Comparing Roofing Quotes

Having your roof replaced is by no means a small job and the choice of contractor that you use for the job is important. It is highly recommended that before hiring a particular roofing contractor  for your residential roof replacement that you look around first, do some research and gather a few quotes from reputable local roofing contractors. Once you have obtained a number of quotes (between 3-5 is usually considered to be enough), you need to make a decision concerning which one is going to be the best roofing contractor for your job. You may think that the obvious choice is the one that offered to do the work for the cheapest price, but there are a number of other factors that are just as important, if not more so, than the cost.

Ultimately if the roofing job is not done properly then it doesn’t matter how cheaply it was done – you will end up spending more in the long run. Therefore don’t immediately jump as soon as you hear a lower than expected price.  Instead ask yourself why this roofing contractor able to bid the job for less than the other contractors. When it comes to roofing you can split the cost into two categories, materials and labor. If a roofing quote is particularly low, ask yourself whether the roofer is going to do the job using low quality materials or low quality labor.  Neither of these scenarios is really an option that you want to consider as both of them will lead to further work or repairs somewhere in the not too distant future.

As well as the discussing the price, take the opportunity to ask the contractors questions and find out about their experience and the level of skill within their roofing crew. When it comes down to choosing one, it’s important that you feel comfortable with them and that they are going to provide you with a friendly service as well as a professional one.

Posted on behalf of Ken Christie, CZE Roofing and Remodeling


Roofing Contractor Red Flags

When you are looking for a roofing contractor to handle your residential roof replacement, there are a few red flags that are an indication of a roofer you should avoid dealing with.  By keeping an eye out for any of these red flags, you can head off trouble before the job begins and ensure that you will have a much better outcome.

If the roofing contractor does not have a permanent local business address and telephone number, it’s best to stay away.  There are many good out of town roofers or roofers who work out of their truck, but you want a roofing contractor with an established business and a permanent address that indicated they intend to continue on in the business in the future. If there are any disputes about the work or payment for the work, a local contractor will be easier to find.  The same goes for warranty work – the warranty isn’t worth much if the contractor is nowhere to be found.

Lack of liability and workers compensation insurance is another red flag.  A good roofing contractor will protect himself and, more importantly, his customers by carrying adequate liability and workers compensation insurance.  The contractor will also have the appropriate business license.

Roofing contractors who insist on full payment up front are suspect.  An established roofing contractor does not need or want full payment up front. They have the resources to buy materials and pay their crews and are happy to take payment when the job is complete.  Never pay more than a third up front and even then proceed with caution.

Beware of contractors who submit unusually low estimates.  Most contractors pay roughly the same for labor and materials so if a contractor submits a significantly lower bid, it probably indicates that they are cutting corners somewhere.

Finally, be sure to get everything in writing.  A professional roofing contractor will put everything in writing to protect the customer and to protect himself.

Roofing Contractor Warning Signs

Finding a good roofing contractor is an important first step in a residential roof replacement project, especially if you will be installing an asphalt shingle roof.  With asphalt shingle roofing, the quality of the workmanship is just as important as the quality of the materials.  For a high quality roof that will provide decades of excellent protection for your home and family, you want top quality workmanship.

Finding a good roofing contractor can be a challenge.  With so many roofing contractors to choose from, it can be hard to tell the good from the bad.  However, there are a few warning signs to watch out for.  If you see any of these signs, think twice about using that contractor.

Never use a roofing contractor that asks for full payment up front.  Nine times out of ten this is just a scam and after you give your hard earned money to the contractor you will never see them again.

Avoid roofing contractors who submit unusually low estimates.  This is usually a sign that the contractor will be cutting corners somewhere.  The contractor might be using unskilled labor, inferior quality materials, or following poor roofing practices.  As tempting as a low estimate might sound, you get what you pay for with an asphalt shingle roof and its worth paying what it costs to get the job done right.

Be very cautious about using an out of town roofer.  Some are shady operators and some do good work, but none of them will be around if you need them for warranty work.  Better to stick with a reputable local roofer.

Complaints Against Roofing Contractors Hold Steady

The Better Business Bureau reports that they received over 8,000 complaints against roofing contractors in 2011.  That is about the same as in 2010 and roofing contractors ranked 15th in the number of complaints for both years.

The settlement rate improved slightly, but it’s still low at 61.9%.  For 2011, there were 2,648 unresolved complaints concerning roofing contractors.  That means even after the BBB got involved, 2,648 homeowners were still dissatisfied with the work.

