Roofing projects—whether a repair or full replacement—are a major home improvement and can be expensive. That’s why it’s crucial for homeowners to ask every contractor a few general questions before signing any paperwork. A great way to gauge a contractor’s level of expertise is the roofing estimate. Ask these 10 questions before agreeing to any contract.
1. Do you have a license? Are you insured?
This is one of the most important questions to ask any contractor. If they aren’t licensed or insured, it’s a good idea to find another professional because if someone gets injured on the job, you could be held liable for medical expenses.
Always ask to see a contractor’s license; don’t just take their word for it.
2. How focused is your team on safety?
Safety should be a prime focus for contractors, just like proper tools and materials.
Listen for and pay attention to specific measures they are taking in order to protect workers, like the use of safety harnesses and heavy equipment. Don’t accept vague statements.
3. What are your references?
A solid roofer should be able to refer you to at least two or three past projects. And once they do, follow up on them.
Checking references is one of the best ways to predict what type of experience you can expect from the contractor.
4. Will you get the proper permits?
Almost all cities and municipalities require some form of permit or license before starting any serious roofing project. If the contractor dodges the question or refuses to acquire the necessary permits, it’s not a good sign.
If a contractor is willing to skip out on this important step of the process, it's safe to assume they'll cut a number of corners on the job site as well.
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5. How do you accept payments?
Find out what forms of payment the contractor accepts. If they accept only cash, that can be a red flag.
In addition, ask how much they will need for any initial deposits.
Most respectable roofing contractors won’t ask for more than 10% of the total at the start of the project.
6. What would cause a change from the quoted estimate?
It’s best to limit the number of surprises during a roofing project. And while no one can predict every little problem that might occur, a contractor worth his salt can list possible issues that may arise during the job and tell you how much it’ll cost.
Water damage is a common “surprise” factor in many roofing projects. So whatever the initial estimate is, it's smart to put away another 10 - 15% to prepare for unwelcome surprises.
7. How long will the job take?
A detailed timeline should accompany every estimate.
It should outline individual project steps as well as a policy for weather delays. Ask the contractor how long it typically takes to handle a project like yours, and what, if anything, complicates the timeline.
8. Do you subcontract any of the work?
A lot of roofers hire subcontractors. While not always ideal, it’s not uncommon and doesn’t necessarily mean bad news. It does mean that you need to do a bit more detective work. Are they licensed? Insured? Who will oversee the workmanship?
Many subcontractors are highly skilled and responsible workers, but work ethic and responsibility are not things you should assume.
9. What warranties come with your materials?
Most roofing materials come with warranties, but in order for them to be valid, they need to be installed correctly.
Ask the contractor if they guarantee labor and installation. A solid roofer will stand behind their work with a guarantee. If they do, get it in writing.
10. What will you do with the debris?
A contractor should have zero qualms about picking up any shingle pieces, nails, wood remnants, and any other generated debris from the project. Cleanliness is a big factor in overall customer satisfaction, so be sure to ask what they intend to do about it.
Gauge their reaction and make it clear what areas of the lawn are okay to work from, and which are not. After all, it’s part of what you’re paying for.