For the average homeowner, trying to decide on a roofer is like asking someone who doesn’t keep up with pro sports to build a team in a fantasy league draft. In short order, the homeowner is expected to be able to have enough expertise to pick a qualified roofing contractor to properly scope and install the roof, and they are trying to do this with little to no preparation.
Here in North Texas, the simple fact is that people don’t think about having a roofer until they need one. That need is generally a result of storm damage (i.e. hail or wind). Consequently, within the first 24-hours after a storm event, they’ll experience 40 knocks and 30 phone calls! All contractors say they’re “The best in town”, but in reality, 70% are bad, 10% are really bad, 15% are good and 5% are great. Because they don’t generally work with these contractors, homeowners tend to look for a contractor they feel they can trust and if the “sales pitch” makes sense to them.
As one the most important investments a homeowner can make on their home, asking the right questions can be the difference in making a wise choice or costly mistake. Here are a few questions that can help you make the wise choice:
- How long have you been in business?
While not a disqualifying question (everyone must start their business at some point) depending on what they respond with could be an indicator that they may not know what they are doing, they are a defunct company that registered under a new name, or a “fly by night”. You can check out the associations they are a part of (see question #4), the Texas State Comptroller, or check out the Better Business Bureau (BBB).
- Where is your main office?
Since COVID, this has been less of a concern because many companies still have a remote or hybrid work plan. The main question you want to answer is if they are going to be around if you have an issue with their work? Is the contractor from another state and will vanish after the storm surge is over?
- What type of insurance do you have?
Knowing whether they have just General Liability Insurance or if they have Workers Compensation Coverage can be the difference of you being liable as the homeowner. Did you know that if someone falls off your roof that you could be liable? Ask them to give you a certificate of insurance (COI) naming you as an additional named insured. While not required, it can be an indicator if their insurance is legitimate or “pencil whipped”.
- What Associations are you a part of?
Local associations can be an excellent way to confirm the legitimacy of a company. In North Texas, we have the North Texas Roofing Contractor Association (NTRCA) who confirms a minimum level of insurance coverage, and they must be in good standing with a distribution sponsor as well as another contractor. For elsewhere in Texas, check out the Roofing Contractor Association of Texas (RCAT).
- What manufacturer Certifications do you have?
Most manufacturers have a certification program that allows them to offer extended warranties as protection for the homeowner (see question #6). Some programs, like the GAF certification program even require a contractor to prove they are a credible business as well as confirm their insurance coverage.
- What is your warranty? Is it backed by a manufacturer?
Many contractors say that they “warrant” their business, but if they are a business that is less than 50-years old, how can they back up the system they install? Since 2011, Asphalt roof manufacturers now offer limited lifetime warranties that last 50-years. Understanding what that limitation is and whether you are offered a manufacturer’s system extended warranty (which extends the manufacturer’s coverage as well as the workmanship of the contractor, but only through the manufacturer’s certified programs -see question #5) is imperative for the homeowner to understand.
- What code does my city require? Do they require a permit?
Though it may seem understood, many contractors neither care or check if your city requires a permit or adherence to a particular code. A quick search online using the key words for your city and “code enforcement” will generally help you find out what is required. Good and great contractors will share this with you and file the permit with the city for you. Your Home Owner’s Association (HOA) can also be a concern. Ask the contractor if they are willing to provide the necessary paperwork for the HOA.
- Do I need to pay anything down?
This can depend on the situation. If the contractor is requiring a down payment, at a minimum, this should be commensurate with the materials being delivered and not before. The remaining amount should be due upon completion of the project, or a percentage of the work completed that is verifiable and agreed to before work commences.
- Do you compensate people for your deductibles?
The topic of “waiving deductibles” is a frequent conversation throughout Texas. Since September 2019, Texas House Bill 2102 makes it a class B misdemeanor for a contractor to pay, waive, absorb, rebate, credit or decline to charge or collect a deductible. Simply put, this is an illegal practice and homeowners can unwittingly be participating in insurance fraud. The other side to this is that if a contractor is “waiving the deductible”, they are often cutting corners to make up for the cost of the deductible in other ways such as reusing metal or using old, leftover shingles. If they are lying to the government, can you really trust them?
- Do you use dedicated crews?
If a contractor doesn’t use regular crews, other questions arise. Do they pay their crews? Are they from out of town? Did they just start? How do they know what the workmanship will be like?
- How old are the shingles they are installing? Are they seconds?
I know we said 10-ways but consider this one a bonus! As with most products, the age of materials when purchased/installed can affect the performance of those materials. Manufacturers use the Julian Date system as a way to track the quality of the production. This is an easy way to see when the materials were made (The Julian Date should be within the last year after it was made) as well as the proximity of each bundle’s production to the other. As a rule, asphalt shingles should be manufactured at the same plant and within ~90 days of each other. While this is a generality, it can be important in minimizing color differences between the granule batches on the shingles.
“Seconds” are sometimes used by contractors to purchase materials at a discount. As a consumer, it is usually not possible to determine what that defect is. Some companies, such as GAF, will not sell their production defect items because they don’t want that product representing their brand in the market. There are some contractors who choose to use them and won’t disclose where they get the product from. If they purchase from a large distributor or national retailer, checking the Julian Date should suffice.
A Warning on Fly by Night…Storm Chasers…
We had a customer who shared that she had a contractor from Ohio (where their office was located) come in to “help her out” with the recent storm. The first thing they asked was for the insurance check up front, then proceeded to install a faulty roof system. When they collected their money they were then nowhere to be found!
If red flags are popping up in your mind and it feels like something is off, trust your gut!
Taking the time to educate yourself BEFORE selecting your contractor can save a lot of time, money, hassle, and headache. Reading reviews of other customers, checking the Better Business Bureau, scanning their website, and glancing at the associations they align themselves with are all additional factors that play a large role in the selection process.
Banner Roofing & Construction can help to answer any of your questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at 682.207.1586. We are here for you!