Hiring a roofing contractor, prefer to avoid disaster
June 11, 2009 10:01 AM   Subscribe

Best practices for hiring a roofing contractor, please. Like, do I care what brand of shingles he uses if I'm only planning to be here for a couple more years? How do I ensure my landscaping isn't destroyed? What sorts of things should be covered in the contract? Any and all advice, cautionary tales, etc., welcome!
posted by HotToddy to Home & Garden (15 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
As well as the quoted price, I would ask for references, and then ask them about any current jobs they are doing, and drive by those jobs. There is a HUGE variation in the professionalism of any contractors, and I would think that you could find a sweet spot between price, and how they *look* working.

If the site is an absolute pigsty, plants trampled, stuff strewn around, etc, you may not want them on your property. As a homeowner, you are limited as far as being able to enforce a contract (like a provision for withholding 5% of the payment pending completion of any punchlist - items you are not satisfied with- but you can always try to get that agreement. Your property should look like it did before they showed up, only with a new roof.

They should also give a warranty for roof leaks. If it rains, and you have a leak they should be there within a reasonable time.

Also, ask for proof of insurance. They need to be insured and bonded.
posted by Danf at 10:28 AM on June 11, 2009

the quality of shingles will be a selling point when you go to sell the house...

As the contractor how he is going to protect the landscaping... most of them will do a good job with this, make an agreement that any damage will come out of the final check.

The contract should specify the materials used, a timeline for completion, how payment is made and scheduled.

You'll want to make sure the contractor is insured and, if his employees will have access to your house, that they are bonded.

Get references from the contractor, check them.

Use someone that has a reputation in the community, check with a local builder as to who they might recommend. Or, someone you know and trust (my last roof was done by a fellow who was in my scout troop when I was Scout Master... It was a very small company, but he was local and knew word spreads fast in a small community, he did a great job. The one before that was recommended to me by a friend in the home construction business.)
posted by HuronBob at 10:30 AM on June 11, 2009

The single most important thing you can do is talk to former customers of the contractor, who had their roofing work done more than a year ago.

We had an awful experience with a roofer who did what seemed like fine work -- good enough that we even recommended him to a friend -- until the next winter when it began leaking and we discovered what he'd done didn't meet local building code. My friend's roof started leaking too, and we asked around and found out that this is pretty typical for the guy.
posted by ook at 10:32 AM on June 11, 2009

Get at least three quotes from three different licensed, insured, bonded roofers. You can compare materials this way but most roof shingles tend to be warrantied for a period of years. Also the roofing material you use will depend on your climate and other weather type factors. Pretty much any major brand name material will be fine but you can always search out reviews online.

Check with your neighbors, if any have had roofs done recently, to see whom they recommend and how their material is holding up.

You should care about the materials for a few reasons. You most likely don't want to have the best house on the block. When it comes time to sell, you won't be able to get the price you paid for the better materials in the sales price. People want to spend what the comps say the house is worth. Pay attention to your neighborhood, too; don't stray too far from the look of your neighbors' roofs. Some materials are more environmentally focused than others, so if you live in a particularly green area, this might be something to consider.

As far as the contract... make sure everything is laid out so far as: price, materials, job description, warranty on parts and labor, debris hauling, etc. (Some will make you contract out on your own for debris removal, by the way.) The contractor should be responsible for putting everything back in its place, including your landscaping. But you need to be reasonable in your allowances so they can get the job done.

Lastly--find out if your state or municipality has a rule about how much of a downpayment needs to be made before the job can begin. Personally I only do business with "no payment made until you are satisfied" contractors because I do not want to deal any other way. Some states have laws in place saying on jobs of $x, only 10% can be requested up front for materials; the rest is due upon completion. That would be another contract issue if your municipality or state does not explicitly state this.
posted by FergieBelle at 10:39 AM on June 11, 2009

1) There's keeping within your budget, and then there's cheap. You don't want cheap. (As someone said while repairing the cheap "repair" on my flat roof, "This is terrible work.")

2) A buyer will want to hear that you've got thirty-year shingles or more. Nobody wants to redo a redone roof.

3) If you're doing a complete tear-off (the code for this will vary according to jurisdiction), be prepared to find interesting things under the shingles. In my case, the roofer had to replace several beams that were crumbling away, thanks to a combination of heat and water damage. Ergo, prices may go up.
posted by thomas j wise at 10:42 AM on June 11, 2009

Someone mentioned "agreeing that they pay for damages to landscaping" - anything you do along these lines needs to be done in writing!

