Dear Building Owners/Managers,
The ease of starting a roofing business without enough working capital, experience or education can put almost anyone in the roofing contractor business overnight — and it has. This is why I am sharing with you my method for identifying a qualified roofing contractor.
As with any successful business, principles and experience are the key to long-term satisfied customers, productive, fulfilled employees and a fair bottom line. But the fact remains that each year tens of thousands of complaints and lawsuits are filed against roofers who provided nothing more than a slick proposal by a charismatic salesman. The quality of the roofing application, along with follow up warranty issues has plagued our industry for decades, and has prompted me to share from my experience the following 12 tips.
It is my hope that these tips will assist you in identifying a truly qualified roofing contractor. They promise not only a better experience, but that you will feel more confident in both your work and your warranty.
President of Platinum Roofing Inc.
1. Make sure your contractor performs quality workmanship.
A good rule of thumb is to do business with someone who is an approved applicator of the manufacturer of the material he is proposing. Also, ask your roofer how the company monitors their workmanship. Training and monitoring of roofing applicators is very important. Ask to see their written quality control processes and how they are implemented. Correct temperatures, material quantity, and surface preparation are vital to any roof system you choose, and must be installed by trained personnel.
2. Check on-time completion record and list of repeat customers.
Past performance is indicative of what you can expect. Get a list of repeat customers beyond the three references advocated by the State License Board and the Better Business Bureau. Ask customers about the quality of the work, the attention they received after the sale, responsiveness to warranty issues, and how well they kept their commitments. Ask to see a record of on-time completions, if they have one. That will tell you a lot about how well they manage projects. Keep this in mind: fumes, odors, noise and general disruption of roofing means the fewer days that workers are on your roof, the better.
3. Review employment standards.
How does the contractor source employees? Are the company employees long term employees? Be sure the company has a code of conduct. Look for trained, experienced, uniformed crews rather than part-timers. Also, be aware of contractors that use piece rate or subcontractors to perform their work.
4. Read written warranties and guarantees.
Make sure every proposal includes a clearly stated material and labor guarantee. Most manufacturer warranties are for improving their bottom line and are full of exclusions. Make sure that anything that could cause a leak in your roof is covered in the contract details. The best warranty available is generally a Manufacturer’s No Dollar Limit (NDL) Warranty. A known fact is that a roof that carries a Manufacturer NDL warranty will last years longer than one without. An NDL warranty covers the cost of labor and materials for the life of the roof.
5. Make sure the contractor has a proven track record.
Check how long the company has been in business. It will be worth your while to know that the roofing company you hire has been around long enough to honor the warranties and guarantees it promised past customers. Most roofing manufacturers require a roofing contractor to have been in business at least 5 years in order to provide certified work. Check references and make sure the contractor has experience with your type of roofing system and building.
6. Financially Solid
Make sure the contractor you are dealing with is financially solid. In these economic times it is more important than ever. One way to get a good pulse on the contractor is to call their vendors or suppliers to make sure they are in good standing. Another way to tell is the terms of the contract. If the contractor asks for too much up front or worst asks you to give them a joint check for materials you should steer clear. Bad vendor relationships and bad payment terms are a sure sign of a contractor on poor financial footing.
7. Check contract details-beware of hidden charges.
It is very important to make sure that everything is in writing! This is the best way to prevent problems before they even begin. The contract protects you and the contractor by including everything you have both agreed upon. If everything is spelled out, you are protected against unnecessary change orders. Have your contractor guarantee completion within x-days of good weather with a stated start and end date. Be sure to get an unconditional lien release from all material suppliers and subcontractors before you pay in full. A release of lien clause requires the contractor, subs, and suppliers to furnish a certificate of waiver of lien when they get paid, so that they can’t file a lien against your property if they have not been paid. A good rule of thumb is to have at least 40% of the contract unpaid until all unconditional lien releases have been furnished.
8. Management, sales and office staff.
Be sure your roofing contractor has the appropriate support staff to keep you informed. An administrative team and customer service person are a must. Sales staff should be trained and up to date on the latest technologies, they need to fully understand the strengths and weaknesses of the products they are trying to sell. The sales people need to know what is the best solution for re-roofing or repairing your roof. The team that estimates your roof should have the years of experience and knowledge in roofing to support the estimate.
9. Insurance coverage – What to look for.
Besides the mandatory Worker’s Compensation insurance, the roofing contractor should carry General Liability insurance with $10 million worth of coverage with a policy that covers the tasks that the contractor is going to perform. Often General Liability Insurance companies exclude different types of work. If you are not sure what the policy covers call the insurance company yourself – they will tell you if the contractor has the appropriate policy.Ask the contractor for Certificates of Insurance for both Worker’s Comp and General Liability insurance, and have the insurance companies name you as additional insured on the certificates. In case they go out of business, you are protected. Don’t allow the work to start until you have these certificates.
10. Be sure your contractor is licensed.
All contractors in the state of California are required to have a license number issued by the Contractors State License Board. Call the Board at 800-321-2752 or look up at www.cslb.ca.gov and check to make sure your contractor has a valid, current, active number and that they have a required worker’s compensation insurance policy. If you have a problem with your contractor that you cannot resolve, contact the Board and file a formal complaint. “What You Should Know Before You Hire A Contractor” and “Home Improvement Contracts: Putting The Pieces Together,” are free educational publications the board offers for your review.
11. Low Bids-Are they really a good thing?
Beware of the low bid. If there is more than a 15% disparity between the lowest and the next lowest bid, ask the lowest bidder to look over their bid sheet for possible errors. If it looks too good to be true it probably is. There is a saying among roofers on large or complex jobs that whoever made the biggest mistake will get the job. If they stand by their unusually low bid, they may be compromising on workmanship or materials leaving you exposed to poor quality products, unqualified installers, liability claims, liens against your property by subcontractors, and a warranty they will never honor.
12. Make the correct comparison.
When comparing contractors make sure you are comparing Apples to Apples. Make sure your contractor has the qualifications of steps 1 – 11 and that the roof system or systems proposed are similar. Your contractor should have a manufacturer approved scope of work that details how the roof will be installed to manufacturer standards. Platinum can provide you with a generic scope of work approved by most major manufacturers so you can make sure the bidding process is a level playing field.