Shopping for roof repair is one of the most stressful things a homeowner can go through. Even when it all goes well, the process is long and involved, and it's certainly going to be expensive. It's also hard to do by yourself if you don't have experience. That means when it's time to repair or replace your roof, you're pretty much at the mercy of the contractor you've hired. This makes finding an honest contractor arguably the most important part of your roofing work, and every bit of effort you put into the search for a trustworthy roofing contractor is probably going to pay off in the end, when you've got a new roof and no headaches.
Great roofing contractors don't fall out of the sky. Well, sometimes they do when it's windy, but they're not supposed to. Here are a few factors to keep in mind when you go looking for a roofing contractor for your own home.
Do Your Research
Before you start shopping for a roofing contractor, it's a good idea to do your research. Your position will be a lot stronger later on if you know exactly what your roof needs and what it should cost. Start with some product research into the materials you need. Shingles, sealant, insulation and the like are generally about 40 percent of the total cost of a roofing project, though this varies by geographic area. Get as detailed with your research as you can; if possible you should even know the prices on major brands. Be aware that asphalt shingles are sold by the square, which is 100 square feet, and that prices are all over the map, depending on the material you're going with. Here's a loose guide to the per-square price you can expect to pay:
- Asphalt shingles: $115 - $150 per square
- Cedar shingles: $200 - $500 per square
- Aluminum shingles: $145 per square (sold in 3 packs of 10 shingles)
When you have your own estimate of what the materials will cost, slightly more than double it to cover the labor. Then, start asking around among your friends and neighbors to find out what they've paid for similar work. This helps you hone in on what you should be paying in your area. You can also ask strangers on social media (Reddit is good for this) to cast a broader net.
Shopping for Multiple Contractors
When you know what you want, and you have a ballpark idea what you should be asked to pay, it's time to find a reliable roofing contractor in your area. As a rule, you should ask at least three contractors for estimates and stick to local companies wherever possible. This helps protect you from potentially unreliable out-of-town operations.
As a rule, you should always be the one to reach out to the contractor, not the other way around. It's true that some honest roofing contractors do solicit door to door, but there are just too many dishonest operators doing that to make it a reliable method for finding good companies. When you call a place, they might be busy -- a lot of roofing companies are single-team operations -- but they should be willing to visit your home and give you a free estimate.
Speaking of estimates, always get a written one, and never accept a sight-unseen price quote from someone who hasn't physically inspected your roof. There really is no set rate for roof work, and responsible roofers actually look at what they're working on before quoting you an estimate. Be sure to compare the price estimates you get. They shouldn't vary by more than around 10 percent, high or low. If you get three quotes within this range, but there's a fourth who's offering to do the work for half the rate of the others, that might be a sign something is wrong. Other signs to look out for include:
- Vagueness about how long the job will take and what the final price will be
- Unwillingness to give written estimates
- Asking for cash, payment up front, payment by money order, gift cards or other unorthodox methods that avoid a paper trail
- Demanding payment before work begins
- Making you feel pressured to commit right away
If the contractor you're talking to exhibits any of these behaviors, it's a huge red flag. Don't be afraid to thank them for their time and break off contact.
What to Expect When You Do Commit
When you've found a roofing contractor you're happy with, it's common practice to schedule a final meeting to get everything signed and squared away. Before you sign any authorization to work, it is extremely important that you see the company's license and insurance. There is no legitimate reason a roofing contractor won't have liability and workers' compensation insurance up to your state's minimum. This is very important -- if the roofer is uninsured and someone gets hurt on the job, you could be liable for it. Double check with your state's licensing board to make sure everything really is in order before you sign up for serious roofing work.
Finding a great roofing contractor has to take time and effort, but it doesn't have to be hard. Do your product research in advance, give yourself time for shopping around and always read the consumer reports posted online about anyone you're negotiating with. Take a little time when you start the project, and by the end of it you should have a beautiful new roof that will last for decades, put on by a roofing contractor you can trust.