Choosing a roofing contractor isn’t hard, but there are a few steps you need to take to make sure you hire a safe, reliable, honest company that can meet all of your needs.
Step 1: Make a list of what you want in a roofing company.
Knowing what you want is the best place to start. Think about and write down your goals, objectives, and specifics for the job you have in mind. Think about materials, timing, budget, special requests, and other items you want to discuss with your contractor. Then come up with a list of key professional characteristics you’re looking for from your roofer. This could be punctuality, honesty, professionalism, experience, and person-ability. It helps to have a concrete list of things you want and expectations you have before looking at your roofing contractor options. This will help you stay focused and will give you information for creating a list of interview questions for each contractor.
Step 2: Write a list of questions to ask each roofer.
Once you have a list of candidates, you’ll likely want to call each company and ask basic questions to figure out which best meets your needs when it comes to your job goals and your personal characteristic preferences. This will enable you to narrow down your list to the top three to five candidates so that you can invite them to bid on your project. Having a written list of questions will ensure that you’re presenting the same information to and asking the same questions of each roofing service you interview. If you take notes during your calls, it can help you recall what each company told you and help you narrow down your list to only those contractors who meet your needs. Then, you can perform a second interview when those roofers come to your home to bid the job. Being able to fairly weigh the answers and suggestions of each company will give you the best comparison.
Questions you might want to ask include these:
- Are they licensed, insured, and bonded?
- Do they serve residential customers in your area?
- Do they install the type and material of roof you’re considering?
- How long has the company been in business?
- How many roofs like yours have they installed in your area?
- What kind of warranties do they give on labor and materials? (Understand that stated guarantees are subject to change depending on the actual work and type of roof they install for you.)
- Does the roofing company have any manufacturer certifications or designations for certain companies, types of roofing, or services? (This could be a master installer designation for a specific manufacturer or a broad certification like metal roof certification or green roof certificate.)
- Does the contractor install products from multiple manufacturers, or do they only install products from certain companies?
- Do their own employees do the work? Or do they subcontract out their services?
- Who will do the actual installation, and how experienced are those individuals?
- Can they show you examples of work they’ve completed and give you customer references?
- How busy are they? How soon do you need to get on their schedule to have your work done by your preferred date?
- Can they work within your budget?
- Can they give you advice on the best manufacturers, types of roofing, roof styles and colors, and other specifics for your job?
Step 3: Get referrals for local roofing contractors.
You want to hire a local roofing company, since it’s easier to avoid illegitimate contractors or those who are less reliable if you’re hiring among only companies from your immediate area. Sometimes after storms or disasters companies or independent contractors will flock to an area to provide services or companies will come to high-volume locations and perform work for a few weeks or months and then return to their home location. While not all of these companies do poor work, it does make it harder to count on them for warranty repairs or other service calls if they live far away or don’t usually service your area.
So talk with neighbors and friends about roofers they’re hired, visit online sources and company websites, and read lots of reviews about roofing companies near you. Online resources like The Prime Buyer’s Report have lists of qualified local roofers that have been vetted and researched for you to ease the hiring process. Make a list of the companies that have the best reviews and other positive backing so you can call and interview them.
Step 4: Call the best candidates.
Make some calls to roofing companies you’d like to interview. These could be references from friends and family, those with the top reviews from online sources, or companies that stood out for other reasons. Now is the time to use the information you came up with in Steps 1 and 2. Explain your project to each company representative you speak with, tell them your overall goals, and ask them the questions you’ve prepared. Take notes on their answers and the general feel you got from your initial conversation. Were they friendly? Easy to talk to? Did they take time to listen to you? Was the representative helpful and engaged? Or did you feel like they were rushing you or not interested in your job? While roofers can be busy and their work can be stressful and demanding, you should always feel like customer service is their top priority.
Once you’re done with your initial interviews, make a list of the standout candidates. Most experts recommend soliciting three to five estimates, so try to limit your final list to no more than five local roofers.
Step 5: Check for correct licensing and insurance, and solicit reviews.
