Roofing Estimates 101: What You Should Know Before Signing

understand your written estimate before signing

Roofing projects can make a homeowner feel vulnerable. From a small repair to a full replacement, roofing projects are often a costly and serious business, as a home’s roof is its first line of defense against the elements. That’s why it’s crucial to require a written roofing estimate before any contractor steps foot on your roof.

Determine what's included.

A majority of the roofing industry consists of honest, reliable men and women, but there are still those untrustworthy individuals who make it necessary to protect yourself.

Written roofing estimates are a great way to do this, as they hold the contractor to their word. Written estimates should detail a number of things, including the work being done, the payment amount and schedule, and what exactly is expected from the contractor.

A lot of amateur contractors will try to offer a flat rate on a simple piece of paper as their estimate. This is not what you want from a roofing professional.

A sound estimate should contain line item costs for materials, labor, and possibly a home inspection.

Material Costs

Roofing contractors add a markup to the materials they use in order to cover the overhead of running a business. Unfortunately, some shady roofers take advantage of unsuspecting homeowners by jacking up material costs.

Make sure you know what type of roofing material is being used and how much of it is required. Determine what the average market price is for the materials you want, and don’t sign with anyone charging more than a 30% markup. Call local roofing suppliers in the area to double check these percentages.

Labor Costs

All estimates from roofing contractors should have a section for labor costs.

The labor cost section is usually segmented into specific steps of the roofing process, like the cost to remove shingles, the cost to tear off old decking and underlayment, the cost to install new materials, and more.

We recommend choosing a contractor who can precisely explain what’s included in their labor costs.

Home Inspection Costs

A roofing contractor worth his or her salt will perform a thorough inspection before starting any serious roofing project. They’ll look at the exterior for damaged shingles, cracked flashing, a damaged chimney, and search for signs of rot or decay in the underlayment.

An exceptional contractor will inspect the inside of the home as well. They’ll investigate the insulation, ventilation, look for leaks, and mold damage. A thorough inspection helps the roofer formulate an accurate estimate that leaves little room for surprises during the course of the project.

KEEP READING: 8 Tips for Preparing Your Roof for a Home Inspection

Find a qualified roofing contractor

Protect yourself from liability.

liability insurance

A lot of roofing companies claim to be licensed, bonded, or insured, but few have all these bases covered.

A roofing contractor without insurance coverage will leave you vulnerable to all kinds of risks, from damage to your property to liability for personal injury.

At the very least, the roofing contractor should provide general liability insurance. General liability covers a few basic categories:

  • Bodily injury: physical harm to a person inflicted while on the job site or an injury caused by a contractor at the site
  • Completed products liability: losses after the contractor has completed the project, such as repairing appliances or installing wiring
  • Medical payments: pays the medical expenses of a person injured on your premises up to a stated amount, regardless of fault (this is seen as a goodwill gesture to prevent lawsuits).
A properly written estimate should mention a roofer’s coverage so you’re not held accountable. A lapse in coverage or failing to sign an estimate without verifying proper insurance can leave homeowners open to unnecessary risk. Keep an eye out for smaller companies who elect to not cover themselves in order to cut costs.


Ensure proper debris disposal.

All roofing projects generate debris that needs to be taken care of.

Whether it’s a small number of damaged shingles, rotten underlayment, or a whole roof tear-off, knowing where this old material will end up is a crucial step in the roofing process.

Carefully read over the written estimate to ensure the contractor mentions how they will take care of roofing material debris.

It makes sense for the roofing contractor to take care of the materials they remove—and most respectable contractors do this with the help of a dumpster or trailer—but some contractors leave the job to homeowners.

Be sure to ask your contractor about their plans for responsibly taking care of removed materials. While it’s not a deal breaker, a responsible roofing contractor won’t think twice about hauling away removed shingles, nails, and other construction debris.

Lock down the final price.

A quality roofer should have inspected your home before the job begins to know what they’re getting involved with. They should be able to explain the scope of the project and any issues that may increase its complexity.

However, at the end of the day, an estimate is still just an educated guess. The unexpected can still occur once the project begins. Sections they couldn’t see during the inspection may be rotted or damaged and in need of repair or replacement. These surprises increase the overall cost of the project. Many contractors include a section in the estimate that plans for unexpected issues.

The final price may deviate slightly, but by getting an official written estimate, you’ll hold the contractor accountable for their work. And while a written estimate is not the same thing as a contract, it will spell out what is to be expected from the roofer throughout the course of the project.

You get what you pay for.

Like most things in life, you get what you pay for when it comes to hiring a professional for a roofing project. It may be tempting to go with a contractor promising a great deal, but it usually compromises quality both in materials and labor.

Be very wary of a roofer who offers to waive or refund your insurance deductible. This is a common illegal practice many homeowners fall for. On top of leaving you without a check, it will land you on the bad side of your state’s insurance commissioner, making it nearly impossible to buy homeowners insurance later on.

Find a qualified roofing contractor

Hometown Roofing Contractors makes it easy to find the right local roofing contractor for your next roofing project. You can read a variety of company profiles, see what other customers have to say about their service, and request quotes from as many roofers as you'd like.