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What to Ask a Roof Contractor: And How to Evaluate the Answers

When it comes to ensuring the beauty and longevity of a new roof, choosing a roofing contractor is arguably as important as choosing a roofing material.  Although the majority of roofers are well-trained, reputable professionals, there are still some individuals and even some companies out there that are just looking to make a quick buck and don’t care about quality workmanship.

This article will offer some insight into how homeowners can separate the wheat from the chaff.  They can read on to find out what questions to ask a roofing contractor prior to signing on the dotted line to make sure that the end results will live up to their expectations.

What is the Company’s Name and Address?

Let’s get the basics down first.  Never choose a contractor that does not work for a reputable roofing company.  Instead, make a point of asking for the company’s full name and physical address. This information can be used to ensure that the company is legitimate.

Do You Have Insurance?

One of the many reasons that it’s always a better idea to choose roofing contractors who work for a well-established company is that they will just about always carry both workers’ compensation insurance and liability insurance.  Workers’ compensation policies are designed to protect both roofers and homeowners in the event that a worker is injured on the job. Liability insurance, on the other hand, is intended to protect against damage caused by the roofers.

If they choose to work with an individual or a company that doesn’t carry workers’ compensation insurance, homeowners may find themselves liable for paying medical bills and other costs should someone be injured on the job.  If their chosen roofers don’t have liability insurance, they could be left in the lurch should any property damage occur.  Needless to say, it’s important to validate the information provided by the company about both of these types of insurance policy prior to signing a contract.

Do You Have a License?

Although licensing requirements vary by locale, the vast majority of cities, counties, and states do require roofing licenses.  Keep in mind that business licenses aren’t the same as roofing licenses, although companies should absolutely have both.  While a business license indicates that the company’s owner has the legal right to operate a business, it does not offer any insight into the abilities of individual contractors.

If roofing contractor licenses are required by the state, county, or city, make a point of ensuring that every contractor who will be working on the project has a license.  It’s also a good idea to verify the information with the local licensing office.  Make a point of asking about outstanding violations and checking to make sure that it is up-to-date.

Do You Use Subcontractors?

Homeowners should also find out if their roofers will be using subcontractors.  It’s fine if they are, but it’s also important for homeowners to ensure that these subcontractors are equally qualified.  Any subcontractors hired to complete specialized work should carry licenses and insurance, as well.

Is Your Work Warrantied?

Typical warranties for materials and workmanship last a year.  While the materials are covered by their manufacturer, the work should be covered by the roofers, themselves.  It is thus sometimes possible for the terms of these two warranties to be different, so ask about how long each of them lasts and what, exactly, will be covered.

Is it Possible to Get Some References?

Most reputable contractors will be more than willing to offer a list of references, most or all of which should be former clients. When calling to speak with former clients, make a point of asking about whether or not the contractors completed the job within their original time frame, whether they completed the work up to the homeowners’ standards, and how the crew acted while on the job.

All of the references should report final costs that were in keeping with the contractor’s original quote, project completion according to his or her original time frame and reasonable responsiveness.  Ask each of the references if he or she would recommend using the contractor.  If the answers are less than enthusiastic or there are any red flags readily apparent after one or more conversations, look elsewhere for a roofer.

Can I Visit a Current Worksite?

Ask whether it would be possible to see the contractor’s roofing crew in action.  The answer should be an enthusiastic “yes.”  After getting permission to visit a current work site, make a point of driving by and checking to see how the crew is operating. Everyone working on the job should be acting respectfully toward the homeowner and his or her property.

Workers should be cleaning up the site as they go and should be handling the materials carefully, as well.  Keep in mind that the contractor may or may not have obtained permission from the client to use him or her as a reference, so don’t go knocking on the door and asking questions.  Just check out the site to see how it looks.

How Do You Handle Payments?

If the homeowner is providing materials, most roofers will not require down-payments.  Instead, payment will usually be required after the job has been completed.  If, on the other hand, the contractor is supplying the materials, expect to make a down-payment to cover them.

Most contractors will accept at least a few different payment options, including checks and often credit cards. Some offer payment plans, as well. Make a point of getting a written payment schedule worked out in advance.

What Is Included in the Estimate?

When evaluating a company’s estimate, make a point of asking what, exactly, it covers.  Keep in mind that even the best roofer will be unable to predict the future, but expect the estimate to cover reasonable contingencies.  If additional upgrades are needed or recommended, the roofer should offer a second estimate and homeowners should never be left on the line for work that they did not approve.

Do You Have Experience With the Material?

The only acceptable answer to the question of whether a roofer has experience installing a specific roofing material or brand of roofing material is “yes.”  There’s nothing inherently wrong with a roofer who has never worked with a specialized roofing material, but there’s also no way to evaluate his or her ability to install that roofing type safely and efficiently.  Each manufacturer has different specifications when it comes to the type and number of fasteners used, how products should be sealed, and how water damage can be prevented.

How Do You Deal With Rain?

There’s no excuse for failing to have an adequate plan in place for dealing with inclement weather.  This is particularly true in areas of the country where rain, heavy winds, and other forms of inclement weather are common and expected.  However, every roofer should be able to offer a clear answer about his or her action plan for dealing with rain and wind.  That plan should always include, at a minimum, securing a partially completed roof with tarps.

How Will Water Damage Be Avoided?

The primary purpose of a roof is to prevent the rest of the home from sustaining water damage.  Proper installation of all roofing materials is essential to preventing water damage in the future, but there are a few other steps that contractors should take, as well.  If, for example, the old roof structure did not provide adequate ventilation, the roofer should be willing to add the necessary vents for a reasonable additional cost.

Re-roofing a house actually offers the perfect opportunity for adding ventilation to a home’s attic or crawlspace. Doing so can help to prevent damage by removing moisture and excess heat from the area immediately beneath the roof deck.

Contractors should also be willing to discuss what kind of sealants and adhesives they will be using, where and how flashing will be installed, and how much the shingles will overhang the roof. Each of these factors can have a dramatic impact on the roof’s ability to prevent water damage to walls.

The Bottom Line

Choosing a roofing contractor is an important decision.  The right contractor will offer professional installation and superior customer service, starting and completing the project on time and under budget.  The wrong contractor might wind up providing sub-par services or, even worse, might end up being a scammer.

Don’t just ask the questions listed above then ignore their answers.  Instead, pay close attention to what contractors have to say and check up on any information that can be validated such as addresses, licenses, and insurance policies.  If any of the information doesn’t add up, don’t ignore those red flags.

There are plenty of roofing contractors out there, so there’s no reason to work with one who doesn’t inspire confidence. Homeowners should never rush the process of choosing a contractor just because they’re anxious to get their roofing projects started.  If they’ve paid attention, they should now be equipped with all of the information they’ll


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