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Choosing a Roofing Contractor Guide: How to Find a Great Roofer!
Perhaps we are biased! Of course, we think your first and only call to Umbrella Roof!
But we still think it is important to give folks who need a new roof or roof repair an understanding of what you should expect from a roofer/roofing company. Whether you use Umbrella Roof or not, we think all homeowners deserve to be treated fairly, ethically and get maximum value from their investment. Roofing, its systems and components can vary from region to region. But what we are introducing in terms of the credentials and expectations of your roofer, will be universal. So, this post can help anyone who may need to hire a roofing contractor in the near future!
1. Check Their Credentials
The easiest and most objective way to ensure your contractor is legitimate is if they can provide you with a copy of their valid contractor's license and copy of an insurance policy. Licenses come from the state level. In the case of PA, it comes from the Attorney General’s office. Getting licensed ensures that your contractor had to provide proper insurance and other applicable local county regulations such as tax identification numbers and certificates of good standing.
This can at the least ensure that the roofer can play by the rules and is responsible enough and takes their profession seriously enough to get their proper paperwork in order – and carry insurance.
Speaking of insurance, roofing insurance is VERY expensive. Higher than almost all other construction trades. Goes without saying that being up on steep roofs, handling torches, dealing with sharp blades, going up and down high ladders and working with dangerous power tools isn’t exactly the safest profession! But we love it!
To get the licensing, the contractor would have had to provide the proper amount and coverage of insurance. This does mean that they are still valid! So, check for expiration dates. There is an expiration date on both the license and the insurance policy. The roofing contractor must be in good standing and have validity on both to step foot on your roof!
At Umbrella Roof, we carry all necessary insurances, and include our policy in your estimate. We also provide you with a copy of our license in the estimate as well. We are familiar with local legislations as well, in Philadelphia and all surrounding counties. We can provide testimonials and reviews and have been in business for over 15 years!
2. Availability and Urgency
It is very important that your roofing contractor treats you and your job with a sense of urgency. If they are difficult to get a hold of when you WANT to give them your money. Imagine how difficult it will be to get a hold of them AFTER you paid them! The first time you call you should speak to representative fairly immediately if it’s during normal working business hours. After hours or weekends and holidays it is reasonable to expect a call back on the next working day. Without a good return call for the initial consultation and estimate – that is a RED FLAG.
You will also get a glimpse into their operation. Who answered the phone? Were they polite and respectful and informative? Are they located in a beautiful 3,000 square foot warehouse with a full dedicated team (like Umbrella Roof)? Or are they working out of their home with no help? Did they seem to be taking good notes on what you spoke to them about? Do they give you definitive next steps? Did they THANK YOU, for taking time out of your day to call them and possibly start a client/contractor relationship?
At Umbrella Roof, we take this step seriously. Our business doesn’t work with you! So, we want you to feel good about our initial conversation, and that we make the process simple, that your job is important to us (no matter how small), and we can get to it in a reasonable amount of time according to your needs.
3. The Estimate Process
One of the main reasons we started our residential roofing business was because we were so frustrated with getting roofers out to actually quote the work. And it is true, it does take time, energy and money to get to potential customers homes and quote the work. And there is a lot of unpaid time in some cases! But that doesn't mean there should ever be a delay in getting your job estimated no matter what the size of the job. As we stated before, if your contractor seems to be dragging his or her feet prior to the job, what do you think will happen after you’ve made your final payment?!
After the initial call, it is reasonable to have your job professionally estimated within 1-3 working days. Any longer than that, the company should give you a very good reason for it, and keep you posted on their earliest availability. On the day of the estimate, the contractor should never ever just “drop by”. They should call, and let you know exactly when to expect you. They should meet you and you should meet them, if possible. To see what they are all about. Any good roofer will want to meet you in person, exchange pleasantries and discuss your job. In some cases, it’s a substantial investment and you should feel good about the face that company puts to their name.
If they drop by unannounced, or hop out of their truck, cigarette in one hand, beer bottles clanging around and just look sloppy or unorganized. I think it’s fair to say that could be a red flag.
Your roofer should:
• Be presentable and dressed in company clothing, or appropriate attire.
• Be pleasant and have a good attitude
• Be well organized and provide company literature or licensing
• Tie down or use appropriate safety techniques on the roof
• Give you an intro of their company and discuss the issues you’re having
• Give you an explanation of what they saw, and present pictures if possible
• Answer all of your questions
• Give you an estimate on the spot – or have one professionally prepared electronically and sent to you no later than 1-2 days later.
