Next to used car salesmen and politicians, home improvement contractors may be one of the most mistrusted groups of professionals on earth! Sadly, homeowners have a right to be skeptical. There is no shortage of stories about disappearing contractors, contractors who start out strong but take forever to finish a job, do shoddy work or are generally unpleasant to work or communicate with.
The good news is that there are excellent, reputable contractors out there. The task of finding them falls to you. But you’re not doomed to the whims of fate. You do have ammunition to help you vet contractors so you can feel more confident in your choice – and happy with the result.
Here are some ideas you can use to vet a roofing contractor, so do your homework before you hire.
1. Find Out Who Obtains Permits
It may not cross your mind to get a permit if you’re replacing an already existing roof but some towns do require them. Failing to obtain a permit can result in costly fines so be sure that you’re aware of your responsibility.
Whether you’re responsible for obtaining the permits or your contractor does it for you, make sure you know what the process is. And be sure to get it in writing! The last thing you need is a verbal understanding that leads to finger-pointing later.
2. Ask How The Job Is Done
Quality of materials, attention to detail, thoroughness of execution – all these things can have a tremendous impact on the effectiveness and longevity of your roof.
You may not be a roofing contractor but with a little bit of insider info you can be prepared to ask the right questions. For example, find out whether your contractor plans to remove existing plywood or board over it. Typically you’d want the plywood replaced, especially since it can be old, damaged or uneven. Slapping a brand new roof on top of old wood is not ideal.
Ask about how your roof is protected against water and ice. What sealants are used or what materials are used to reinforce the roof against Mother Nature?
Something as simple as asking how many nails are used per shingle can give you an idea of how secure the end result will be. The ideal answer is six.
And by the way, if your contractor gets impatient with your questions then that’s probably a red flag, too.
3. Is The Roof Warrantied?
Nothing lasts forever… but wouldn’t it be nice if it lasted a reasonable length of time? And that if anything went wrong, your investment was covered? Knowing what kind of warranty you will be provided with and what it covers can literally save you thousands of dollars if something goes wrong.
There are actually two types of coverage that you can ask your roofing contractor about. One is coverage for workmanship errors and one is coverage for defects in the materials. Understanding what’s covered – and what’s not – can help make your decision easier.
4. Understand The Cancellation Policy
Let’s face it – nobody wants to get to the “sign here” phase of a project and be ready to start work only for things to fall apart. Preparing for a project requires securing labor and materials, scheduling and organization.
But a good contractor understands that things happen and sometimes you may come up against an unexpected circumstance or you may just change your mind. If that happens, what are your options for backing out? What is your responsibility?
Much like we mentioned earlier about obtaining permits, be sure to get the cancellation policy in writing.
5. Ask For References
This may seem like a no brainer but it’s worth mentioning. Reputable contractors will be able to provide you with references that you can check. And by the way… check them! You’d be surprised by how many people stop at the “asking” part but never bother to follow through.
It wouldn’t hurt to prepare a few questions for the references you call, too. Ask about what went right, what went wrong, what the homeowners wished they’d known ahead of time. It will be pretty obvious when a homeowner is happy with the job.
6. What About Contact Information?
Many of the “my contactor disappeared” problems happen when the only way a homeowner can communicate with a contractor is via a single cell phone number. And while it’s great to have that kind of personal access, it’s better to have multiple avenues of communication.
Cell phone, office phone, email, even website and social media. The more places your contractor can be found, the less likely he will be to disappear without a trace.
Don’t be afraid to put your contractor to the test. Call or email with a question and see whether you receive a timely answer. If not, it may be time to move on.
7. Check Into Reputation
It’s tough to do much without it ending up on the internet these days. Chances are your contractor has a review somewhere, on Google, Yelp, Facebook, Angie’s List and more. Checking for – and finding – reviews is an indication that your contractor is legitimate and invested in the community.
Some contractors work strictly by word of mouth referral, so you if you get a recommendation from a trusted friend or family member then you can consider that your “review.” Otherwise, check out your contractor’s presence online to see what kind of reputation he upholds.
8. Ask About Cleanup
You want to choose a roofing contractor who does a great job. But what about after the job is done? Will he return your landscape to its original state by clearing debris? Or will you be stuck with a lawn full of nails and a bill for a dumpster?
This is one more bit of information that you should expect to get in writing.
9. Speaking Of Writing…
It might sound friendly and warmly old-fashioned to make a deal on a handshake but when it comes to contractors, failing to obtain a written contract is disaster waiting to happen. And no, and estimate scribbled on a piece of notebook paper doesn’t count.
Your contract should be clear about the job that is being done, what’s included, the estimated cost, start and end dates, payment terms, warranties, cancellation policies and permits.
If you don’t understand something, ask first, sign later. A clear contract shows that your contractor means business and you’ll be less likely to be left holding the bag for someone who disappears or fails to get the job done.
These are just a few things you can check into before choosing a roofing contractor. Among other things, you may want to ask about insurance, certifications, industry affiliations and more. But with even this small amount of extra information you’re much more likely to find a professional who will meet or exceed your expectations.
Why not put us to the test? Contact us for a free estimate and ask as many questions as you want. Let us prove just how smoothly your roof replacement can go!