Part of the problem with complaint resolution stems from the fact that almost 6% of the complaints were classified as “unable to pursue.”  These are likely due to homeowners who used “storm chasers” for their roofing work.  Storm chasers are roofers who move around the country following severe weather events like a hail storm or wind storm.    One problem with storm chasers is that since they move around so much, they are hard to find in the event there is a problem with the roof.  A warranty given by these types of roofers isn’t worth much unless you can find them when you need them.

You can protect yourself from this problem by only dealing with a reputable local roofing contractor with a permanent business location in your community.  A good local roofer is much more likely to be interested in providing good customer service and keeping their customers happy.

In addition, before signing any contract for a residential roof replacement, be sure to go over the contract thoroughly with the roofing contractor so you are clear on the extent of the work to be performed and the total cost.  Never pay the entire cost up front and only make the final payment after you are fully satisfied with the work.

Basic Roofing Guide

Most homeowners only have to replace their roofs every 15 to 25 years so they rarely get a chance to learn the ins and outs of a roof replacement.  Here is some basic information to help you avoid an expensive roofing mistake.

The best way to protect yourself is to hire a local roofing contractor with a reputation for high quality work and excellent customer service. Avoid out of state roofers, unlicensed or uninsured roofing contractors, or roofers who do roofing as sideline to their day jobs.  While it’s possible that any of these are good roofers, when you go with an established reputable local roofing contractor you know they will do a great job and that you will be able to find them later if you need warranty work.

Ask for proposals from three or four good local roofing contractors and choose the one you felt the most comfortable with that quoted a price that was not out of line with the others.  Avoid contractors who quote low-ball prices.  They are probably cutting corners, not quoting similar quality materials, or not quoting the entire job.

Make sure the estimate includes tearing off and disposing of the old roof.  Installing a new roof directly on top of the old roof (called a roof-over) is not good roofing practice.  This practice can invalidate the shingle manufacturer’s warranty and in some areas it is not even allowed by local building codes.

You may be asked to pay part of the price up font, but don’t pay any more than half prior to job completion.  Pay the balance due only after the job (including clean up) is complete, the roofing materials and supplies have been paid for, and any subcontractors have been paid.  If in doubt, as your contractor for a lien waiver.

Experience Counts

Until a few years ago, three tab composition asphalt shingles dominated the residential roofing market but recently laminated asphalt shingles have taken over as the asphalt shingle of choice.  Laminated asphalt shingles are a significant improvement over three tab shingles.  Laminated shingles (also called architectural or dimensional shingles) are thicker and heavier than three tab shingles.  They carry wind resistance ratings to 110 mph or more compared to only 60 mph to 70 mph for most three tab shingles and have much better impact resistance.  Accordingly, they are not as susceptible to hail damage and can be expected to last thirty to forty years or more.

The widespread use of laminated asphalt shingles is an excellent development for homeowners, but it underscores the importance of having your roof installed by a reputable local roofing contractor.  More than any other roofing material, proper installation is critical for asphalt shingles.  Part of the problem is that although it is easy to install asphalt shingles poorly, it takes some experience to install them right.

With asphalt shingles, poor installation technique leads to early roof failure.  It’s a problem with three tab shingles, but it’s a much bigger problem with laminated shingles.  Tearing off a three year old laminated shingle roof that failed due to poor installation technique is much more painful than tearing off a similar three tab shingle roof.

Replacing the failed three tab roof is painful because the homeowner should have gotten another 15 to 20 years of use out of it, but the laminated shingle roof probably cost the homeowner at least twice as much as the three tab shingle roof and should have had another 35 to 40 years of useful life left in it.

The lesson here is to save yourself a lot of trouble and money by making sure your roofing contractor is a reputable local contractor, has lots of experience, and uses roofing crews with trained, skilled roofers.

Be Careful With Roof Inspections

A roof inspection is very important after any significant hailstorm has affected your area.  A significant hailstorm is any hailstorm with pea sized hail or larger or with any sized hail driven by high winds.  Unless the hail is unusually large such as golf ball size or larger, hail damage to an asphalt shingle roof can be hard to spot.

Rather than wonder, have the roof inspected by a good local roofing contractor or roof inspector.  Many good roofing contractors offer free roof inspections as a service to the local community.  However, be very careful who you let inspect your roof.  Make sure that the inspector is a reputable local roofer and not some fly-by-night out of state operator.

Roof inspections and replacing hail damaged roofs is an area that sees a lot of fraudulent practices.  After a major hail storm, local roofers are overwhelmed by work and roofers flock to the area to find work that the local roofers can’t get to quickly enough.  Along with good roofers, some shady contractors will move into the area and engage in all sorts of improper practices.

