Choosing a Residential Contractor
Comparing Roofing Estimates
Comparing contractor estimates is a daunting task if not outright confusing.
First and foremost always ask for a detailed estimate in writing. Take
some time before you review your written estimates to check in with previous
customers and/or references of the companies you are considering. Always
check with the Registrar of Contractors.
Price versus Value: Although the bottom line is important, resist the urge to make a decision
on bottom line alone. As you review your estimate, here are some of the
questions you should be asking yourself.
Materials: Price versus Quality: Look carefully at the type of material quoted and its price. If the estimate
does not contain a detailed breakdown of materials and labor, call the
contractor and ask for this information. Compromising on quality materials
and workmanship rarely turns out to be a “great deal”. Make
sure your estimates are “apples to apples”, or at least make
an educated decision if it is not.
Pay close attention to the type of insulation and sealants that are budgeted
for your project. The cost difference between thinner insulation products
and those with more layers may be nominal but the net results are significant.
Better choices of insulation products will affect your costs after the
roof is installed. With escalating energy costs-small investments today
can pay off significantly in the future.
Check and re-check measurements: We are not suggesting you climb your roof and measure, however if you
are looking at multiple estimates look for glaring differences in measurements.
Measurements should follow industry standards and multiple estimates should
be in a relative ballpark. Review the estimate to see who absorbs costs
Labor and Incidental Costs: If the amount budgeted for labor and "pass-through" costs such
as the transportation of materials seems despairingly high, dig deeper
and determine where the cost or the savings come from. Are you paying
more for employees versus sub-contractors? Understand why the differences exist.
Customer References: Weigh the responses you receive from the customer references carefully;
understanding that these references may be handpicked. Ask the contractor
if you are able to view their customer feedback responses. Ask for references
from clients that had problems so as to determine how the company responded.
Remember it is not the absence of problems that make a great contractor;
it is how they handle them that make the difference.
Conclusion: Take detailed notes as you review each estimate, listing your questions
and summarizing the overall bid and response from the customer references
for each contractor. Once you finish a detailed review of each estimate,
take your notes and compare the estimates. Only then will you be able
to get a true comparison of what is being offered.
Questions to Ask a Contractor
Can you provide a list of former customers as references? Contacting others who have worked with the contractor in the past is a
good way to determine his reliability and to get an idea of what the roofing
experience would be like with this contractor taking care of the job.
However, realize that the roofer can legitimately refuse to give a long
list--many customers may not want their names released.
What is your track record with customer complaints? Try to find out how your contractor handles problems when they do arise.
Request a referral from a job that involved a complaint.
- Is payment upon completion? Is there a deposit before the project begins,
how much is the deposit?
- Will you furnish me with a written contract including explicit payment
instructions and total price?
Do you have bonding capabilities? Always look for a bonded contractor, assurance that he can perform the
work and complete the project, giving you piece of mind that if a problem
were to arise you would be protected. What is a bonded contractor?
- Will you furnish me with a guarantee and manufacturer's warranty?
How long has your roofing company been in business? Needless to say, longer is usually better than shorter. Less than three
years may signal an unstable business. On the other hand, everybody has
to start sometime. References will be helpful to double-check any business,
and are especially important when dealing with a new business. A newer
business may have a great future, but it is only reasonable to be more
careful when considering its referrals.
Are you going to obtain the required re-roofing permits? Be leery of the roofer who asks you to obtain these permits!
In the event that your equipment damages my property, who is liable? It is a good idea to have your contractor provides both Certificates of
Insurance for both liability and Worker's Compensation before work
begins on your home.
Will there be sub-contractors? If so, what are their names and license numbers? If your contractor does hire out a subcontractor, it is a good idea to
go over all of the same questions with them. Of particular interest is
insurance; be sure that the subcontractor holds all of the proper insurance
so that you are not held liable for any accident that may occur on the job.
Will you submit a maintenance program for the new roof system? Sadly, most roofing contractors will not offer a maintenance program for
your roof once it is installed. Regular inspection of the new roof will
allow for potential problems to be caught early and remedied before they
cause substantial damage.
Are you a current member of any local and national roofing associations,
i.e. the NRCA? Membership in such organizations shows the contractor is taking the initiative
to stay up to date on current roofing information and maintain the highest
standard of education possible.
Is there any pending legal action against your company? Some major litigation could put a company out of business. If a lawsuit
is pending, find out what the suit entails. This may include going to
the local courthouse and looking at the court documents filed for the
case to date.
- Who will haul away the old roofing materials and/or project waste (e.g.
extra materials, packaging, etc.)? Is there extra charge for this service?
Guidelines for Selecting a Residential (Steep-Slope) Roofing Contractor from NRCA
Buying a new roof system is an important investment. Before you spend your
money, spend some time learning how to evaluate the roofing contractor
who may be doing the work. You should insist on working with a professional
roofing contractor. The National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA)
wants to assist you in getting the kind of results you expect—a
quality roof system at a fair price.
All roofing contractors are not alike, and NRCA recommends that you prequalify
roofing contractors to get the job done right the first time. The following
guidelines will help in your decision:
- Check for a permanent place of business, telephone number, tax I. D. number,
and where required, a business license.
- Insist on seeing copies of the contractor's liability insurance coverage
and workers' compensation certificates. Make sure the coverages are
in effect through the duration of the job. (Note: U.S. workers' compensation
laws vary by state. Consult your state's laws to determine workers'
compensation insurance requirements.)
- Look for a company with a proven track record that readily offers client
references and a list of completed projects. Call these clients to find
out whether they were satisfied.
- Check to see whether the contractor is properly licensed or bonded. Call
your state's licensing board for your state's specific requirements
- Insist on a written proposal and examine it for complete descriptions of
the work and specifications, including approximate starting and completion
dates and payment procedures.
- Check to see if the contractor is a member of any regional or national
industry associations, such as NRCA.
- Call your local Better Business Bureau to check for any complaints that
have been filed.
- Have the contractor explain his project supervision and quality control
procedures. Request the name of the person who will be in charge, how
many workers will be required and the estimated time of completion.
- Carefully read and understand any roofing warranty offered and watch for
provisions that would void it. Keep a healthy skepticism about the lowest
bid. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Remember, price
is only one criterion for selecting a roofing contractor. Professionalism
and quality workmanship also should weigh heavily on your decision.