No homeowner wants to deal with the hassle of a new roof. But unfortunately, it’s an issue most will face at some point, and around 7% of homeowners pay to re-roof their home every year.
The average roof can last between 20 and 50 years. And while the cost of a new roof can vary depending on the size and the type of roof you choose, the average cost can be around $400 and $500 per square foot, easily reaching over $10,000 for a typical sized home.
Most homeowners know very little about their roof or what goes into replacing it. The roofing industry as a whole was expected to hit a value of 20 million dollars in 2021. And that number continues to grow year after year.
There are many roofing companies that consumers should avoid trusting with such a large investment. And choosing the wrong one can have huge negative consequences that fall back on the homeowner, in more ways than one.
For example, choosing a roofing company that doesn’t have the proper license or insurance can open homeowners up to financial and legal liability. If a worker is injured on your property during a job and the contractor doesn’t have the right insurance in place, that injured worker can sue for medical costs and lost wages.
In this article, we will define the 13 most important questions to ask roofers before hiring them, and help homeowners better understand which types of roofers to avoid.
1. Get All Of The Contact Details
One of the first pieces of information to ask for when considering a contractor is their company name, physical address, and their phone number. That’s because it provides solid proof that you’re dealing with an established and legitimate company.
While it seems like it should be obvious that every professional contractor would have these three things, the truth is quite opposite. Many contractors, especially those new to the industry or trying to skirt rules and regulations, may never register themselves as legitimate business.
Protects You From Illegitimate Companies
If a contractor offers you a P.O. box instead of a physical address it should be a red flag. A contractor that isn’t willing to offer contact information isn’t someone you should do business with.
If something were to go wrong after the job is complete, or if the contractor disappears halfway through, it would be difficult or impossible to get in touch with them.
Allows Inquires With the BBB
Having a legitimate business name and address makes it possible for customers to look up a company with the Better Business Bureau. This allows consumers to see if there are any complaints filed against the company for bad business practices.
Protects You From Scam Artists
Asking for a physical address helps protect homeowners from storm chasers and other scam artists. These contractors often canvas a neighborhood after a severe weather event. Storm chasers are roofers to avoid, as they often do subpar work and then vanish, leaving the homeowner to deal with any issues that might arise in the future.
2. Do They Offer Warranties?
An investment as large as a new roof should come with a warranty. And homeowners should ask for a copy of that warranty before any contract is signed or agreed upon. A warranty can provide peace of mind and offer several protections for consumers.
There are three kinds of warranties that companies might offer. It’s important to mention that every warranty has different stipulations such as limits and lengths of coverage, so be sure to read the fine print.
Standard Manufacturer Warranty
The standard manufacturer warranty is offered by companies who provide the materials contractors will use when installing a new roof, such as shingles. So if any of the materials themselves have a factory defect, the manufacturer will cover the cost of replacing them. Most manufacturers offer ten years of coverage for little to no cost.
This type of warranty offers protection from damage caused by the contractor during construction. This warranty comes directly from the contractor and covers errors like faulty installation. Not all contractors offer this type of warranty, but it’s worth asking for one because it holds the contractor responsible for the quality of their work.
Extended Manufacturer Warranty
The extended manufacturer warranty will offer the best coverage for things like factory defects and even errors made during the installation process. And while it won’t cover damage to your roof from natural events, like fallen trees or weather, it will generally cover any issue with installation or materials not covered by the standard warranty.
3. How Long Have They Been in Business?
Choosing a roofing contractor who has the experience to do high-quality work is important. And a company that has been in business for several years will have the knowledge and skills needed to install and repair roofs properly.
Companies that have been around for a while are more likely to have an established staff of experienced professionals working for them.
Higher Quality, Experience Workmanship
While it’s true that the amount of time a company has been in business for does not guarantee the quality of work will be better, it’s a good bet to take. Contractors that have bad business policies or perform sub-par work probably won’t stay in business for very long.
Established, Secure Businesses
Another important reason to consider a company that has an established record of success is that you can have confidence that they’ll be around for a while. So if an issue arises in the future, you will be able to get in contact with them.