Always by make sure the candidates you’re considering are licensed, insured, bonded, and have a good record with the state license board and other agencies. Hiring a contractor who is operating without a license or insurance can mean big trouble if there’s a problem with the work, someone is injured on the job, they damage your home, or there are other issues. While licensed and insured contractors are generally more expensive to hire than unlicensed operators, that additional cost means you’re covered in the case of an accident or damage. If a contractor doesn’t have workers compensation insurance, you can be held liable for medical bills; if a roofing company isn’t licensed, you may have no recourse if they don’t complete the job or don’t do a good job.
Even though it’s always important to ask contractors whether they’re licensed, insured, and bonded, you don’t have to take their word for it. Every state has a website where you can check out the contractor’s license number and verify that they are licensed and see whether there are any claims against their license. Workers compensation insurance and bond information is usually also available there. You can also look up companies on the Better Business Bureau and other sites to get an idea of their business history and any official claims or complaints against their records.
This is also a good time to call references provided by the company. While those references are generally past clients that the roofers know will give them good reviews, it can still be helpful to learn about past customers’ experiences. Again, take notes on what you heard so that you can consider this feedback when making your final choice.
Step 6: Invite roofing companies to bid on your job.
Once you’ve researched the top contenders, it’s time to call the outstanding companies and offer them the chance to bid for your job. Good roofing contractors will never give a price over the phone without seeing the property in person. While some may give a ballpark estimate based on square footage and preferred materials, it’s imperative that they actually see your home, inspect your existing roof, and calculate the square footage and other job details (such as gutters and downspouts, etc.) for themselves. This is also a chance for you to ask additional questions or get their advice or feedback on the best manufacturers, materials, styles, colors, and other details.
Schedule an appointment to have each roofer come to your home and give a detailed in person bid. You may need to be there when they come to inspect your roof, or they may be able to do it without you being present. In any case, be sure you ask any follow-up questions and get the answers you need in order to make a fair comparison.
Most roofing companies will provide complete bids, but you should insist that any bids include the following components:
- Proposed start and end dates (this may be negotiated once you’ve accepted the bid).
- How long the job will take.
- Whether they’ll tear off or cover over the existing roof.
- The manufacturer and product to be installed, including serial numbers and exact amount of product to be ordered.
- Additional services (gutter and downspout installation, skylight installation, chimney repair, solar panel removal and reapplication, soffit and fascia replacement, vent installation and replacement, etc.).
- Warranty details for labor and materials.
- The company’s policy about change orders or additional work if more damage is found or more needs to be added to the initial bid.
- All the contact information and license number of the roofing company.
- Any exclusions or responsibilities you accept.
Step 7: Compare the bids and your interview notes.
Once the companies have submitted their bids to you in writing, compare the bids and reference the notes you took during your interviews. Don’t automatically go with the lowest bid. The old adage is often true: You get what you pay for. While the lowest bid isn’t necessarily indicative of a poor outcome, bids that are much lower than average can be a sign that the contractor left something out of the bid, is intentionally submitting a low bid that they hope to increase through additional services or change orders, or that they’re not providing the same quality as other contractors with higher bids. If a bid seems much higher or lower than the others, or if something seems to be missing from the bid, call the company and ask about the discrepancy.
Also take time to review your notes and use that information to solidify your choice. You want to hire the roofing contractor who you feel most comfortable with, who gave you the best answers, who has the best reviews, and who gave you a fair and detailed bid.
Step 8: Accept the bid and get ready for your new roof.
When you’ve chosen the roofing contractor that best fits your needs, call them and let them know you’re accepting their bid. They will likely ask you to sign and return the original estimate or provide you with a new contract to sign. Again, review all paperwork and ensure that it matches your understanding of the agreement. The job details, price, warranties, and other factors are all important to get right. Any verbal agreements you made should be written in. Contracts and signed bids are legal documents, and once you sign them, you and your contractor are responsible for adhering to the promises you’ve made. Never sign a blank or incomplete bid or contract, and do not sign anything you don’t completely agree with. Ask for amendments to the contract if you don’t agree with what is written or if verbal agreements aren’t included.
Then, get your job on the roofer’s schedule and get ready for your new roof installation!