7 Secrets to Hiring a Roofing Contractor

1. Get Referrals:

Believe it or not, you probably know someone who knows someone who knows a roofing contractor. Ask everyone you know! Family, friends, neighbors, fellow workers, church acquaintances and etc. Put a list together and then go to step #2.

2. Review their Website:
Some sites are colorful, fancy and loaded with information and photos usually extolling their great accomplishments. Remember, sometimes less is more. Also remember to look at each one while thinking: “I don’t care how much you know until I know how much you care!” Ask yourself some questions as you view each site. (You might be wise to take notes.) Are they local? How long have they been in business? Do they have reference letters on their site? What is their warranty period? Do they do repairs as well as replacements? Do they install all types of roofs? Make notes of those that interest you most and that you think would be a good fit for you. Reduce the group to a short list.

3. Talk to Those on Your Short List:
When you call, be pleasant and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Often when homeowners call they sound defensive from the outset. This could be due to a previous bad experience with a past contractor. Don’t assume that they are all going to unleash a bad experience on you. Be positive and have an expectation that you will find a reliable, honest contractor. Let the Law of Attraction play out here – what you give is what you will receive.

Some companies have call takers that are trained to “drill down” and determine the extent of your roof problem. This is a good sign and can be a benefit to both parties. Make a mental note of their demeanor – are they friendly or caustic. Remember what Yogi Berra said: “It’s all about demeanor; and it ain’t da meaner da better!”

Some questions you should ask would be: If I made an appointment who would attend?

Ask to speak to that individual or have him call you, after you have finished with the call taker. You should speak to whoever is assigned to the appointment before you confirm the meeting. Ask him what the reason would be that you should select his company over others. Ask him what services his company offers – how well does he know what is on the website? How long has he been with the company? Ask what is the size of the company? Is it so large that you could never get a hold of the manager or owner? Are they able to do other work besides the roof?

Once you have spoken to the rep, be up front with him and tell him that you are going to invite three contractors to visit from a list that you have compiled from family, friends and online. Tell him when you narrow it down to three you will be calling everyone back. Be sure to call ALL of them back including the ones you have not selected to meet with you. You don’t have to go into details with the latter group. Just let them know that you felt the ones you invited were a better fit for you at this time.

Don’t be afraid to remind him that your call is a courtesy call and that most people would not call back. If he asks why you didn’t select them, be honest with him in a tactful way. Some people are genuinely interested in honest feedback for their own self-improvement.

After your phone interviews, select the three you feel most comfortable with and make the appointments.

4. Listen to their Presentation:
When the Rep arrives for the appointment be honest and upfront with him. Remind him that you have invited three contractors to meet with you and assure him you will call him back after you have met with all three. It is annoying to any contractor to hear things like: “I’ll have to think about it.” “I’ll have to talk to my husband (or wife) about it.” “We’re not planning on doing it until the Spring.” (Tell him this on the phone if it is the truth.) Besides, prices will almost certainly increase several months down the road. “I don’t want to make a decision today.” (After he completed his presentation) – Address this up front.

You have the right to set the ground rules – it’s your house and your money. So outline your expectations at the outset of your meeting, if you haven’t already done so over the phone.

Although many homeowners choose to meet without their spouse being present, it is in their best interest, as well as the contractor’s, to have both decision makers in attendance.

Once the rep arrives, greet him in a positive, trusting manner. Conveying a mistrusting air can sabotage what could be a fruitful dialogue.

On occasion, a homeowner will open the door and expect the rep to just stand there and give him or her a price; this is only half of the equation. The other half is quality. The contractor needs some time to share his knowledge and experience with you, as well as convey what his company can do for you.

In addition, if it is not an insurance claim, he will need time to go over the details of the damage he observed on the roof.

Before and during his presentation make mental notes of the following: Was he punctual, courteous and respectful? Did he convey a positive attitude? How were his communication skills? His knowledge? What was his demeanor upon arrival, as well as prior to and during his presentation? Was he systematic in describing what your roof problems were and was his description understandable to you? Did he inspect the attic? Did he address all the components of the roof structure? Was his presentation educational and informative?

Despite the fact that you told him you would not be making a decision until you met with three contractors, did he attempt to ‘close the deal’ during your meeting? Was he able to answer your questions in a confident manner? Did he appear more inclined to develop term relationships or to make a quick sale? Did he explain clearly what work would be done and the cost? Was his presentation visual and verbal? Did he mention tarps to cover the roof in the event of rain or to protect your plants or pool?

When his presentation is complete, thank him for stopping by and reassure him that you will call him by a specific date.

A caveat is in order here. If the roof damage involves an insurance claim, a seasoned contractor will not do an inspection of your roof until the insurance adjuster comes to your home. It is then that the contractor will inspect the roof simultaneously with the adjuster. (See insurance claims section for more details regarding this matter.)

5. Contract Details:
The contract should include, but is not limited to the following:

A. Scope of Work – The specific detail on what work will be done should be clear to you. If there is any confusion don’t hesitate to ask for clarification.

B. Damage – Make sure you are clear on who is responsible if any damage to the property occurs. Sometimes damage is not the contractor’s fault. For example, we were installing a new roof on an older home and one of the workers nearly ended up in the Master Bedroom! The area he stepped on had rotted plywood under the shingles and could not hold his weight. The owner graciously acknowledged that it was lack of maintenance and not our fault. Two other things that sometimes cause a problem that are not the responsibility of the contractor are freon lines and gas lines that were installed too close to the underside of the decking and become punctured by a nail during the roof installation. The above three examples are not foreseeable by the contractor.

Occurrences such as damage to the flower beds, nails being dropped into an A/C unit or shingles landing in a pool would be the responsibility of the contractor.

