Choosing a Roofing Contractor
When it comes to roofing repair, it’s when the storm is over that the real storm begins. If your roof is damaged and leaking, you need the work done quickly before even more problems rain down. But hasty actions easily lead to poor decisions. Be sure you follow this guide to choosing a roofing contractor so you don’t run into further complications.
What to Watch Out For
You’re probably familiar with the horrible horror stories. After a storm, construction companies scowl the area looking for their next victim. If the picture you have in your mind is of two or three men standing at your doorstep wearing black hoods and dark sunglasses, think again. Storm chasers are professionals who make a good living ripping people off. They know what to say, how to act, and how to dress in order to pull their scams off. In essence, they are wolves wearing the clothing of sheep.
If it sounds too good, no doubt, it is. But even roofing companies that seem just like all the others – average guys with average prices – can be less than reputable.
Twelve Steps to Choosing a Roofing Contractor
Finding a company that is trustworthy is possible and is much less difficult to do when you take the following proactive steps:
- Check for local licensing. One of the biggest mistakes a homeowner makes is not checking to verify that a roofing company is licensed in their particular area or, not looking into it at all. Licensing regulations vary from state to state. Some states are quite stringent while others don’t require a license at all. When a license is involved, contractors generally have to provide documentations, such as proof of insurance. Licensing may also involve taking a test. Why is it important that the license be local, through? Just because a contractor is licensed doesn’t mean he’s licensed in your state. The regulations may be very different and even much more lax. In addition, reviewing the license will inform you of what the contractor is, and isn’t, specifically licensed to do…and where. Be aware that one license doesn’t constitute another. A contractor may hold a license to build but not to do electrical work and vice versa.
- Insurance. Roofing company insurance protects both the contractor and the customer in the even the unspeakable happens. And…it does, more frequently than we like to think. Not only can accidents happen to your property but on your property. Without proper insurance coverage on the roofing company’s behalf, you could be held liable. Finding out if a roofing company has insurance is probably something you are already aware needs to be done before hiring one. But, have you ever thought of validating that it is active? Most any roofing contractor will say he has insurance and will even have it boldly printed on his business card. But, does he really have it in effect? Many a homeowner has found out the difficult way that the company they were using did not have coverage or that the coverage wasn’t enough. Don’t hesitate to ask to physically see their insurance certification. If the company is actively licensed, chances are they were required to show proof of insurance for their license. Remember that insurance can be paid out monthly rather than annually and if that’s the case, the insurance could have lapsed. Another thing to consider is how much insurance the company carries. The answer may surprise you and not necessarily in a good way.
- Verify local bonding. Many homeowners don’t realize that there is a difference between a roofing company being bonded and being insured. The difference is one that could save your hide if the situation arose that one or the other was needed. Bonding is a protection the consumer is given in the event the contractor doesn’t complete his job, fails to live up to financial obligations (like paying his subcontractors or fulfilling his tab for supplies he used on your home), or doesn’t get the permits paid for. All of the scenarios could actually financially fall on you, the homeowner. Bonding also covers paying for damage any of the workers inflict upon your home or property. That is why you must insist on only hiring a contractor who is bonded. Not only that, make sure he is bonded in your particular location. The requirements can greatly vary in different municipalities and states. Lastly, never blindly trust any company. Do your investigative homework. Bonding can easily be verified by directly contacting the surety company on record.
- Get and validate local referrals. One thing most roofing scammer companies have in common is that they grab hold of the money and sky off…quickly. Otherwise, they’d be left with a mark upon their head. By finding happy customers who are willing to testify that the company in question has done great work for them is priceless. Don’t just trust reviews on the roofing company website though. It’s not difficult to fudge those when you are the one running the site. Look for positive feedback on neutral sites and don’t be shy to contact them if possible. Also ask friends, relatives, people in your neighborhood, and local businesses what roofing company they recommend (and don’t recommend). This step is one that takes a bit of time but is well worth the effort.
- Distinction.When a company bears a manufacturer designation, it means they have a distinct title or name which indicates such things as an area of expertise, a badge, or extra certification. Even within the industry, such designations are considered valiant. One company may be factory certified while another is a Master Elite. Only 2% per market area are honored with this title. But, the catch is they can only use the designation in the locational area of which it was bestowed. The more you know about the specifics each distinction entails, the better you can be at choosing a roofing contractor and the less chance there will be a shady contractor can deceive you by misrepresenting his titles.
