Buyer Beware Tips Before Hiring A Roofing Contractor
These 7 questions will help you avoid hiring the wrong roofing company
When hiring a company to perform a service, it’s common for people to just hire someone and stay out of the way and let the professional handle it. Often, people don’t want to worry the intricacies of a project. As a result, they will usually take the “professional’s” word for it when they explain the best way to complete the project. Unfortunately, this can lead to problems if a homeowner doesn’t know what to expect and ends up getting ripped off by their roofer. They say honesty is the best policy, so there’s nothing wrong with being vocal about any concerns you may have. To avoid problems down the line, here is a short Q-and-A you can have with your prospective roofing contractor before you hire them to install your new roof.
#1 How long have you been in the roofing business?
Perhaps it’s not always fair to assume that companies that have only been around for a few years are less competent, but if a roofer has 20 years of experience, you can feel pretty sure that they’ll do a good job and are a trustworthy company.
A similar question to ask is whether the company has ever operated under a different name – a common scam is for roofing companies to close down every few years and reopen with a different name or different owner (this is because a roofer going out of business voids any post-installation warranties).
If you don’t feel that a company has been around long enough to have built up a trustworthy reputation, ask if there are any ongoing projects you can look at or if they have a list of references/referrals from previous satisfied clients.
A reliable roofer should be proud to refer you to past costumers.
#2 What’s your license status?
A highly trustworthy roofer will probably hold a license that is valid in multiple states, but you should still be able to trust a roofer that is only licensed in your state. This is because codes can vary according to available materials, the way a region’s climate affects those materials, and other variables. Be sure to find out that the license is up to date – they usually need to be renewed every few years (though this can vary depending on the state).
#3 What type of insurance does your company have?
You’re looking for two key phrases in response:
- The first is workman’s compensation, which holds the employer liable, not you, in the event that one of their employees gets injured while working on your property. Many contractors would rather take their chances than pay for the insurance coverage, which could not only result in people getting hurt but the blame falling on you! Don’t even bother to hire a company without workman’s compensation.
- The second type of insurance a good roofing contractor should have is called general liability insurance, which covers any damage that the construction could do to your house. If they don’t have general liability insurance, any accidental damage to your home that causes structural problems in the future won’t be covered, even if you personally didn’t cause that damage. Ask for proof of insurance. Certifications should list your name and property address, and you can always call the insurance provider to verify.
#4 Do you use roofing subcontractors?
Some roofers will hire another construction team to do the actual work. We suggest avoiding roofers who hire subcontractors, as this tends to muddle all of the insurance, licensure, and other important verification, since there is an additional set of hands all the paperwork has to pass through. This makes it difficult to know for sure how good the subcontractors are if they are not a direct branch of the contractor that you hired.
#5 Will you be removing the old roof?
This seems like a given right? But it’s common in the roofing industry to lay a new layer of shingles right over the old ones. As a result, there are a couple of things to look out for here. Reliable roofing contractors include the old roof removal as part of their quote, but others will try and sneak in extra fees if nothing was recorded in writing.
Another common trick is to claim that a quick look at the old roof will tell whether or not it needs to be removed, and that laying new shingles on top of the old ones is just fine. This isn’t always the case, as rotten wood or soft spots can’t always be detected unless the old roofing is peeled off.
#6 Can I have a written copy of the estimate?
Asking for estimates or quotes is always kind of risky, as you have to brace yourself for the possibility of unexpected obstacles that require more complicated skills and equipment. Sometimes things happen that honestly do cause issues resulting in higher fees, but a detailed, written price quote should be provided before you sign any contracts. This should cover things like removing the old roof (as we discussed above), laying down the new roof (of course), accidentals such as rotten framing or plywood, and perhaps more depending on your situation. A roofer who does not want to provide you a written record of the estimate should raise an immediate red flag, because they can then claim that certain fees were unavoidable.
#7 Who is my on-site contact person?
It’s very important there is somebody on site at all times that you can communicate with should have questions or concerns arise. In most cases, unless it is a small, family-run type of business, the person you’re handling the sale and contract with is not going to be doing the actual construction themselves. Be on alert if the person who completes the initial walkthrough and bid tells you they will be your “go-to contact”. While this could be true, most of the time the person who completes the bid will have very little to do with the roofing install once the project starts.
You should walk away from the initial contract signing deal with the name and contact information of a site manager in case something comes up and you need to contact them (or vice versa). You should get regular updates throughout the day about the progress of the project so that you don’t come home from a long day at work to any nasty surprises.
Remember, a reliable roofing contractor has likely heard all of these questions before and can have the answers for you at the drop of a hat. You have nothing to be afraid of by being honest, voicing your concerns, and asking for clarification if you don’t understand anything. As long as you are polite and fair, chances are, your roofer will return the favor!