How to Deal with Roofing Contractor

how to select roofing contractor

Selecting a roofing contractor is a major decision. A new roof is a “big ticket” purchase and you have to put a lot of trust in the roofing contractor to do the job right because you won’t be able to see what he’s doing on your roof, plus you’re relying on the contractor being in business years from now to back up a 10 year workmanship warranty. Most homeowners won’t to know what to ask for in terms of roofing materials, upgrades and installation details. My goal is to provide you with information to negotiate the best deal and ensure you get a quality job.

How to Deal with Roofing Contractor

The selection criteria and questions you should ask a roofing contractor are:

  • Never hire a roofer that is out-of-state, i.e. “storm chasers”.
    They won’t be around for warranty service or dispute resolution.
  • Deal only with a factory-certified roofing contractor in your area.
    GAF and CertainTeed are the two largest shingle and roofing material manufacturers in the USA.
    Find a GAF Master Elite™ or a CertainTeed Premier roofing contractor.
  • Check the Better Business Bureau report for your prospective factory-certified roofing contractor.
    Avoid roofing contractors with less than an ‘A-‘ rating. A company can be rated an ‘A-‘ minus simply because of the limited length of time in operation, but have an otherwise excellent track record.
  • Ask for references from other homeowner’s in your area for jobs within the past year.
    Reputable roofing contractors should have dozens and dozens of homeowner’s references.
  • Request a copy of the contractor’s professional State license and local business license.
    Some States, including Georgia where I live, do not have Professional Licensing requirements for roofers. For example, a plumber in Georgia must pass a State exam to be licensed, but roofer does not.
  • How long has the company been in business?
    Roofing contractors tend to come and go due to the ups & downs of the economy and housing cycle. A company that has been in business for many years will tend to be more stable and experienced with adequate cash flow and cash reserves to meet operating requirements.
    Dishonest roofing contractors will quickly open & close business under new names (or disappear altogether) in an effort to distance themselves from a poor reputation, unpaid bills and lawsuits. Should the roofing contractor not pay the subcontractor, the subcontractor may file a mechanics lien against your home for the unpaid labor and materials. If this happens, you will not be able to sell your home until the lien is paid.
  • Ask if the roofing contractor uses the same work crews and how they train their work crews. Does the company have a training manual?
    The workmen on your roof will most always be subcontractors. The busier roofing contractors will be able to retain the same work crews. Visit the company office and ask to see a copy of their roofing manual which sets the standards of competency, workmanship and quality.
  • Ask who will be the Job Supervisor.
    The job supervisor will be your point of contact for any questions and issues. You should have the supervisor’s business card with cell phone number and e-mail address. The supervisor should be at the job site at least once each day for quality inspections during and after the job is complete.
    The supervisor for my roof was there when work began, walked the roof each day, took photos and reviewed the photos and progress with me. When the job was finished, the roofing crew waited for 30 minutes while the supervisor walked the roof, lifting shingles to verify the roofing materials were install correctly. The supervisor had the roofing crew replace a couple of marred shingles in a high traffic area and make a few minor touchups with paint and caulking. The supervisor then reviewed the final photos with me and asked if I had any questions or saw something that needed attention. Only then was the work crew released.
  • Ask to see a copy of the roofing contract to read the fine print.
    A good contract should include a “Standards of Performance” which states among other things, that the contractor will not nail toe boards through your shingles, kick-outs will be installed at all corners, flashing installation requirements, the crew will not walk or step on your gutters, the job site will be cleaned up at the end of each day, etc.
  • How long will it take to replace the roof?
    This is seemingly innocuous question can be a red flag. If one roofer says he’ll bring a crew of 15 men and do the job in a day or two at most, while the other roofing contractors says 7 or 8 men will require at least 3 days (weather permitting), immediately disqualify the roofer who says he can do it in a day. Why? Because the roofer with 15 men won’t be focused on quality and will cut corners because he’s in a hurry to finish the job and get paid. 15 men on my roof would be in each others way and they’d probably working well past sunset in the dark. Do you really want that for non-emergency repairs? BTW, my roof required 8 men working for 3-1/2 days to replace the roof – but my roof has complicated lines and features.

All these answers will help you to deal with roofing contractor in proper manner.

How to Negotiate Roofing Contract

You should obtain at least three (3) proposals for your new roof:

Prepare a short list of qualified roofing contractors per the above selection criteria.

Make an appointment at your home to review each proposal.

The roofing contractor sales representative will meet with you to walk the roof and go over a contract proposal. Ask questions such that you understand each line item in the contract proposal and how it applies to your roof. Take written notes as necessary.

Thank the sales rep. for his time, explain that you’re comparing proposals from different companies and will make a decision soon. Do not sign anything at this time!

How to Get the Best Roofing Contract

You want to take the best elements from the competing roofing proposals and negotiate with your preferred roofing contractor include it in the revised proposal. Each contract proposal will have unique specifications and insights that you can use to your advantage.

On one hand, the roofer wants to maximize his profit margin by installing less expensive materials and skipping certain installation details to minimize his labor expenses; while I will be negotiating for higher quality items, requiring things be done in particular way, and asking for better warranties that will reduce his profit margin.

Example roofing specifications that I negotiated were:

  • Full replacement of the HVAC flue vents.
  • Permanent removal of the attic box vents and installation of new OSB roof deck.
  • Box vents should not be used with ridge vents due to air flow interference. I had ridge vents installed at my own expense several years before the hail storm.
  • GAF Timberline® HD™ Lifetime High Definition® Shingles
  • GAF StormGuard® Leak Barrier (ice and water shield) over the entire low-pitch porch roof.
  • Tear off and replace the HardiPlank® siding on the chimney to apply GAF StormGuard ice & water shield.
  • GAF Shingle-Mate® fiberglass reinforced 30 lb roof felt instead of a 15 lb felt.
  • GAF TimberTex® Premium Hip and Ridge Cap Shingles from a standard shingle.
  • GAF System Plus Warranty (50 years material, 25 years labor).
  • 10 Years Workmanship Warranty provided by the roofing contractor.
  • New apron/headwall flashing installed where the roof meets a horizontal wall; old aluminum coil flashing to be removed.

The roofing contractor has more room to make concessions on a high dollar job versus a less expensive job. Be polite during your negotiations and mention the competitor included the item in his proposal. Be truthful or you’ll lose credibility because the roofing contractors are all performing the same profit analysis with a “walk away” threshold at which the job is not worth taking. It took me about dozen phone calls and e-mails to work out the final contract terms over a two week period.


Updated: March 2, 2016 — 10:23 am
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