Hiring a Roofing Contractor
Locating a roofer on the Internet is simple enough; just enter applicable keywords into Google and you’ll have a list to choose from within seconds. If only locating a quality roofer were that easy.
Our local Better Business Bureau lists roofing contractors as the number one search category, indicating it’s an industry where the reputation of contractors can be questionable. Storm chasers, companies run out of the back of a truck, poor workmanship and scam offers have made it important to check a roofing company out carefully before hiring them.
We’ve prepared a simple checklist to assist you in locating, evaluating and then hiring a roofer that is qualified to complete the project to your complete satisfaction.
There is no shortage of roofing companies to evaluate. If your friends have had roof work done, you might want to ask them about their experience. Your local hardware store or construction material supplier may also be a source for recommendations. And search engines will provide additional options. Evaluating at least ten companies is recommended.
You may start with a list of ten companies, but you’ll want to cull some of the names right away, to save valuable time.
An established company will have an internet presence. Any company that hasn’t bothered to have a website built, or develop any social media exposure, may not have bothered to insure their business, obtain the proper licensing or qualifications either.
Does the company website offer a portfolio of work to look at, a before and after gallery or case studies? These can demonstrate not only the calibre of work the company delivers, but verify that the work shown was completed by that company. Do you recognize any of the owners or employees of the company in the photos, or a company vehicle?
Has the company included testimonials on their website? If so, has enough information been provided, that you could validate the testimonials, if desired? Testimonials with only a first name as a credit, and no contact information, like an address, company name or Twitter ID, may have been fabricated.
You will want to search for reviews for each company online. Here you’re looking primarily for negative reviews. Problem customers do exist, and a single bad review may not be a red flag; but if most of the reviews are negative, you will probably want to strike that one from the list. Searches for terms like “company name rip-off”, “company name terrible job”, “company name scam”, or the company’s phone number will usually include reviews on the major search engines.
You’ve read the good and the bad about the companies you’re evaluating. Next you’ll want confirm that the company is licensed and accredited. Do they include trust badges on their website? Can you click on each badge to confirm the validity of their claim? For example, does the badge claiming certification link to a web page that confirms it? If they claim to have an A+ BBB rating, does their BBB review page verify the rating?
You’ll want to have proof of liability insurance. Check that the coverage applies to your job requirements. If your project involves the use of an open flame, such as torch on membrane work, do they have a “hot work” clause that covers them? It is also critical that they have WCB coverage. This can be verified on the WorkSafeBC website, and you can request a letter of clearance for the contractor you’re considering.
Preparation for a Request for Quotation and Interviewing Roofers
Your list will probably be a bit shorter now, and it’s time to begin contacting the remaining roofers.
How soon do you need the work on your roof completed? An urgent need could affect the cost of labor to the contractor, and therefore your price. Is there a specific window in which the work must be completed? Perhaps while you’re on vacation?
As best you can, describe the type of work you believe your project entails. For example, is it a re-roof job, a leak repair, or perhaps just a minor fix? What materials were used in your roof: SBS (membrane), tar and gravel, shingle, tile or metal? While most roofers will work with all materials, being specific can save time later.
A roofing company will almost always recommend and supply the materials used for the repairs or construction. Their website will usually list the materials they prefer. As with most construction materials, roofing materials range from budget quality to premium products. A little consumer self-education here can go a long way. Does the roofer use well known brand names? Take some time to check the manufacturers’ sites and search for reviews on each applicable product. Product quality, performance in all weather conditions, useful service life, and warranties, are points you’ll want to take note of.
Some roofing companies charge a minimum of $500 on small projects. That can really hurt, so you’ll want to inquire about minimums in advance.
Request and Review Quotes
Contractors you contact, should respond promptly to your request with a quote, a request to conduct a site inspection, or both. If unable to meet your time frame, or other criteria, you can expect them to decline the job immediately. This will save time. Don’t pay for a roof inspection. Most contractors will be happy to provide a free inspection.
Carefully study the prices and payment arrangements proposed in each quote you receive. Payment terms can vary considerably. Some contractors will demand a deposit prior to beginning the work, with full payment expected upon the completion of the job. In my opinion, this is unsatisfactory. Do not pay for anything until the materials are delivered. In reroof projects, it is required that 10% be held back upon completion, for 55 days, according to the BC Builder’s Lien Act.
Here are some things to look for on your quote:
The business name, phone number and address should appear on the official quotation. Don’t trust a company that only lists a website or email address.
Your quote should carefully describe the materials that will be used, their quality, expected service life and warranties. You want to be sure the contractor isn’t using low-grade materials to cut costs and increase their bottom line. Material brands to trust include GAF, Malarkey and CertainTeed for shingles, and Sopreoma or IKO for torch-on membrane projects.
A reputable roofer will break their quote down into easily understood components.
The projected time frame for the project should be clearly specified. The size of the crew will typically be listed. If any extra costs are anticipated, you can expect an hourly rate to be listed and the means by which the contractor will demonstrate that those additional services were required, and then completed.
A good quotation will include the guarantee and define exactly what is covered. Where a physical and distinct warranty document will be furnished upon completion, a sample will often be included with the quote. You may want to ask additional questions during the interview, inquiring as to past warranty issues and how they were handled.
Interviewing Contractors on Your Shortlist
By this stage, you should have eliminated contractors that do not fit your budget, are unable to work within your time frame or meet other criteria. You may choose to meet with a company representative in person, but a short phone call will generally do. Here is a list of items you’ll want to cover in your conversation:
- What business permits, certifications, affiliations, credentials or other accreditation do they have?
- How long have they been in business? A company with a solid track record will have more experience and broader base of expertise. The longer they’ve been around, the more likely they are to be in business, should you ever require warranty work.
- If the company doesn’t provide an online portfolio or case study section on their website, you should ask to see their portfolio, or at least some photos, and request some addresses of completed projects to visit later. Ask for references.
- Does the company have adequate worker’s insurance? Do they have sufficient liability insurance to cover possible damage to your home? Can they show you the material warranties?
- Are they looking after permits? Will they guarantee a thorough cleanup after construction and maintenance work?
- Do you get a good feeling, when speaking with the contractor, that your experience will be a positive one? You will probably have to work with this person throughout the project.
Signing the Contract
After your interviews, you should know who the best contractor is for your project, and be ready to proceed. If you still have more than one contender, have them prepare the contract for your perusal. Review the contracts carefully and sign the one you believe provides you with the best service.
Roofing represents a significant investment, so your decision should not be taken likely. The quality of materials and service can vary considerably between contractors, so price is not the only factor to consider.