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. Roofing contractors are not all alike; insist on working with a professional.
Why a professional roofing contractor? A professional generally is recognized as a person who has hands-on experience, specialized knowledge and received intensive training. So how can you tell a qualified contractor from an unqualified one? There are no foolproof methods, but there are some important things that you can do to help make the best possible decision. The National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) recommends that you prequalify contractors. It may require some extra work, but experience shows that it goes a long way toward making sure you get the kind of results you expect--a roof system that works! You can prequalify contractors on a project-to-project or annual basis if you regularly deal with the same group of contractors. Your criteria may vary according to the job requirements, but all professional roofing contractors should be able to provide you with the following:
A permanent place of business
Confirm that your contractor is well-established with a permanent address, telephone number, tax identification number and, where required, a business license. A professional has these readily available.
Knowledge of roof systems
The introduction of new roofing materials and application techniques has sparked a tremendous change in the roofing industry over the past 10 years. A professional roofing contractor is familiar with the different types of roof systems and will help you make the best decision for your building and budget. Be sure you are comfortable with the roof system(s) your contractor suggests.
Affiliated with an industry organization
Ask the contractor if his company is a member of a local, state, regional or national industry association. Involvement in a professional organization tends to keep a contractor better informed about the latest developments and issues in the industry.
Committed to education
Choose a company that is committed to the safety and education of its workers. Ask the contractor what types of safety training he provides for his workers and what industry programs the workers have attended. The best roofing contractor is only as good as the workers who install the roof system. Insist on having trained, experienced roof mechanics.
Insured and committed to safety
Don't hesitate to ask the roofing contractor for proof of insurance. In fact, insist on seeing copies of insurance certificates that verify workers' compensation and general liability coverages. Make sure the coverages are in effect through the duration of your job. If a contractor is not properly insured, you, the owner, may be liable for accidents that occur on the property. Many building owners and homeowners have been dragged into litigation involving uninsured roofing contractors. (Note: U.S. workers' compensation laws vary by state. Consult your state's laws to determine workers' compensation insurance requirements.)
Licensed and bonded
Many states require that roofing contractors be licensed; some states have specific licensing requirements. In addition, some contractors are able to obtain bonding from surety companies, while others are not. Check to see if a prospective roofing contractor is properly licensed and/or bonded. Your state's department of professional regulation or licensing board will have this information.
A professional contractor will be able to supply you with current financial information. This should include: current assets, net fixed assets, current liabilities, other liabilities and references from a financial institution or auditing firm.
Have your contractor list the roofing manufacturers with which his firm has licensed or approved applicator agreements. Some materials require special application expertise to provide a quality roof system that will last.
Insist on a written proposal
Insist on a written proposal and examine it for complete descriptions of the work and specifications. Be sure the proposal includes the approximate starting and completion dates, payment procedures, and any additional issues such as landscape damage prevention and debris cleanup.
There are two basic categories of roofing warranties: the contractor's warranty, which covers workmanship, and the manufacturer's warranty, which covers (as a minimum) materials. Be sure that your contractor offers a warranty that covers workmanship. A manufacturer's warranty alone will not protect you if the roof is improperly installed. Carefully read and understand any roofing warranty offered and watch for provisions that would void it.
Look for a company with a proven track record that readily offers client references and a list of completed projects.
When making the final selection, ask the roofing contractor for a list of recent clients. Check with these customers to see if they were completely satisfied with the quality of materials and workmanship provided. You also may contact the Better Business Bureau to find out if they have received any customer complaints about the contractor.
Provisions for on-site supervision
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.
A professional maintenance program
Professional roofing contractors will offer periodic maintenance inspections throughout the year. These inspections will help ensure that your project complies with the standards specified in the warranty. A maintenance program usually consists of a detailed visual examination of the roof system, flashing, insulation and related components to identify any potential trouble areas.