Your roofer should not:
• Be on the phone
• Ignore your requests or your questions
• Disturb your roof, or your neighboring properties
• Be disorganized, rude or use profane language
• Fail to give you appropriate information
• Be dressed inappropriately for roofing
• Fail to send the estimate at all – or take longer than a week to send it
In any event at this point you will already weed out any bad apples from the prior steps. Now it’s time to get a contract signed.
To do so you may ask further questions about the estimate/warranty, the process and their availability. Again, the answers should be given quickly and clearly. So that by the time you sign the contract, and the job starts you and the contractor are in total agreement of expectations. Before giving any roofer – or any contractor deposit money. Double check their references, reviews, licensing and insurances. If you feel comfortable so far and the timeline and price are fair – you should sign a contract, after CAREFULLY reviewing the terms and proceed.
4. Deposit and Payment Schedules
As an owner of multiple businesses, one being real estate investing, I have used many contractors and worked with many different deposit and payment schedules. In my experience I almost NEVER go off the requested amounts. And instead think logically about what kind of investment is required of the company before starting any work. In roofing that may be a fair amount of material to purchase – but not always for a small repair. Again, think logically – it is not fair to make contractor front thousands of dollars worth of materials, but it also unfair for a contractor to expect full payment up front or materials plus 2 weeks labor that he has not had to pay out yet.
With that said, for a common roof installation most contractors will request half up front. At Umbrella roof, half the cost of the job is simply an easy calculation and makes the math simple. This generally covers the cost of the materials for a new roof. But from job to job the acceptable deposit can vary. Labor only jobs like gutter cleaning or small repairs, deposits may not be necessary. Talk with your contractor and get a payment schedule that makes sense for the scope of the work – but DON’T give anyone money who has not checked ALL the boxes prior to this step, you’ve been warned!!
5. Performing the Work
So you’ve got to the day of the installation and the roofing contractor has done all of the right things so far! Time for the show to begin! Plenty of clear communication should have taken place at this time especially for big jobs. For big roof jobs, the contractor may want to have materials delivered directly to your house. They’ll let you know when and where. And they should make you aware if you need to do anything else like have vehicles moved, lawn or patio furniture moved or tarped – or in our case we can do that for you!
Most roof jobs should be done in a day or two. Large jobs can take longer, again this should have been reviewed with you as to how long the job would take a what to expect. In the case of roof tear offs, there’s something you should know. Tearing off roofing makes an absolute mess! A good contractor will be aware of this, and tarp areas as needed and sure no siding, windows or other areas will be damaged during the tear off phase.
The roofer should be following OSHA guidelines for safety and trying to limit the needs for exposed decking overnight. Things can change quickly in roofing! Sometimes, there is no way to know what lies underneath the current roof, and the job will pivot. Again if this is a possibility the contractor should make you aware that there could be additional costs is they find additional layers of roofing or if they need to replace damaged decking. ALL damaged or deteriorated plywood should be replaced. Sagging joists and other pitch issues should be addressed during this phase as well.
When complete your property should be cleaner than when they started! With no damage to your property. It is a good idea to do a brief walkaround before starting any work, similar to what you would do with a rental car, so both homeowner and contractor can see if there were any prior damages existing before the work weas started that was not a result of the roofing work.
Your roof contractor should do a final walk around with you and show you extensive pictures of the completed job. You should be 100% satisfied with all of the work. You should be made aware of exactly how to maintain the roof, if maintenance is required by the manufacturer.
6. Understand Your Warranty
It is important to carefully read and understand your warranty! It is common for most warranties to be subject to some type of maintenance. If there is a 12-year warranty, and you entirely neglect to maintain your roof or clean any gutter for 12 years, and expect a new roof when it fails, chances are that claim would be void. BUT, if you understand and abide by the terms of the warranty, a roofer should answer your phone call, and they should even be following up with you every few years to check in on the condition of your roof.
You are going to need to find a roofer who you are confident will still be around 5-10 years down the road, or the warranty won’t do you any good! Set a reminder. Check in with them once a year or check their website. They should be active and in your area. This is a good sign, that they are reputable and sustainable and can be around if any issues pop up with the roof!
Follow this guide and you should have no problem finding a great roofing contractor, or any contractor for that matter! Or make it easy on yourself and skip the long process of having to sort through these steps and call the best, Umbrella Roof!