Depending on where you live you can check their license via the web - For example the California State Licensing Board.
posted by Big_B at 11:09 AM on June 11, 2009

You should have insurance information send to you directly from the roofer's insurance company.

I believe that the shingle warranty is passed on to you, but that the roofer has to somehow qualify himself with the shingle company.

Get local, recent, jobs that you can verify things like cleanup, speed, and general satisfaction.

It never hurts to have drinks and snacks available for the crew. They will probably do a better job for you if you treat them well.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 11:10 AM on June 11, 2009

Not sure where you live, but we've had good luck with Angie's List in finding good contractors. Some communities have a more developed list than others.

If you are going to hire a few different contractors in the next year, it may be worth it to join up.
posted by AgentRocket at 11:14 AM on June 11, 2009

Definitely confirm that the crew will be responsible for clean-up. We were left with a ton of extra shingles and insulation that we had to store and then dispose of.
posted by Majorita at 11:14 AM on June 11, 2009

When I got my roof done a few years back, the roofer left soem extra packs of shingles for repairs. Are you sure that wasn't what they left them for, Majorita?
posted by baggers at 11:29 AM on June 11, 2009

Being left with some (although "a ton" would be a bit excessive) extra shingles is not always a bad thing... wind damage repairs down the road are easier if you have shingles that match the originals...
posted by HuronBob at 11:29 AM on June 11, 2009

First: A written contract. Here are the essentials of my contract for recent roof shingle replacement.

1. Remove all layers of existing roof material.
2. Install new felt underlayment paper.
3. Install aluminum drip edge to all roof edges.
4. Replace all roof vent collars with new vent pipe collars.
5. Install Weatherwatch moisture protection and copper flashing around the one chimney.
6. Line all roof valleys with Weatherwatch moisture protection.
7. Install Weatherwatch moisture protection along all wall flashing areas.
8. Install 30 year manufacturer's warranty, Elk Prestigue II style shingles.
9. Install Ridge Master Plus ridge vent on the peak of the roof and cover it with cap shingles
10. Clean up and remove all job related debris from the jobsite.
11. 1/3 down payment with signing of contract. Balance on completion.

Second: check references of prior customers.

Third: Insurance
posted by JayRwv at 11:53 AM on June 11, 2009

I actually just signed the paperwork for a new roof and some new siding a few hours ago.

We vetted a horde of roofers and siding people. The roofers glossed over the siding, the siding people glossed over the roof. So make sure you go with someone who specializes in roofs, not just does them along with other jobs.

It was a challenge to find someone between the Hard Sell and the Soft Sell. We had some guys who just went on and on about how much everyone else is a crook, other guys came buy, looked at the roof, shrugged and gave us a number. The former doth protested too much, the latter's brevity was not the soul of wit. Make sure you have a guy come by and do an actual diagram of what they're going to do where. The bottom line matters, of course, but the more information you get as to what's going where, the better.

Get a feel for what you can do yourself. I'm having our guys skip the gutters as I can replace the downspouts myself. With the siding, I was going to pull it myself until the savings of having both the roof and the siding done made that an unneeded hassle.

Everything JayRwv says is correct. Make sure you know exactly what they are doing. Then inspect and hold them to it.

We ended up going with Home Depot. I've read mixed reviews about them, but the way they walked us through the process of what they'd be doing really sold me. I did not feel like this was Some Dude giving me a line in my house. Plus they're a name that will be around enough to help be a selling factor for the house down the road. Also, their 12 month, No Pay, No Interest program meant we could get more done at once while waiting for an insurance payout.

Wrangling an estimate, for us, was a huge chore. Remember that the folks doing the estimates are there to sell you something, and if they jerk you around while trying to get your money, imagine how big jerks they will be once they have it.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 3:01 PM on June 11, 2009

the roofer had to replace several beams that were crumbling away, thanks to a combination of heat and water damage. Ergo, prices may go up

Actually, in the case of a tear-off, replacement of water or insect-damaged substrate should be part of the price, with a contracted reduction if they don't have to do this, or if it's less than the expected amount. Because our roofer is the same roofer who did the last roof (20 years ago), he actually stated he would not charge us for replacing substrate, as he stood by his work, and did not expect to find excessive damage.
posted by nax at 5:45 AM on June 12, 2009

baggers, HuronBob, you're right. I should have been more clear: we were left with a reasonable amount of shingles, good for replacement and repair. It was the ton of insulation that we really didn't need.
posted by Majorita at 3:46 PM on June 26, 2009

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