Most of us hope to never have to hire a roofing contractor, though if you’ve owned your home long enough, you will eventually need one to repair a damaged roof or replace your aging roof. The hard part is vetting potential contractors based on the criteria that matter most. Given how important your roof is to protecting your home, your most expensive asset, you can’t afford to make a mistake. Here are the 5 roofing questions you must ask roofing contractors before hiring them.
What Is Your Legal Business Name?
This question is asking for their legal business name, not just the name of the project manager. If they have several answers to this, that’s a red flag. They may be operating under several names at once to minimize the number of bad reviews racking up under one name. If someone is hesitant when you ask this question, hang up or kick them off the property. A roofing contractor may be doing business under their own name, but press to ask what other names they may be using so you can run a background check on them and their business.
Are You Licensed and Bonded?
This is a critical piece of information that we too often forget to ask about. Are you licensed to work as a building contractor? If not, the odds that they’re a fly by night operation passing through town just shot up. Are you bonded and insured? If they aren’t, this suggests they are not qualified to do roofing work. It could be because it is a couple of general handymen who want to earn a lot of money in the aftermath of a storm, or they may have done such a bad job they’ve been sued enough times they can’t get insurance or bonded. Either way, you don’t want to put your home at risk. Nailing down a few loose shingles and gluing down others without taking care to properly seal the membrane will leave little leaks that eventually damage the very structure of your home.
This question should be followed up with questions about how much insurance coverage they have. The minimum level of coverage required to work in your state is a minimum. If they cite a lower value than this, that’s a red flag. On the flipside, a higher level of coverage is preferable.
After all these questions, you can ask for proof.
Who Will Be Working on My Roof?
Why ask this question? You don’t want to hire a reputable contractor who outsources the work to subcontractors who may not be experienced or qualified. This can lead to you finding out that the busy major local contractor is hiring fly by night organizations that won’t do a good job. If the prime contractor is hiring a good subcontractor, you could still be burned when they take your money and fail to pay the subcontractors. Understand the business arrangement before you hire anyone, and always choose local, qualified and verified contractors over the alternatives. This is why you want to ask about the training and experience of the crew if you’re not talking to the people who will be doing the work.
What’s the Time Frame?
There are several components to the project schedule. One is the start date. The other is how long the roofing repair job will take. Why do these two schedule dates matter? If you’re dealing with storm damage, you don’t want to pay money for someone who may eventually start on the project (or not). If they are vague on when they’d be able to start work, quit the interview and start researching your next prospect. You can’t afford to put 10 or 50 percent down hiring someone who may leave town before they ever start work.
Why do we suggest asking about how long the project takes? First, the project itself will take a day or a week, depending on how much damage your roof has suffered. If structural elements are damaged, they’ll need to rip off the roof and repair the underlying structure. How long do you want a hole in your roof? How long do you want the sounds of construction and repair crews going in and out? If you’re given a very long time frame, this is a red flag. It may indicate that they’ll try to do your work in conjunction with other projects, raising the risk of delays. It also leaves open the possibility they’ll quit before they’re done, leaving you literally exposed. A shorter time frame is ideal, but you also need to compare the work to be done relative to the job they’re quoting. If it normally takes a full crew a week to remove and replace a roof, someone saying they’ll do it in a day or two may be planning on simply laying on another layer of shingles before charging you for the more expensive service.
Who Is In Charge, and Who Do I Talk to When Issues Arise?
You may be given a written warranty and estimates, but who do you talk to when you have questions about the workmanship as the work is going on? What do you do if the contractors are blocking your driveway or using the wrong color shingles? You need to know the process for addressing mistakes so they can be corrected before it literally adds up.
Accountability won’t prevent the horror stories of someone dramatically overcharging on labor and materials because you signed a blank contract. However, it gives you a name and contact method so you can handle surprises like material substitutions or weather delays that aren’t being properly handled.