Choosing a Roofing Contractor: 7 Questions To Ask Before Hiring One

20 March 2017

For anyone who owns a residential property or commercial building, they know the time will eventually come when they will have a need to hire a roofing contractor for roof maintenance, repairs or full replacement. But choosing a roofing contractor is no easy task. It is no longer prudent to open the Yellow Pages, or close their eyes and just pick one.

The current state of the roofing industry is highly competitive and anyone who is in the process of selecting a roofing contractor must know what to look for in terms of state compliance, experience and affiliations. This article takes a closer look at seven specific checklist items for selecting a qualified roofing contractor.

Checklist item number one is whether or not the roofing contractor has a state-issued license. Property owners need to educate themselves on their state’s licensing requirements for contractors. Most consumers who are in the process of hiring a roofing contractor know that the first question to ask is if the contractor is fully licensed.

What they may not know is what exactly is implied when a roofing contractor has an up-to-date license. In order for the the company to have been issued a license, they had to pay a fee and pass stringent exams. With the state-issued license, the roofing contractor can apply for permits from all of the surrounding municipalities.

When a roofing contractor applies for a permit, it demonstrates his or her willingness to do the work according to state and local building codes in addition to having the in-progress and final work inspected by a representative of the municipality. Last, but certainly not least, a licensed roofing contractor is eligible to carry liability insurance.

When selecting a roofing contractor it is extremely important for the property owner to ask if the roofing company has worker’s compensation insurance coverage on all of its employees. A roofing contractor who does demonstrates excellent business practices. It shows their willingness to pay for the protection of their customers, their employees and their company. When getting multiple roofing estimates a property owner should question a drastically lower-priced bid. It could indicate minimal or even no insurance coverage.

The third item on the checklist for selecting a roofing contractor is whether or not they are compliant with OSHA’s (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) fall-protection regulations. There are several safety-related questions a property owner should ask before selecting a roofing contractor. Such as: is the contractor 100% compliant with OSHA’s safety standards, or has the roofing contractor been issued any fines by OSHA? Are the roofing installers tied-off on the roof? Is there an on-site safety monitor? Property owners need to be aware of the possible consequences of hiring a roofing contractor that does not comply with OSHA’s fall-protection regulations. If the roofing crew has already been issued a warning by OSHA for not being tied-off and they are cited again, OSHA can issue a stop-work order right in the middle of the roofing job. The crew could be in the middle of re-nailing the plywood deck and if they are not compliant, could be taken off the roof immediately. The property owner will be left with the headache of having to hire another roofer to complete the job.

On a lighter note, the fourth item on the checklist for selecting a roofing contractor is the number of years in business. A roofing contractor who has been in business for 10 to 15 years has amassed an incredible amount of experience, knowledge and trustworthiness. The roofing industry is an ever-changing landscape. Building codes, products, installation methods and even warranties can change from one year to the next. A roofing contractor who has been in business for a number of years knows how important it is to stay abreast of the changes in their industry.

Speaking of warranties, most property owners are not aware that roofing contractors have to be trained and certified in product knowledge and installation procedures by roofing material manufactures in order to be able to offer the manufacturer’s product warranty. The property owner is taking a risk in terms of future problems if they don’t verify who is liable for roofing product defects or shoddy workmanship. If a roofing contractor tells a potential customer they are going to guarantee the work, then it is very important for the owner to get it in writing on the estimate/contract.

When a property owner is in the process of asking friends, family and neighbors for recommendations of roofing contractors, one of the questions they should ask is how responsive was the roofing contractor to a warranty situation. Did the contractor acknowledge the problem as a warranty repair? Did they make sure the property owner was 100% satisfied before they closed the warranty ticket? A workmanship warranty and a manufacturer’s product warranty is the roofing contractor’s way of telling the property owner, “We are here for you if anything goes wrong.”

For every type of roofing material from shingle to tile to TPO, there is a different set of installation instructions. When selecting a roofing contractor, it is important for the property owner to ask if the contractor is trained and certified in whichever roofing system the property owner is interested. If they don’t ask, how will the property owner know if the roofing contractor is qualified to do the project? It is not entirely uncommon for a contractor to say they can do the job just to get the job. When selecting a roofing contractor, the property owner is advised to visit the manufacturer’s website and look specifically for a link to certified roofing contractors in their area. The roof is 40% of the investment in a building. It cannot be stressed enough how important it is for the property owner to select the most qualified roofing contractor.

Last on the checklist are the roofing contractor’s affiliations with well-known entities such as Angies’s List, Better Business Bureau and their local chambers of commerce in addition to memberships with various roofing manufacturer and contractor associations. A roofing contractor who is a member of local and national associations is a roofing contractor who has nothing to hide.

Property owners should be prepared to complete a three-step process when selecting a roofing contractor. Step one: do a substantial amount of pre-estimate appointment homework based on the seven-point checklist. Step two: call the roofing contractor, ask questions and set an estimate appointment. Step three: visit the roofing contractor’s office, if possible, to see their operation and meet their office staff. Many a deal has been sealed once the property owner has the peace of mind of knowing they have done their due diligence and have selected the most qualified and most trustworthy roofing contractor for their roofing project.