When we hire a roofing contractor to take care of an investment as important as the roof that protects our home, we don’t want good, we want excellent, the best, the cream of the crop. So what sets one roofing contractor apart from another and how do I know I’m getting the best? How do you prevent a contractor nightmare? Here are eight general guidelines for ensuring you’re getting the best of best.
1. Ensure your roofing contractor is properly licensed. First and foremost, make sure they are licensed professionals. There are many contractors who claim to have professional experience, and maybe they do, but a license is a credential that indicates basic competence since there is a process to getting a license - and keeping it. Many of these license requirements also help protect consumers from fraud. Research the license requirements in your state and municipality to verify that your contractor is in compliance.
It is crucial as a protection in the case of an accident or mishap on the job. If your contractor does not have workers’ compensation coverage and one of their workers is injured on your property, you as the homeowner might be held liable for all costs - and homeowners’ insurance policies normally exclude such injuries.
3. Look them up on the Better Business Bureau website. If the contractor is listed with the Better Business Bureau the good and bad should be there, including detailed evaluations. Find out what criticism they have received (even the best of the best have been criticized) and know that you’re your own best judge of whether or not the positives trump the negatives. You can also ask for references of past work from the contractor.
4. Find out how many years your roofing contractor has been in business. While everyone has to start sometime, there is a lot to be said in how long a roofing contractor has been in business. The failure rate of small businesses in the first three years is high. However only being in business a few years doesn’t explicitly mean they are inexperienced.
Referrals or references from previous jobs are critical to show they have substantial experience and ability - and with even a short history of satisfied customers you can feel better hiring a contractor that has only been in business for a short time. The best roofing contractor should be happy to have you speak to past clients. If this request makes them uncomfortable that should be a red flag for you.
5. Require a detailed contract signed by both you and the roofing contractor. A detailed written contract is a must. The written contract you receive should include the terms of service, payment terms as well as details regarding how the work will be performed. Don’t sign unless you agree to all the terms of the contract. You may need an attorney or someone with business savvy to review your contract if you don’t feel you are able to fully understand the terms yourself.
6. Inquire about manufacturer and contractor warranties and guarantees. Most newly installed roof systems have warranties available to cover the product and, in some cases, the workmanship itself. Ask your contractor is they offer a warranty beyond the manufacturer’s warranty. What is the coverage and duration?
Typically, contractor workmanship warranties are one year or greater. The length of the warranty is less important than the intent and ability of the roofer to stand behind it. The best roofing contractor will stand behind his work even if problems of workmanship arise after the workmanship warranty has expired. Ask your contractor for a copy of all warranties, especially any manufacturer warranties. Roofing companies come and go and if you don’t keep a copy of your warranty it may be difficult down the road to make a claim.
7. Ensure your contractor has a permanent address and office. The best roofing contractor has a permanent address and other forms of contact information. Not that there’s anything wrong with a contractor that works out of his own home but you would be surprised at the number of contractors that operate their business out of their vehicles. The contractor should be easy to get in touch with if you should have questions or a problem. A permanent address also shows their finances are good enough to pay rent and other expenses. While a website isn’t a necessity, it is a nice resource for “seeing” who they are.
8. Trust your own instincts. Go with your gut. Just talking to them before they come out to give you an estimate will give you a gauge on whether or not they’ll be a good choice for you. How quickly did they respond to your phone call? Were they willing to take the time to answer all of your questions? Even further, did they make suggestions and educate you with options you may not have considered?
A free estimate is great but doesn’t guarantee the best contractor. Don’t let the cost of the work be your deciding factor. This doesn’t necessarily mean the highest price gets you the best contractor. Remember the best roofing contractor respects your time and money and is willing to look at and execute the details, never compromising by cutting corners, and insuring the highest quality work. If after talking with the contractor you feel they were avoiding certain topics or not giving direct answers don’t be afraid to trust your own instincts.