Protects Your Warranty
New roofing contractors often don’t have the business skills to keep the proverbial doors open for too long. They might not even last for a second season. Even most eventually successful businesses operate at a loss for the first few years. And if the roofing company that does work on your home goes out of business, you could be left with a warranty that can’t be redeemed.
4. Do They Use Subcontractors?
The ins and outs of the roofing industry might be foreign to most customers. So it may come as a surprise when you hire a roofing contractor that they’re not the ones doing the actual work. Some roofing companies hire subcontractors to do part, or all, of the actual labor involved with roof repair or
Know Who is Working on Your Property
So why does this matter? For one thing, when you allow someone to perform work on your property, it’s best to know who they are. You will want to make sure that the work being performed is of the highest quality.
Ensures They Are Licensed and Insured
You will want to ensure that anyone working on your property carries the correct licensing and insurance. Subcontractors probably have to carry their own worker’s compensation and liability insurance. Going into a major roofing project without verifying that every person performing work is properly insured is vital.
Ask About Lien Waivers
Always check with a roofing company to see if they plan to use any subcontractors during a roof repair. If they answer yes, make sure the subcontractors carry the correct paperwork to protect you and your investment. It could also be beneficial to get a general lien waiver, which is a document that guarantees you won’t be stuck with a bill if a company fails to pay its subcontractors.
In general, a roofing company that deals with contractors are roofers to avoid. It just complicates the issue and opens the homeowner up to many risks. But if you do decide to hire one, be sure to do your due diligence in investigating the details before agreeing to anything.
5. Ask About Their Insurance
One of the most basic questions homeowners should ask when identifying roofers to avoid is whether or not the roofing contractor carries the correct kind of insurance. That’s because if you hire an uninsured roofer and an accident occurs, you could be held liable for any medical bills that accumulate as a result. And nobody wants that added expense on top of the cost of a new roof.
There are different kinds of insurance that roofing contractors should carry. Each protects the homeowner differently, and a good roofing contractor will carry a combination of all of them. Homeowners should ask to see insurance documents in writing so they can best understand how the contractor plans to protect them from liability.
Worker’s Compensation Insurance
This is the insurance that covers the cost of injuries to employees from any incident or accident that occurs on your property during a job. Without this kind of insurance coverage, customers can be held responsible for all costs related to that injury, including doctor and hospital visits, and even funeral costs in the event of a death.
Liability insurance protects customers from accidental damage to their property or person caused by a roofing contractor during a job. It only takes a moment for an accident to happen and costly damage to occur.
Without a contractor who carries liability insurance, homeowners could be left holding the bill to repair that damage, or being forced to pay for their medical bills after being injured by roofers.
A surety bond protects the customer from faulty workmanship. This means if a contractor does incomplete or poor workmanship, the customer can file a claim against the company. The surety bond covers the cost of hiring another contractor to repair the work or complete an unfinished job.
6. Can You Get a Written Estimate?
They say someone is only as good as their word. That’s why it’s important to ask for a written estimate from a roofing contractor before agreeing to any kind of contract. That written estimate is like a promise from the contractor that the price they quoted you for a job will be as close as possible to the actual price you will pay.
Of course, an estimate is never the final cost. That’s why it’s called an estimate. Unforeseen issues may
arise during a job that drives up the price.
But a reputable roofer will make an honest effort to check every possibility and lay them out in the written estimate so that customers aren’t surprised when the invoice comes.
Protects You From Suprise Costs
There are disreputable companies out there who will do their best to find additional repairs halfway through a job. Or claim that the cost of materials went up, meaning the customer needs to pay more.
Without a written estimate, customers are left at the mercy of the contractor. Their only choice is to pay up or risk the contractor refusing to complete the work. Being stuck with an unexpectedly high bill or an unfinished roof is a dilemma nobody wants to face.
Provides Hard Evidence of Promises
Always ask for a written estimate when attempting to identify which roofers to avoid. It protects customers from unexpected expenses and gives them hard evidence in the event of a dispute. And it allows you to investigate the competition and market price to see if the contractor is offering a fair deal.
7. Do They Have a License?
Always ask to see a valid license when investigating a contractor. Knowing if a company has applied for and sustained a valid license for the job their performing is a great way to identify which roofers to avoid.
