After performing thousands of home inspections, it’s safe to say that I’ve seen my fair share of bad roof installations. To most of us, the roof on your home is the most expensive item you’ll ever have to buy. And I get it, it’s tough to fight the urge to call a few roofing contractors, get estimates from whoever will answer the phone and hire the one who gives the lowest price. The truth is that roof installations are just like everything else – you get what you pay for.
My world revolves around houses and contractors. I spend every day of my life looking at problems and trying to explain them to everyday people like you, who may not know much about houses. I see the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to houses, so I can help you when the time comes to have your new roof installed. We’ll look at different shingle options, the underlying details, and warranty you may (or may not) get on your new roof.
There are many different types of roofs you can get for a house. Wood shake, tile, slate, metal, and rubber are just a few of the options besides asphalt shingles. This article will assume you are having asphalt shingles installed as your new roof covering. Most of the homes in my part of the country have this type of roof covering, as do nearly 70% of all homes in the U.S.
Get 3 quotes from roofing contractors and choose the one in the middle.
This is horrible advice, by the way. Folks love to tell you anytime you have work done around your home that you should get 3 ‘bids’ and choose the guy whose price lands in the middle of the pack. I’ve never ascribed to this idea, as there are way too many variables involved:
- How skilled is the contractor?
- How smart is the contractor?
- How well does the company communicate with you about what is happening?
- Do they answer the phone when you call?
- Do they return your call in a timely manner?
- How long have they been in business?
- Do they have reputable referrals?
- Do they have insurance?
I could go on forever, but you get the idea. There are a lot of moving parts when dealing with hiring people to work on your home, and I implore you to not get caught up in the price trap. Just because someone calls himself a professional doesn’t make it so. I would argue that you are more likely to find that the opposite is true. There are very few actual professionals out there.
When it comes to your roof, you only see the top layer of the job, and all the critical details that make or break a roof install are covered up by this top layer. Even the crappiest roof install can look good on the surface, so it is very important that you hire a roofing contractor who will make sure the details are perfectly executed before the shingles are installed. You get no second chances when it comes to a roof. Either it’s done correctly, or you tear it off and start over.
Oh, and there is no such thing as a ‘licensed roofer in Kentucky,’ or in many other states. I found this list after about 30 seconds of research, so take it with a grain of salt: List of State Laws Regarding Roofers. Be cautious if your guy claims to be ‘licensed.’ Even if you live in a licensed state I would put no faith in a roofer’s claim. After all, everyone you see driving on the road should have a license…and we all know that everyone is horrible at driving. Well, except you of course.
Any roofing contractor that should get even the slightest bit of your consideration will put together a ‘bid’ or proposal of what the work scope will be. What does this proposal look like? Is it broken down into what gets done, and more importantly, what doesn’t? Is it detailed in what the company is telling you? Is it written on a cocktail napkin? (I’m not joking.) In most circumstances, this proposal is your scope of work with this roofing contractor. It spells out what they will do for you, what they won’t, and what you will pay them for the job.
Speak the lingo. Don’t let some fast talking con-man confuse you.
Understanding the terminology will help you navigate through the process while talking to your potential roofer. Let’s look at the most widely used terms in the roofing world, and get a quick explanation of what they are, so that if you see them in your roof proposal, you’ll have an idea of what they’re talking about.
Things to watch for when choosing a roofing contractor
If I have performed a home inspection for you in the past 5 years and you needed roof work or masonry repairs on your new home, chances are I told you to call Bone Dry Roofing. They have been taking care of my customers for years, and I’ve never heard a single negative word from anyone about their experience with them. Admittedly, this made my choice fairly easy when it came time for my own new roof, but I did call a few other roofing contractors to be on the safe side (click here for my overview of my new roof). Here is what I noticed: All of the other roofing contractors focused on the total cost of the job, and not the job itself. In other words, they didn’t offer to show their value to me, but instead tried to focus my attention on how big of a check I was writing. I freely grant you that I price shop things all the time. I check Amazon, eBay, and many other websites when buying some trinket or tangible item. However, when you are hiring a skilled trade like a roofer, electrician, or home inspector, I implore you to stand back and look at the whole scope of what you are getting. There is no such thing as ‘a deal.’ The deal is that you are getting hosed by someone cutting corners for a cheaper price.
The ‘expensive contractors’ are n0t priced higher just because they want to be. Chances are they doing the job the way it should be done, and there is a cost associated with that. So, you as the customer, have to pay a bit more for it. Most folks only buy one roof in a lifetime, maybe two if they are unlucky. Make sure you do your homework, and more importantly, caveat emptor. Buyer beware.