C. Warranty – Ensure the labor warranty period is stated on the contract. This will generally extend from two to ten years. A company with a ten- year warranty is likely to be more confident in the quality of their workmanship than one with a short term warranty.

D. Unforeseen Issues- A couple of common unforeseen issues that arise are deteriorated decking that cannot be nailed to and must be replaced. A homeowner needs to be informed regarding the cost of replacing such material. It should be addressed on the contract. The second issue is generally restricted to homes with cathedral ceilings. Here, on occasion, the plaster covering the sheetrock screws will pop off resulting in the screw head being visible. Most contractors can repair the ‘nail pops’ but will charge extra to do so. Be sure this is addressed in your contract, if applicable.

E. Lien – Be aware that a contractor has the right to get paid and also has a legal right to file a lien against the property if you do not pay him. This occurs very seldom but it does protect the contractors from those few unscrupulous homeowners.

F. Right of Rescission –The contract should state that the homeowner has the right to cancel the contract up to 3 days after signing.

G. Change Orders – Occasionally, a homeowner will decide to have the contractor do additional work or alter the way in which some aspect of the current agreement is to be done. The only changes that should be permitted are those that are reduced to writing and signed by both parties including added cost if applicable! The contract should reference this.

H. Payment – The payment schedule should be outlined on the contract, as well. Generally 50% down at signing and 50% upon completion is fair; it demonstrates good faith on your part and enables the contractor to purchase the necessary materials which have increased considerably in recent years. If the contractor offers you a price that is remarkably low or extremely high, use caution when deciding which one to hire. You might be better off with a price somewhere between the two.

I. “Sense of Urgency Discount” – If you are offered a significant discount or other concession if you act today and are told that the “special price” will not be available tomorrow, it is generally wise to steer clear of these types of offers; they are more often interested in the immediate sale in contrast to long term relationship building. Letting impulse be your guide could cost you in the long run.

Golf Clubs

We replaced several roofs in an area due to a hail storm and presented to Greg and Sherry. Sherry knew of us through a few neighbors, who were very satisfied with our work, wanted us to replace the roof. Greg, however, had a preference for another contractor because he quoted them $460 less than we did. Greg revealed that we could do the work if we could match the price and that the $460 meant a new set of golf clubs for him. I told him that we were not prepared to match that and maintain our quality of workmanship.

Despite my advice to watch out when someone presents a low-ball offer since it almost always results in cutting corners either on materials or by engaging an inexperienced crew.

Two months after they had their roof installed and Greg had his new golf clubs, a heavy rainstorm caused them to have leaks in four areas of their house. They were not successful in being able to find the contractor and called us. We discovered that their turtle vents were installed incorrectly; they had to be removed and installed properly. In addition, they had insulation, sheetrock and paint damage that had to be redone. Greg’s ultimate cost was $460 for the golf clubs and $2,800 for the repairs.

J. Areas of Concern – Be sure to express to the contractor any areas of concern such as protection of flower beds, pool, A/C unit, as well as nails or debris left in the yard.

6. Diagnostic Evaluation:
A seasoned roofing contractor will do a thorough Diagnostic Evaluation of your attic, as well as your roof. (just as an auto service center would do if you experienced a problem with your vehicle.) At Tornado Alley Roofing all technicians are trained to perform our exclusive 17 Point Checklist Inspection.

They will inspect the attic to observe any past or potential leaks, as they look for stains on the decking or daylight entering around vents or pipes.

On the roof, they will check the field to ensure that all the seals are intact under the shingles, check the auto caulks and vents, as well as the chimney flashing and finally the ridge and valleys.

They will then provide the homeowner with a good, fair or poor rating on all 17 items. At that point the homeowner can make an informed decision on what he/she would like to have repaired.

Don’t be alarmed if there is a Diagnostic Evaluation fee. A company has to pay their technicians for every inspection they do. Our company waives the fee if a homeowner selects us to do the work.

It is not uncommon for a contractor to have five to six calls for an inspection in a single day. Without compensation for the full Diagnostic Evaluation a company faces a severe loss over time.

Unlike plumbers, electricians and air conditioning services who charge a fee, roofing companies often do not charge but there are few if any that do much more than a brief inspection compared to a full Diagnostic Evaluation which takes considerably more time and gives the homeowner a very solid appraisal of the condition of their roof structure.

Most often when a homeowner has a few shingles blown off of their roof, they will call a contractor to come and replace them. That’s EXACTLY all that most contractors will do.

When you have a roof problem that is the time to have a thorough evaluation done, not just a quick fix. We tell people that we don’t do quick fixes; we do cures!

Many times we have been called to a home after another contractor has replaced those few shingles. The truth is, Mother Nature doesn’t just select three or four shingles. Almost always, if you have missing shingles there are several other shingles whose seals are breached and need to be resealed.

Homeowners don’t realize this and, at first, are satisfied to pay a bargain price to have them replaced only to discover later that wind-driven rain has leaked into their home through the unsealed shingles which should have been discovered and repaired by the “bargain price” contractor.

When engaging a contractor, respect his time and talent and know that a contractor who charges a fee but does a complete evaluation and is willing to waive it if hired to do the repairs or replacement is worth what the technician earns.

7. Installation Detail:
Some useful things to be aware of pertain to the crew who will do the work. If a replacement, how many crew members will they have? Does the crew chief speak English? Will the crew chief be present during the entire project? If not, does he have an assistant who will be present and also speaks English?

Much of the details should be provided for you during the contractor’s presentation. In addition, having read this book you will possess sufficient knowledge about your roofing structure that you will be well equipped to ask any questions related to the repair or replacement of your roof.

Good luck, and feel free to contact us if we can help.

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