Hiring a roofer with a valid license is vital for more than one reason. Overall, a contractor who has taken the time to apply and qualify for a license understands the requirements and is more likely to perform quality work. But there are other reasons as well.
Licensing, Bonding, and Insurance Go Hand in Hand
Contractors who are bonded and insured cannot become so without being properly licensed first. So chances are if they don’t have one, they don’t have all three.
Understand Local Building Codes and Regulations
A licensed contractor will have to prove their knowledge of the roofing industry as a whole and concerning local codes. This is important for customers because it guarantees the contractor understands what’s required in their area to remain legal.
Protects Your Manufacturer’s Warranty
If you work with an unlicensed contractor it means the standard manufacturer’s warranty on materials used during a job is null and void. Manufacturers won’t guarantee their materials if those materials are handled by an inexperienced contractor.
Protects Customers From Scams
Hiring a contractor without asking to see their license first leaves customers at risk of being scammed by unscrupulous people posing as legitimate contractors. It’s unfortunately not uncommon for scammers to convince a customer to put a large amount of money down up front and then disappear before work has been completed.
8. Ask For References
Think of it like this. You probably wouldn’t buy a new house or vehicle without at least seeing it first. A large investment like that requires trust and transparency between seller and buyer.
And because the cost of roof repair or replacement is substantial, it only makes sense to know what it is you’re purchasing before signing on the dotted line.
Learn About a Company Up Front
Asking for references allows customers to learn a lot about a company upfront. This helps to weed out contractors who do sub-par work or have a bad track record regarding their business practices.
Asking for references before any contract is signed helps build essential trust between customer and contractor. A company that refuses to give references is a roofer to avoid. An honest contractor who does quality work should be willing to offer several recent references without thinking twice.
Get Feedback From Past Customers
References also allow home and business owners to get direct feedback from past customers regarding their experiences with a company. You can inquire about things like the length of time it took for work to be completed, types of warranties offered, and how a company cleaned up after a job.
It also allows customers a look at the actual finished product. You can reach out directly to a reference or simply drive past the property to see the quality of work performed.
Asking for direct references from a contractor isn’t the only way to get them. You can also check online for google reviews or neighborhood forums for information from past clients.
9. Protecting The Property During Construction
Asking a contractor about their license, insurance, and experience is a great way to understand how a contractor intends to protect you and your property during a roof repair. But asking them directly what steps they will take during the actual job to proactively protect your property is important as well and can help homeowners know which roofers to avoid.
Protect Your Gutters
A frequent issue homeowners face during roofing jobs is damage to their gutter systems. Ladders being propped up against the house with workers going up and down repeatedly can wreak havoc on aluminum gutters. A good contractor will use ladder standoffs designed to take the weight of a ladder off the gutters.
Protect Your Property
There is also a risk to landscaping around a home, driveways, pavement, patios, and decks. All of these things can sustain damage from falling materials, heavy equipment, or just wear and tear from workers traversing your property.
As far as landscaping, driveways, and other susceptible parts of your property, quality contractors will take every measure possible to protect them from damage during a job. Tarps and coverings should be used to catch debris, and discarded materials should be contained and removed when the job is complete.
It’s important to understand upfront what measures a contractor is willing to take to protect your property. And asking for details lets the contractor know what your expectations are for efforts being made not to cause property damage.
10. Ask About Payment They Accept and Options
Asking for clear information about payment options should be done before any contract is signed. Both parties involved need to have an understanding of what’s required and what’s acceptable up front to help ensure payments will be processed smoothly.
There are some rules customers should follow when paying a roofing contractor to help protect their pocketbook. And setting these agreements before work is performed can help customers identify roofers
to avoid by eliminating those contractors who are operating off the books or intend to scam people out of their money.
Never Pay Up Front
Almost all contractors will ask for a down payment on a roofing repair or replacement. Asking for a percentage upfront is normal business practice and helps contractors cover the cost of materials and work if the customer backs out on payment.
But how much is too much? An acceptable amount is usually between 10 and 30% of the total cost of work being performed. Any more than that puts customers at risk of contractors taking their money and running without performing any work at all.
