How to Choose a Roofing Contractor

Anyone that is responsible for a physical asset knows the challenge of keeping it operating properly.  To do this you must find qualified maintenance providers to fix any problem that may happen that is out of your own abilities.  Thanks to the internet, our options are limitless.  But is this really a good thing?  More options does not mean more quality. 

If you don’t know already, people and companies don’t have to tell the truth on the internet which allows them to claim they are the best without showing any evidence to back it up, but if they aren’t insulting anyone else, it is legal.  Do you get hundreds of spam email claiming someone has found the cure for cancer by taking a vitamin they are selling or maybe they are selling a cream that will burn off all excess fat without dieting and exercise? They claim that all you need to do is create an account, add your credit card and they will send you the product. 

Most people know these websites are a scam, but sadly these websites multiple every day and pop up everywhere.  This means that someone is falling for these scams or people would move on to the next efficient way to swindle money from people.  I know, you are thinking that this article is supposed to be about how to choose a roofing contractor, not “how to avoid getting scammed using the internet.”  Sadly, these two subjects are one in the same.

Initial Questions

You have a roof leak, so the first thing you do is Google, “roofing contractors in my area.”  Or look to see who is the closest to your home or business.  You may call or email this company and ask if they fix roof leaks and of course they will say, “Yes, I can fix your leak!”  Then you may set up an appointment for them to come out and see and fix the roof.  Most won’t ask any more questions because they believe they must be good; they were listed on the Internet!

Sadly, this couldn’t be further from the truth.  Not asking more questions can lead to a disaster that you are left dealing with and paying for.  If they are not licensed, there is a high chance they aren’t real contractors.  The company not being bonded means, any problem during the project and if God forbid, they refuse to fix their mistake, you will have no recourse to take legal action because they don’t have a bonding company backing his work.  If they aren’t insured and for example someone falls through the roof, he can sue you personally for causing them bodily harm.

Before any contractor steps foot on your property, you need to make sure the company is licensed, bonded and insured.  Ask for the license number, bonding company name, and number and personal liability insurance policy number.  They should be willing to give these to you with no trouble, if they make excuses see this as a red flag.  

Once you get this information, verify these numbers and providers.  Just because they give you a number, doesn’t mean it is real.  Most people believe that if they give someone a number that will be enough because sadly a lot of people are lazy or worse yet, trust that no one would actually lie.

If their information checks out, set up an appointment to for the contractor to come evaluate your issue.  Check out their information BEFORE you make the appointment.  Even when they are just evaluating your roof, if they fall off and don’t have liability insurance, you are stuck paying “MrFakeRoofingJerks” medical bills or worse; he sues you for not having fall protection on your roof.

Even after making sure all their information is legit, you should check to see what other types of certifications the contracting company has achieved.  Check and see if they are a part of the BBB – Better Business Bureau.  In a perfect world, I would be able to say that this will guarantee that you will have a great experience, but we must remember that everyone is human, and mistakes happen.  Following these steps will show you the company’s willingness to be responsible for during and after the project is completed.  A contractor should also belong to trade associations and be “a member in good standing.”

The Offer

After you have checked out all your prospective contractors, call them and describe your problem in basic terms.  Customers often will call and say: “I have a problem with my roof. Can you come out and give me a quote?”  If you are guilty of this, don’t worry its human nature to not want to seem ignorant. Those with the most experience is quickest to preach about the problems when they have no clue as to what is wrong with their roof.  

So, I recommend you call the contractor and say: “I have an issue with my roof. This is what I see…. Can you help me?” The contractor will come out and this is when you let them tell you what is wrong with it. They may say you need a new roof, but odds are your roof can be repaired utilizing commonly accepted restoration practices.

The next step is to get a written proposal and ask how long it is good.  This is because some proposals have an expiration date so make sure you know that date.  You don’t want to select them just to find out that they had to raise the price 20 percent because they have too much work and can’t handle the load.  Those are the contractor’s problems, not yours so don’t carry that burden because there are plenty of qualified companies out there.

 Unless you are in a roofing emergency, as in water pouring into your building or house, we recommended that you get 3 different quotes. And insist their proposals are as detailed as possible.  Ensure the types and quantities of the products recommended are clearly specified in the quote.  Most importantly, ask to have labor and materials stipulated separately on the proposal.  Ask if the contractor is an approved applicator of those materials.  Manufactures have programs that provide application instructions and training on their products. Some manufactures have installation/contractor subsidiaries that only install the products they make.

Manufacturers who do have certification programs have district contractor qualifications that prospective installers must meet.  These qualifications are like the qualities you look for in a company: company size, years in business, licensed and bonded.  If one of your potentials prospects isn’t good enough for the manufacturer, this should be a red flag that they probably aren’t qualified to fix your roof.

Be sure to ask if the materials being recommended meet all current codes, standards and approvals.  If the contractor isn’t willing to share this information with you, ask why.  Agencies such as Underwriters Laboratories, Factory Mutual and ENERGY STAR demand that many manufactured materials must meet industry standards.  You can also extensively research their websites for information and compare products that meet current standards.  If your contractor refuses to provide a credible explanation, find another contractor.

Comparing Contractors

Let’s say that you now have three quotes from three different contractors to repair your roof.  Most people’s instinct is to choose the lowest bid, but I recommended that you resist this urge.  You first should review the vetting process you did earlier and apply that information to each quote.

Ask for three customer references with contact information.  Make sure you tell the contractor you intend to contact them and do it.  If one, two or none of them respond, make sure to ask the contractor why.  Ask for more references if needed, so you can get three good references. If you still can’t get three the second go around, move on to the next contractor and do the same process.

Don't Be Complacent

Even if you use the same contractor for years, be sure to keep up with who the actual owners are.  You don’t want to find out that the company you normally work with sold it to a different company that may not meet the standards the other company did, and they performed a horrible job on your latest repair.  

You should still be asking the same questions and review the contractor as if you have never met prior to retaining his services.  People retire, die, move away, change jobs and sell companies every week. 

Following this process every time you are looking for a good contractor, there is a great chance you will have a positive outcome.  Buyer beware if you skip any of these steps!  Never assume anything stays the same, and never be afraid to ask lots of questions.

It’s critical that you work with a licensed professional to help guide your roofing decisions and ensure that the work is done properly. Call us today at A-R Roofing – (800) 578-9230 for a free roof inspection.