Selecting a Roofing Contractor
Buying a new roof system is an important investment. Before you spend your hard earned money, spend time learning how to evaluate roofing contractors. You should insist on working with a professional roofing contractor. The National Roofing Contractor's Association (NRCA) wants to assist you in getting the kind of results you should expect—a quality roof system at a fair price. All roofing contractors are not alike, and NRCA recommends that you pre-qualify roofing contractors to get the job done right the first time. The following NRCA guidelines will help you select a professional: (*Note: I have added my comments for emphasis and clarity in parenthesis).
- Check for a permanent place of business, telephone number, tax identification number and, where applicable, a business license. (Because in Vermont there are no licencing requirements for roofing and siding contractors it is even more important to do your due diligence. The latin term "Caveat Emptor, let the Buyer Beware" applies here even more so than other places.)
- Don't hesitate to ask a roofing contractor for proof of insurance. In fact, insist on seeing copies of his liability coverage and workers' compensation certificates. (U.S. workers' compensation laws vary by state. Consult your state's laws to determine workers' compensation insurance requirements.) Make sure the coverages are in effect through the duration of the job. Many building and home owners have been dragged into litigation involving uninsured roofing contractors. Also, if a contractor is not properly insured, you may be liable for accidents that occur on your property. (Less reputable contractors will often say they are fully insured, banking on the fact that most people won't check or follow through. Others will pay for an insurance binder, photo copy that binder and give the owner a copy of this binder, then once the job is secured by a deposit, cancel the policy. The only way to assure proof of insurance is to have the contractor's insurance carrier mail a certificate of insurance directly.)
- Look for an financially stable estabished company with a proven track record that offers client references and a list of recently completed projects. Call these clients to find out whether they were satisfied.
- Insist on a detailed, written proposal and examine it for complete descriptions of the work and specifications, including approximate starting and completion dates and payment procedures.
- Have the contractor list the roofing manufacturers with which his firm is a licensed or approved applicator. Most roof systems require special application expertise to achieve lasting quality. (Selecting lower quality materials is one way less than desireable contractors cut corners. A professional will specify important components by brand or trade certifications.)
- Have the contractor explain his project supervision and quality-control procedures. Request the name of the person who will be in charge of your project, how many workers will be required and estimated completion time.
- Check to see if the contractor is a member of any regional or national industry associations, such as NRCA. Being a member of industry associations demonstrates a commitment to professionalism.
- Call your local Better Business Bureau or Department of Professional Regulation to check for possible complaints filed against the contractor.
- Carefully read and understand any roofing warranties offered, and watch for provisions that would void it.
- Choose a company committed to worker safety and education. Ask the contractor what type of safety training he provides for his workers and what industry education programs they have attended. The best roofing contractor is only as good as the workers who install the roof system.
Keep a healthy skepticism about the lowest bid. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Many fly-by-night contractors' below-cost bids seem attractive, but these contractors often are uninsured and perform substandard work. Remember, price is only one of the criteria for selecting a roofing contractor. Professionalism, experience and quality workmanship also should weigh heavily in your decision. (John Ruskin wrote, "There is hardly anything another man can't make a little worse a sell a little cheaper. Quality is least expensive in the long run.")