A new roof is a considerable investment, and the materials take up a small chunk of it. What you’re really paying for is the skilled labor. Thus, you need to be smart when deciding whom to hire.
Seems easy? Probably not. Anyone can talk and act like a roofer, but that doesn’t mean they’re qualified.
Finding Good Prospects
You can scan the yellow pages but only if you can’t obtain personal referrals from people you know. You should have at least two or three prospects, and each one should have been in business for a minimum of five years. In such a competitive industry, only good roofers usually last that long. Start by asking about availability. As well, ask for names and addresses of references, and if anyone hesitates to give you any, strike them off your list.
Then check out some of their latest projects. Water gaps (spaces in between individual shingle tabs) should be lined up perfectly straight while they alternate shingle rows. The shingles should also be trimmed in a clean line down the valleys. Shingles should be nicely trimmed too so they line up with the roof edge. If you see any ragged lines, that means the roofer has done slipshod work. The flashing at roof valleys and eaves have to be neat and free of tar.
If you like what you’ve seen, start calling the references, making sure to ask crucially relevant questions. For instance, has the roof ever leaked since it was installed? If so, did the roofer respond promptly to your call? Was the budget fairly accurate or did you end up spending more? Most importantly, would you hire the roofer for a future job?
What to Look For
After finding some really good prospects, see if they carry workers’ compensation insurance and at least $1 billion of liability insurance. If they claim to be insured, let them show you proof-of-insurance certificates. Then ask for a quote, which should be 100% free. Because roofing is a one-time project, divide the total amount into two parts – typically, you have to pay one-third of it upfront (this will be used to purchase the materials) and the remainder will be settled as the project rolls on to your satisfaction.
Also insist on a warranty – usually one year – on all issues related to labor, such as leaks and flashing failure, plus the type of shingles they will use. Get the highest rated and most durable shingles that your budget permits. Warranties could be voided if shingles are put above existing shingles, so you may have to tear off that old layer at an extra cost. Asphalt roofs last an average of about 13 years, so a 20-year warranty would be more than fine.