Pay With Credit, Never With Cash
Paying for a large investment like a roof repair should always be done with a credit card. This protects customers by providing a paper trail of payments made. Many credit card companies even offer protection for customers in the form of dispute resolution, meaning they’re protected in some way if the contractor doesn’t finish a job for any reason.
Ask About Payment Options
Financing a roof repair is outside the normal budget of many homeowners. And while it’s not a common occurrence, it never hurts to ask about payment options. Installment contracts are one way customers may be able to pay for their roofing job a little at a time. Make sure any agreement is documented and scheduled in writing as part of the contract.
11. How Long Will the Project Take?
Of course, home and business owners want to know how long a job is going to take before agreeing to something. A roofing repair is an involved process where workers will be occupying your property for an extended period, and customers must outline their expectations in writing.
Include a Detailed Timeline
Any good roofing contractor will mention a detailed timeline about the work being performed, with milestones and their expected completion date documented in writing.
This helps both customers and contractors stay on track, and holds companies accountable for
the length of time they take to complete a job.
Of course, many unpredictable factors may attribute to the length of a repair job. Inclement weather can stall a project for days. Material shortages could delay repair work as well. So it’s understandable that some level of flexibility will be required within the timeframe.
Avoid Unattainable Promises
Because contractors understand that as well, roofers to avoid are those that make unattainable promises about meeting deadlines. A reliable contractor will be transparent about the potential issues arising that could slow the completion of a job.
Dishonest contractors who are trying to convince home or business owners to sign on the dotted line are more likely to offer promises that are too good to be true.
12. How Will You Handle Storms?
Dealing with the potential for inclement weather is something that every roofing contract should address. Asking a contractor how they will protect your home or business in the event of bad weather is another way to pinpoint those roofers to avoid.
Picture this: a roofing company is halfway through a repair job when a thunderstorm rolls in. Your roof is incomplete, leaving your home susceptible to possible damage from rain and wind.
This is a situation that won’t end well for the customer if they are dealing with a roofer who fails to take the necessary measures to
protect their property.
A good contractor who is asked this question will answer by telling the customer that they will use tarpaulins or plastic covers to shield an unfinished roof from bad weather. These coverings, and a way to secure them in place, should be present on the job site every day if the weather breaks out unexpectedly.
Another consideration is cold weather. While most roofing jobs take place during the warmer months, it’s important to note that certain types of shingles won’t adhere well if the temperature is too cold. In this case, it may be necessary for the roofer to use roofing cement to temporarily hold shingles in place until the temperature warms and the shingles can be installed properly.
13. Necessary Permits?
Another aspect of the roofing industry that may be a mystery to home or business owners is the need for a permit. A qualified and experienced roofing company will understand what kinds of permits are required for a particular job.
Not only will they be able to explain the details of that permit to you, but they should also be willing to show you proof that the correct permits have been obtained before any work is performed.
Protects You From Fines and Penalties
Work performed without the proper permits could result in fines and penalties to the property owner, not the contractor.
Ask roofing contractors up front what kind of permits your roofing job will require, and if they are going to apply for them on your behalf. This should be the responsibility of the roofing contractor, as they have the knowledge and experience to understand local codes and regulations.
Any contractor who fails to produce proof that permits have been obtained is a roofer to avoid.
Hiring a roofing contractor to repair or replace the roof on your home or business is not a decision that should be taken lightly. Leaving the details to chance is a surefire way to end up on the wrong end of a bad deal. Or risk the possibility of paying for a roofing job that turns out to be poor quality and much more likely to fail sooner than it should.
The cost of a roofing job is a substantial investment on a property and should be treated as such. Asking the right questions about a company’s legitimacy, experience, and business practices helps ensure customers aren’t getting scammed by dishonest contractors posing as professionals.
The Better Business Burea is a great resource for customers needing to investigate a roofing contractor in their effort to identify which roofers to avoid. And that’s because it offers consumers the ability to file direct complaints regarding a company’s workmanship or business practices.
In 2020 alone, there were 40 individual scam reports and over 10,000 complaints filed in the United States regarding roofing companies. So the potential for customers to lose big is out there. Asking the right questions and ensuring the contractor you choose has the right answers can help ensure you don’t end up filing one of those complaints yourself.