How To Select The Right Roofing Contractor For Your Home
If you own a home for long enough, chances are at one time or another, you're going to have to put on a new roof. If you're in the market to buy a home, you want to keep in mind that most preferred insurance carriers will require a roof to not only look good and be free of obvious defects, albeit also under 20 years old.
If your roof is already leaking or shingles are falling off, you've likely waited too long, and your roof should be replaced (or at least repaired) sooner than later. Water damage, mold, and rot can go on for a long time before a home owner may notice the problem, so make sure you're not letting your home's roof go into disrepair.
When seeking a roofing company to fix or replace your roof, you're more or less on your own in determining which company is reputable and which roofers should be avoided if your area doesn't license roofing contractors. Even in locations that require a license, it isn't necessarily that difficult to get a license and it's no guarantee the roofing contractor will do a good job.
Here's some tips that will get you on your way to your new home's roof:
Google is your friend. Perform searches on Google for at least the following search terms:
- Roofing contractors
- Home Roofing Contractors
- Professional Roofing Contractors
- Commercial Roofers – This may appear counter-intuitive at first, but it's important to know that commercial roofing can be more difficult. Most new roofing contractors start with residential and "graduate" to commercial roofs. This isn't always the case, but there is a correlation and you'll find commercial roofers tend to have more experience. Finding roofers that perform both commercial and residential roofing will tend to have more experience.
- Get at least three estimates for contracts that are under $75,000 and at least five estimates for contracts above that amount. Otherwise, you won't have a good sense of the market and who's way under what they should be, and those way over.
- Get to know your roofing contractor. Take the time to know as much about the roofers that provide a quote or bid on your home.
- Does the roofing contractor have insurance? Not just any type of insurance, but general liability from an A rated company is vitally important. Look for clues that the insurance policy isn't as good as you may want. It's important to know that not all general liability insurance policies are the same. Ask for a copy of the exclusions, and for what's known as a Certificate of Insurance.
- Any per occurrence limit under $1 million and under $2 million aggregate is a major warning sign the contractor isn't overly concerned about what happens to their clients if a major accident should occur (or worse yet, they don't believe anything bad can ever happen to them).
- Call the insurance agent or insurance carrier that issued the Certificate of Insurance and make sure it's valid. Anyone with a computer and printer can make a Certificate of Insurance. Also, make sure the roofer Certificate of Insurance's date is recent.
- Ask if the insurance policy has a "Sunset Clause". This is a warning sign that the roofing contractor may be buying the cheapest possible insurance policy available without concern for the actual coverage.
- If more than one person is on your home's roof working to replace it, that means each person should be an employee of the roofing contractor, or independent contractors.
- If other workers are employees, the contractor should have workers' compensation on his roofing employees. if not, it's a serious red flag
- If the other workers are sub-contractors, the roofing contractor's insurance should have language that states how many sub-contractors its rated for, OR if none, each sub-contractor should have their own insurance.
- Take note if the roofing contractor takes their time to explain the whole process and demonstrate what they're going to do.
- Make sure everything is in writing. If it isn't in writing, it might as well not have been said. Trying to win in a he-said she-said is no fun when you do find success, much less when you realize you have no remedy to a bad situation.
- Compare more than just the price, compare the materials and the warranty. For a ~$5000 roof, $200 more might not be much more to pay if the warranty is better.
- Does the warranty cover more than labor? The materials likely have a warranty too, but pay attention to depreciation clauses.
- Bonding – If the roofing contractor that provides you a bid states they're bonded, check to see if the bonding actually protects you. Sometimes, a bond doesn't actually protect the homeowner.
- Get references and also see what others have to say online. Anyone can post a comment, including friends, employees, moms and brother-in-laws, so you have to take it with a grain of salt. That said, timing and consistency of the reviews may shed some light on how valid they are. If the reviews are made only by people who have provided a single review, it's more suspect than someone who has 36 reviews with both positive and negative statements.
- Are they local? Being a local roofer doesn't carry much weight without some length of time in business. Also, just because they're not local doesn't mean they're not good to work with neither. What I call "hit and run storm chasers" are roofing contractors that require a great deal of extra due diligence. There are roofing contractors that will go around a wide geographic area following storms and try to get homeowners to let them repair or replace their roofs. Often, they say they'll waive the insurance deductible and try to make anything into an insurance claim. Again, some are good, but some will use the cheapest materials and labor they can find to "slap a roof" on your home and move on to the next town.
- Be careful about contractors that require a large down payment. It could be a sign they're operating with very thin margins of error before going out of business
- Ask how many years they've been in business under THIS name.
- Check and verify with the appropriate state department how long the business has been operating. This can be and is usually the Secretary of State, or another name such as in Wisconsin the Department of Financial Institutions.
- Ask how many projects similar to yours they've done in the last three months. Ideally, they should have at least a few per month or they may not have the experience required to do the type of work you want. Follow up with asking for names and addresses so you can verify.
- Every great contractor was new in business at one time.
- Ask what type of flashing do they completely replace on roofs. The answer should be for the fireplace, drip edges, all valley metal, any exposed headwall, and of course skylights. If your roofer can't answer this question correctly, it's a sign they may not have the experience you want.
- Ask if the roofing contractor is a manufacturers preferred installer. Being a preferred roofing installer may increase your new roof's warranty.
- Ask if a permit is required. The roofer should not have to guess, or it may be a sign they don't have the experience you're seeking. Also, if they so no, you'll want to double check with the local authority. Don't think you're saving money by skirting around a permit rule. Some authorities have been known to require a new roof ripped out and replaced by one with a company that pulls a permit.
- Ask what the contractor's policy is for warranty claims. Do they have written procedures or do they appear to make it up as they go?
- Ask for references that had to have warranty work or something "wasn't perfect". How the contractor handles problems with others is likely how they'll handle issues with you should they occur.
- After asking all these questions, what's the roofers attitude towards you? Do you have the feeling they can't get away from you fast enough, or do they appear to want to take the time to satisfy your concerns?
- If the roofer isn't being honest with anything, don't expect to have a good experience, unless you want to rely on luck, and luck won't keep the water out of your home on a stormy night.
Robert Weinstein is a husband, dad, stock market junkie, real estate broker, and of course…Insurance agent. Interests include my family, economics, marketing, technology, real estate, finance/investing, history, and Asia.
Robert’s insurance expertise includes having the designation of Certified in Long-Term Care (CLTC) and assist in asset protection for families with members entering retirement.
Robert is also an accomplished syndicated writer whose work can be found in TheStreet, MainStreet, CNBC, Forbes, Yahoo Finance, Seeking Alpha, MSN Money, The Money Show, Stock Saints, Motley Fool, Fidelity, Minyanville, RealMoney Pro, and many national and international newspapers.