06 Mar

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How to Choose a Roofing Contractor

A new roof is a huge investment, and materials make-up but a small part of it. What you’re really paying for is the skilled labor. That means you have to choose someone wisely.

Seems easy? Not always. Anyone can talk and act like a roofer, but that doesn’t mean they’re qualified.

Finding Good Prospects

You can scan the yellow pages but only if you can’t obtain personal referrals from people you know. You should have at least two or three prospects, and each one should have been in business for a minimum of five years. In such a competitive industry, only good roofers usually last that long. Begin by inquiring about availability. As well, ask for names and addresses of references, and if anyone hesitates to give you any, strike them off your list.

Then do some drive-by inspections of some of their newest projects. See if the spaces between individual shingle tabs, called water gaps, are well-lined up while alternating shingle rows. The shingles should also be trimmed in a clean line down the valleys. Shingles on roof ends have to be neatly trimmed too, aligning with the roof’s edge. Ragged lines indicate slipshop work and are totally unacceptable. The flashing at roof valleys and eaves have to be neat and free of tar.

If you like what you’ve seen, start calling the references, making sure to ask crucially relevant questions. For instance, has the roof ever leaked since it was installed? If so, was the roofer prompt in responding to your call? Was the budget fairly accurate or did you end up spending more? Most importantly, would you hire the roofer for a future job?

Signs of a Good Roofer

If you think you have some good prospects, find out if they have workers compensation insurance and liability insurance worth at least $1 billion. If they claim to be insured, let them show you proof-of-insurance certificates. Then ask for a quote, which should be 100% free. Because roofing is a one-time project, divide the total amount into two parts – typically, you have to pay one-third of it upfront (this will be used to purchase the materials) and the remainder will be settled as the project rolls on to your satisfaction.

Also insist on a warranty – usually one year – on all issues related to labor, such as leaks and flashing failure, plus the type of shingles they will use. Get the highest rated, most durable shingles that fit your budget. Sometimes, warranties are void if shingles are placed on top of existing shingles, so the roofer may have to remove that existing layer for an added cost. Asphalt roofs last an average of about 13 years, so a 20-year warranty would be more than fine.
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