Questions to Ask YOUR Potential Roofing ContractoR
You have been looking for a contractor for your cedar shake roof. You have several that seem like they might work. You’ve got some referrals from friends and neighbors. A couple looked promising from an online search. You even found a contractor referral from the product you want to put on your roof. What now? What are the questions to ask? Here are a few pointers.
What to look for
Once you have identified 3 to 5 roofing contractors to approach it’s time for some homework and some phone calls. A search on the web should reveal much of this information but your local Better Business Bureau is a great resource as well as your Secretary of State Office.
Make sure your potential contractor has a local address.
Who owns the business? Are they involved in the business? Start on their website. Owner operators typically promote this. A quick search of the Secretary of State office should have this information as well.
Years in Business and in good standing
The Secretary of State will have this information. The company may be operating under a dba (doing business as) so you may have to request its legal name.
Is it organized and up to date? Does it show recent work? What accreditations do they hold, what manufactures do they represent, what trade organizations are they members of?
An internet search of the company will give you several review sites. Your local BBB will have reviews and ratings. Yelp and Google may have reviews as well but are not necessarily contractor focused.
What questions should you ask
Now that you have done some due diligence, it’s time to call each company. Have your questions written down and a place to record their answers. Also be prepared to talk about your roofing needs.
1. Information about the business
You will have most of this information from your prior research, but its good to confirm and ensure consistency. Do your due diligence and ask the below questions.
How long have you been in business? What is your physical address? How long have you been at this location?
You are looking for a roofing partner not a one and done service provider. Make sure the business will be around to service and warranty the work.
Who owns the business? Are they licensed in your city, county and/or state?
You should know if you are working with a family owned business or a large corporate entity in a city a thousand miles away. Both have strengths and weakness, but you should know who the ultimate decision maker is.
Do you carry general liability insurance and workman’s comp? In what amounts? Can I see a copy of the policies?
If something happens, you want to make sure the roofing contractor will cover damages.
What trade associations do you belong to?
Many trade associations hold to standards of conduct and ethical business practices for membership. It is an added bonus if the contractor you choose is involved with a local trade association.
2. Business Practices
It is important to understand, up front, how a contractor operates its business. A cedar roof does have different maintenance needs than most any other type of roof. As a result, your new roofing contractor is someone you will have a long-term working relationship with. Setting expectations from the beginning will start the relationship off on the right foot.
Will you provide a free inspection? Will you provide a written estimate? Will you warranty the work?
It is important to know the costs up front. (See our article on what should be included in an estimate.)
Can I speak to your past customers?
Previous customers can provide insight into the strengths and weakness of a company.
What is the lead time to begin work? How long will you be on site?
The right information will help you make an informed decision.
Is a building permit required for a roof replacement and will you pull it and be present for any inspections?
Not every county or city requires a permit, but it is important to know going into any construction project what services your contract will provide.
Will the workers be employees, contractors or sub-contractors? If it is contractors or sub-contractors, who carries general liability and workman’s comp insurance? What training do your workers receive and do they specialize in cedar roof installations?
Understanding who is working on your roof is important. You may get all of the insurance information from the contractor but if the company hires work out to another company, they may not have the same insurance coverage or standard of work. You also do not want to be in a position of a payment dispute between the contractor and subcontractor and end up with lien on your home.
How is safety for workers handled? What precautions to you take for the safety of my home, my property and my family?
Make sure the company has proper safety equipment for their workers for the roof work and gaining access to the roof including safety harnesses and proper shoes. Also be sure to discuss how they will protect access to your home by your family and the area outside your home especially any vegetation near the home.
Will you remove of the old roof material from the property? Is that built into the cost you will provide?
This should be obvious but it’s this type of details that can cause issues later.
Who will be onsite during the work if an issue arises during installation?
Be careful of anyone saying, I am always available by phone. Or our crews are trained and don’t need supervision. Best practice to to insist on a supervisor and someone on site during any roof installation.
A little work prior to engaging with your roofing contractor will not only help you find the right company, but it will establish a relationship that will allow you to maintain a beautiful natural roof for many years.