- Personally check ratings of Better Business Bureau. The Better Business Bureau (or, BBB) was established to protect consumers from flighty business and poor service. Take advantage of what is at your fingertips by checking all the information available on the roofing company you are looking into hiring. You will be able to see their overall score and to see if there are any complaints about them. Be skeptical of companies that aren’t listed. A company’s elite certification generally requires that they maintain a rating that is satisfactory. Too many complaints could jeopardize a company’s license all together.
- Consider and get an extensive warranty. Does the company in consideration have an extended warranty available for you to purchase?Not all of them can but it is a plus if they do. An extensive warranty covers things like damage that manifests years down the road or damage that surfaces due to a faulty installation job. Even if the roofing company has warranty coverage on his work and the materials, they could go out of business or refuse to cover it on some bogus grounds. An extended warranty helps protect you on a higher level for a longer period of time.
- Factor in subcontractors. Perhaps the contracting company you are doing business with meets all your specifications and then some. They are certified, bonded, insured, fully recommended by people you know, and they uphold an excellent standard. But, what about the subcontractors they hire? If your roofing company subcontracts a general contractor to tend to some structural damage or brings in electricians to take care of some wires that were damaged, they require a whole different set of credentials. You will want to go through the same process you did with the roofing company for each of the subcontractors the original company brings on.
- Fraud. Not only should you be concerned about the company your hire committing fraud, you should be concerned when they suggest you commit it. Some may suggest that you not pay your insurance deductible because they will just “tack it on” to their bill. This simply means they would be inflating the rate they charge your insurance company in order to help you out. While the gesture is a nice one, or so it may seem, it is also against the law. A company that even insinuates that you don’t pay what you rightfully should pay does not hold to upstanding standards which is a huge concern. If they deceive the insurance company, chances are good they are willing to deceive you too.
- Filing. When a company claims to be insurance specialists, there is usually a motive behind it. It is actually against the law for a contractor to act on the behalf of the homeowner when he is negotiating or filing an insurance claim. You can be sure he has a reason for wanting to file the claim and it is doubtfully just to help you out. You don’t want to get caught in such underhanded practices so steer away from companies that insist on filing for you. That is not to say that some well-established companies of high integrity don’t offer to coordinate with the insurance company like to set up the time for the adjuster to come out and tend to some or all of your paperwork. There’s a big difference in that a trustworthy contractor will make sure you sign your own papers and that the letter of the law be carried out in a manner that is legal.
- Material. When you are contemplating hiring a specific roofing company, ask if you get to choose your own materials. Find out what choices you will have. Will you be able to choose the color and style of your new shingles? Such choices can actually make a huge difference on the resale value of your home. In the event that your roof is being covered by your homeowners’ insurance, you may find it to be a good opportunity to upgrade your roof. Some companies give you extensive choices while others give you none at all.
- Pressure. Don’t be bullied into hiring a roofer. If a contractor is too eager to have you sign the dotted line, beware. A company with good ethics and integrity will never pressure you to choose them. They will not try to rush you either. The best companies respect the fact that you need to look into their credentials, check their references and referrals, and contemplate their rates. If your questions are bothering the owner or representative of the company, enough said. Move on and ask your questions to a contractor who doesn’t mind to answer all your questions, address every one of your concerns, and provide extra information you didn’t even ask for.
Choosing a roofing contractor isn’t a task to be taken lightly. The workmanship, the quality of the materials, and covering the risks you’ll encounter are all things to be considered when you are narrowing down your options to decide upon the one company you will trust to do the work. It’s difficult to take the time and to exert the energy to do your homework when your roof is leaking or is perhaps is totally missing. If the damage was extensive, you and your family may even be staying at a hotel or at someone else’s home until the roof is repaired which makes it even harder.
Many homeowners have fallen prey to scammers or unskilled, shoddy workmanship, or have become victims of uninsured, uncertified, and/or unbonded companies because they felt they were in too big of a jam to take the time to investigate. It may be uncomfortable to wait it out as you take the 12 steps listed above. But, choosing a roofing contractor that is worthy of the job is always top priority and is something you will never regret doing.