Contractor"

  1. Could not have said this better myself. This is a great article, and I appreciate you taking the time to write it. I have been in the roofing business for a long time, and have helped many customers with their roofing repairs, roof replacements, and new roofs. There are many things I try and educate homeowners on, and am going to reference this article.

  2. I really liked the suggestion to check and see if a roofing contractor belongs to the Better Business Bureau. My roof has been giving me some problems lately, and I have decided it’s about time to have it replaced. I think I would feel much more confident in a roofer’s reliability and trustworthiness if I do my research beforehand to determine his legitimacy and past history using something like the Better Business Bureau.

  3. I liked reading your breakdown of how you go about finding contractors when you need one. I think that starting with an internet search is probably one of the best ways to find anything these days. Word of mouth is still important to folks like me though, so getting references you can talk to would be a good idea as well.

  4. I agree that when looking for a roofer you need to choose someone who is licensed. It would seem that licensing would ensure they are qualified and professional. I’m looking for a roofer to fix some storm damage so I’ll have to find someone who is properly licensed to do the job.

  5. I appreciate your tip to make sure you find a roofing contractor who is licensed and certified. I also like that you pointed out that good roofing contractors should have proper insurance coverage. I’ll be sure to watch out for those things the next time I’m hiring roofing contractors.

  6. Excellent Article…I believe too many homeowners today are still unaware of the importance of hiring a licensed, bonded and insured contractor. Unfortunately many people just want to save a few bucks, but in the big picture the savings could end up costing them much more!

  7. I have some roofing work to do, and I have been looking for the right contractor to fit my needs. I agree that it is very important to verify the legitimacy of the company. You don’t want to hire somebody who is not up to your standards. I’ll keep that in mind and make sure to call trade associations to verify.

  8. I can see how all these questions about hiring the right roofer are valid. I never thought about the fact that a roofer would need to be bonded when they work on your roof. I never realized that I could be liable if they fall off my roof if they aren’t bonded. I can see why you would have to look beyond an internet post when it comes to hiring a trustworthy roofer.

  9. Be careful! I own a roofing company, and we’ve gotten a lot of clients from the shoddy past work of our competitors. If they had found us first, we could have saved them a lot of money and headache. Definitely make sure your contractor is licensed, bonded, and insured. That goes without saying.

  10. My wife has been trying to find a company to come and take a look at our roof, and I wanted to help her out. It’s interesting that you should see what kinds of certifications the contractor has. That way, they might be able to help you out with other things as well.

  11. Finding the right roofer takes time, research and faith. I agree with Megan, finding the right roofer is a huge decision. I suggest asking alot of questions!

  12. Besides checking to see if the contractor is licensed and insured, it is also a good idea to check with previous clients about their work. Ask the contractor to put you in contact with their last 3 clients. If they did a good job, the clients shouldn’t mind sharing about their work.

  13. Things are different here in the Uk in terms of being licensed and insured. But we are proud to promote that we go over and above all the regulations.

  14. As most of the comments have mentioned… it goes without saying that you should check certifications and insurance etc. but who really has the time to do this? Especially when you’re planning on getting a few roofing quotes to compare.

    Nowadays it’s far simpler to use one of the online services that can arrange free quotes for you, and better still they pre-screen and vet all roofers on the network so you don[t have to worry about quality etc.

  15. Getting the right roofing contractor can be hard. I know that you have to do a lot of research because you want to make sure that the work is quality. I agree that you should also check to see if they are legit as well.

  16. Thank you for the help. My roof was damaged in a storm, so I am trying to find a roofing contractor to repair it for me. I am not even sure how to describe the problem, as you discussed. Should I try to have someone come inspect it and give an estimate afterward?

  17. I loved the way you put things so bluntly. If he’s not licensed, that really is a red flag. Reading through this article I was surprised just how common it is to find a fraud. I’ve always have had good experiences. When I look in the near future, I’ll be much more aware.

  18. This is some great information, and I appreciate your suggestion to find a roofer that is licensed. My roof has been having some problems with a leak that I can find, and I want to have a professional come and take care of it for me. I’m kind of new to the area, so I need to search for someone, and I’ll make sure that whoever I decide on is licensed. Thanks for the great post!

  19. I have recently realized that my roof is much older than I thought it was, so I really appreciate this information on how to choose a roofing contractor. I like how you point out the importance of finding one that will come out and look at your roof before giving a price or promise that they can fix it. I imagine that it would also be important to find someone who has good reviews from former clients. Thanks for sharing this information!

  20. Checking certifications is a really great idea for finding a roofing contractor. I know I’m in need of some roofing work done, but I really wasn’t sure how to get the best roofers out there. I’ll have to call around and ask them what kinds of credentials they have. Thanks for the tips!

  21. Choosing a roofing contractor is a very big choice! I mean, if you don’t have a good roof, it’s almost impossible to feel safe and comfortable in your house. I loved what you said about the importance of finding someone who is licensed. You’re totally right: if someone isn’t licensed, there’s probably a reason!

  22. I’ve been trying to figure out how I’m supposed to choose someone to do my roof. There’s just so many options! I didn’t even think about asking those questions beforehand. It makes sense that you would want to ensure that the contractor was licensed! Thanks for sharing.

  23. Setting your terms in the proposal is a really good idea. In my mind, it sets a clear expectation of what exactly will be done to the roof and what will happen. I’ll have to pass along this article to a friend of mine who’s been looking at roofing contractors to get some work done on his home. Thanks for the awesome info!

  24. I like that you brought up checking to make sure your contractor is licensed bonded and insured. Working with an unlicensed contractor is extremely risky and could cause all sorts of problems. Always err on the side of caution, and in this case, certification.

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