One of these is to go door to door posing as a good roofer offering free roof inspections.  Once on the roof, they may cause some fake damage or they may just encourage the homeowner to improperly file a roof hail damage claim even though the roof is not damaged in the hopes that the insurance company is too busy to look carefully at the roof.  This is fraud – you don’t want to be involved in any of this type of activity.

Instead, have your roof inspected by a roofing contractor with a permanent office in your area.  An established, reputable roofer has a reputation to protect and doesn’t need to engage in any funny business to get roofing work.

Low Roofing Bids

You need a roof replacement because your roof was damaged in a hailstorm or due to old age.  You’ve done your homework and obtained several proposals to replace the roof.  Now, all you need to do is choose the lowest bid, right?

Not so fast – the lowest bidding roofing contractor is not always the best roofing contractor for your job.  The quality of a roof, especially an asphalt shingle roof, depends heavily on the quality of the installation.  A roof made of medium quality shingles installed by a reputable local roofing contractor following the best practices in the industry will last much longer and provide far better protection for your home and family than a poorly installed roof using even the highest quality shingles.

For a top quality asphalt shingle roof, make sure you go with a roofing contractor who uses skilled, experienced roofing crews.  You will get a much better roof at a competitive price.

If one of the bids is much lower than the others, the contractor is probably cutting corners somewhere like using unskilled labor, following poor installation practices, or installing lower quality materials.  The contractor might also be trying to get by without workers compensation insurance or liability insurance.  This is common with “storm chases,’ roofers who travel from one storm damaged area to the next.

When comparing roofing bids, don’t be “penny wise but dollar foolish”.  Instead of looking for the lowest bid, use the bids to determine what a fair price is for the job, then choose a contractor that you feel comfortable with and whose bid is in the ballpark.

Protect Yourself From Roof Liens

Many unsuspecting homeowners who have had a roof replacement have gotten an unpleasant surprise a month or two later.  The roof is installed, the roofer has been paid, and everything seems fine but out of the blue the homeowner receives a notice that a local building materials supplier has put a lien on their home because the roofer has not paid for the materials that were used for your roof.

This scenario is becoming increasingly common throughout the country.  The laws vary a little by state, but in general the law allows mechanics, contractors and materials suppliers to put a lien on your property for unpaid work or materials.  The lien essentially prevents you from selling or even refinancing your home unless the bill is paid. 

What happens is that the roofing contractor buys the materials for you home on credit, then either goes out of business or takes off without paying the supplier.  Even if you have paid the contractor in full, the supplier has the right to put a lien on your home if they have not been paid. 

Unless the homeowner can find the roofing contractor and make them pay the bill, they are stuck with paying the tab.  One way you can protect yourself from a roof lien is by dealing only with a reputable local roofing contractor.  Unless they go out of business, they are unlikely to stiff the materials supplier which would make it hard to get materials for future projects and would also damage their reputation. 

If you are concerned for any reason about a lien being file, insist that the roofing contractor provide you with a lien waiver from the materials supplier and any subcontractors before you make the final payment.

Storm Chasers

If your roof has been affected by severe weather and has wind or hail damage, be careful when choosing a roofing contractor.  Storm chasers are roofing contractors who move into an area following severe weather and use door to door salesmen and high pressure sales techniques to sign up new roofing jobs.

Storm chasers have a reputation for doing shoddy work, then disappearing before the homeowner discovers problems with their roof.  According to the Better Business Bureau, they received more than 7,600 complaints in 2009 about roofing companies.  Complaints include poor workmanship, failing to complete the work on time, and roofers who require the homeowner to sign over the insurance check, then never completed the work. 

Avoid getting ripped off by an unscrupulous storm chaser by using a reputable local roofing contractor.  Check with the Better Business Bureau to see if the contractor has a history of complaints.  Steer clear of any roofing contractor who uses high pressure sales techniques or insists on payment up front. 

Ask for references and be sure to follow up by calling a few of them.  A reputable contractor will be happy to provide contact information for satisfied customers.

Be sure the roofing contractor is licensed, bonded, and insured.  Confirm that the roofing contractor will be using his own crews to do the work and not subcontracting it out to someone else. 

Before hiring a roofing contractor, get at least three bids.  Beware of any “low-ball” bids that might be a sign of substandard roofing practices.  Once you have decided on a roofing contractor, get everything in writing including the cost, payment terms, warranties and who is responsible for clean up.