How to choose a good roofing contractor

Okay, so you need a new roof after the storm from hell rolled into your neighborhood. Or maybe it isn’t really a post-storm emergency. You’ve just noticed some of the many warning signs of needing a new roof such as shingle crumbles littering your gutters, buckled shingles, or a water leak in your attic.

Now the big question? Which local roofing company gets the job?

First, if it’s a post-storm situation, be sure you are hiring an established, local roofing contractor. Every single year, people get taken for millions of dollars by fly-by-night roofers who move into the area after a storm and knock on doors offering to fix your roof. 

While it may be tempting, there are any of a half dozen reasons not to take up their offer.

First, you can bet dollars to donuts that at least 90 percent of transitory roof repairmen are not licensed.

Damage Turbine Hall of Chernobyl (02710168) | From 3 to 7 Ju… | Flickr

Second, you know nothing about how well trained they are at roof repairs. Yesterday they were a janitor or a shoe salesman, today they are a roofer without even the most basic knowledge of how a roof is designed.

And many of these so-called “roof men” may come to work drunk or on drugs. And what’s to stop their roofers from climbing down the ladder and robbing your home while you head to the grocery store or to pick up the kids.

Also, being unlicensed and uninsured, means that if one of them falls off the roof and breaks their leg or hip, they may come after you to pay their medical and rehabilitation costs. 

Finally, with a get in, do the job, and move on philosophy, 90 times out of a hundred they will do a mediocre job at best, with inferior roofing materials. 

And as far ss their written guarantee is concerned, they will promise your roof will last 1,000 years and offer you a written guarantee to that effect in the process. Just try to collect on. Everything about them, including their actual legal address, may be phony.

The only way to get your roof repair done properly is to find a local roofing contractor with impeccable references.

First of all, all reputable companies are licensed by the locality and have liability insurance totaling around $1 million dollars or so. Meet directly at their office first, and ask to see their license and their liability information.

Second, ask about their references. Your contractor most likely has plenty of pretty photos of roofing jobs they have done before but that’s not enough. 

Before you consider hiring a contractor to work on your roof, ask for the names and phone numbers of 5 local references.

If they won’t give the names, then run. This is not the contractor for you. Every reputable contractor has a number of good references they can provide you.

Next, actually, call as many of those references as you need. You can’t normally trust many reviews on Yelp or Google, and when you call these references you will often here quite a different story from what the contractor alleged. 

Maybe the workmen showed up late often, or seem to be unsupervised. Maybe the homeowner needed to call another contractor to repair the damage caused by the first one. You don’t know.

Second, look for experience. Picture two roofing companies, one that has been in business for 10 years in the same location and one that just started 8 months ago. Which do you think will do a better job. 

Next, pay strict attention to the companies listening skills. Some contractors will give a customer only five or 10 minutes and then expect them to sign a contract? Really?

Next invite them to inspect your home and give you a complete assessment of the costs of your roof repair, in-writing. 

You should get at least three legitimate quotes from local roofing companies, and five is better if time allows.

Carefully read each contract and don’t be shy about asking questions. And definitely don’t choose a company simply because they submitted the lowest bid

For those contractors who submit more expensive bids, challenge them on how they came up with the figures. Bring along your other quotes and ask them to explain the differences.

In this way, you will often discover that one roofing company does charge more money but they use superior roofing material.

Also, be careful to ask in writing about whatever guarantee they provide. This is another reason why you want to find an experienced local roofer who has been in business for 5 to 10 years or more. If they offer you a guarantee, determine who exactly is going to live up to that guarantee.

Finally, contact the local Better Business Bureau to see what they say about your contractor and if there are any significant complaints.

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