How to Hire a Roofer for Your Home

By: Danny Lipford

New roofing on house roof

Whether you’re considering slate with copper flashing or something a little more modest, a new roof is a major investment that typically costs thousands of dollars. The materials themselves represent a relatively small portion of the bill. The bulk of what you’ll spend goes for the skilled labor involved. And that makes choosing an experienced pro the best way to protect your investment and ensure a leakproof job.

Simple, right? Unfortunately, roofing is an easy-entry business that requires little more than a pickup, a ladder and some basic tools to get started.

How to Find a Qualify Roofer

Roofer on ladder nailing shingles on roofCheck the yellow pages under “Roofing” only if you can’t get a recommendation from a neighbor, a friend or someone at your local lumberyard or home builder’s association. Gather at least two prospects. Make sure each has been in business at least five years — roofers who do shoddy work usually don’t last that long.

Start your prospect check with availability. There’s no reason to waste time if he’s booked until next year. Get names and addresses of references, and drop any contractor who balks at providing them.

Then do a drive-by inspection of a few recent jobs. Check that the spaces between individual shingle tabs, known as water gaps, line up laser-straight as they alternate shingle rows. Make sure that shingles are trimmed in a clean line along the valleys where they overlap the valley flashing. On roof ends, shingles should also be neatly trimmed so they align with the roof edge. Ragged lines mean slipshod work. Also look for neat, tar-free flashing at roof valleys and eaves.

If the roofs stand up to scrutiny, call references directly and ask them the following questions:

  • Would you use this roofer again?
  • Did the roof leak? If so, did the roofer respond promptly, was he courteous and did he charge you for any additional work?
  • Did the job come in on budget? If not, by how much did he exceed budget? Were the extra charges justified?
  • Did the roofer damage any bushes or flowers, and did he leave nails in the driveway? Flat tires are a common complaint during and after a roofing project. Good roofers pick up any dropped nails with large rolling magnets throughout the job.
  • Was a designated foreman available to address your concerns during both the tear-off and the installation of the new roof? (These jobs are sometimes done by different crews.) You want a point person for questions and concerns you have throughout the job.

When a roofer comes by to look over your job and work up a price, note his appearance. Pride extends beyond the job site. If he isn’t clean enough to sit at your breakfast table, do you really want him working on your house? Then detail the full range of your expectations. Find out who will do the work and the foreman’s name. And get everything in writing.

New cedar shake roof

What to Look for in Quality Roofer

If you like what you see, it’s time to verify that the roofer carries workers’ compensation coverage and at least $1 million of liability insurance. Get his agent’s name and proof-of-insurance certificates. Then get an estimate, which should be free. Because roofing is a short-term job, break up the total due into two payments: one-third up front for materials, and the remainder when the roofing and cleanup are done to your satisfaction.

Also insist on a warranty that covers leaks, flashing failure and other labor-related defects. A one-year warranty is the minimum, though two or three years is preferable. These same stipulations should go into the contract, which should also include what type of shingles will be used. Request the highest-rated, longest-lasting shingles you can afford.

Shingle manufacturers generally back their products for 20 to 30 years. Some warranties are void if shingles are put on over existing shingles, so tearing off the existing layer could be required, at an additional cost. Asphalt roofs last 13 years on average, so a 20-year warranty should be fine. Just be sure you get the paperwork and proof of purchase needed to pursue any problems down the road.

Getting a Quality Roofing Job

Several other quality checks will also help you ensure a leakproof job for decades.

  • Replacing valley and eaves flashing is cheapest and easiest when reroofing, so do it now. Also have pipe boots or roof jacks replaced to direct away water where pipes or gas vents protrude. Leave chimney flashing alone if it’s in good shape; otherwise, have the roofer call in a mason.
  • Roofer on roof

  • Now is also the time to make sure you have proper attic ventilation. Have it checked by the roofer or an HVAC contractor. Poor airflow can heat an attic to 130°F in summer. In winter, moist interior air can condense on the underside of the sheathing, rotting it. You may want to have ridge and soffit vents installed to circulate cool air into the attic, alleviating both problems.
  • If you suspect some of the plywood decking beneath the shingles is rotted, put a small allowance, say $200, in the contract for replacing it. Clearly state that you must approve any charges above this amount, and that you get the money back if the decking is in good condition.
  • Ask how the roofer will protect bushes and plants (roofers usually use plywood). Draw clear lines of responsibility for any damaged plants.
  • Find out how the trash will be disposed of and nails picked up. Be sure Dumpsters or trucks used for garbage pickup don’t roll onto a new lawn or over an underground sprinkler system. What’s more, there should be thick plywood under Dumpster or truck wheels to protect the turf or driveway. An alternative is to pay extra and have the old shingles carted by hand to the curb.

Finally, trust your intuition. If a roofer rubs you wrong, even at the contract stage, don’t be afraid to back out before signing and resume your search. Unless water is pouring in overhead, it pays to take your time on this major investment.

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18 Comments on “How to Hire a Roofer for Your Home”

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  • Edward Perez Says:
    April 1st, 2016 at 5:49 pm

    Very good points Danny,

    I talk to new customers everyday in an attempt to maximize their insurance proceeds. I’ve found that the more I educate myself about homeowners insurance and the claims process, the more value they see in not only my service but also how accuracy gets the claim approved. There are many people out there wanting to make a quick dollar. Remember, a lower price doesn’t equate to better craftsmanship or better roofing solutions. Your roofing company shouldn’t have any issues with answering your questions, in fact I find educating them helps insurance agents retain loyal customers.



  • Nathan Johnson Says:
    April 1st, 2016 at 9:56 am

    I appreciate you talking about how to hire a great roofer. Last year, we had to replace our roof, and we did basically what you are suggesting here. We got referrals from friends/neighbors and got estimates from a few different places. We checked out recent jobs they did and we ended up getting a roofing company that we were very satisfied with. It was a bit stressful at first, but I think doing our homework paid off. Thanks for the info!



  • Bill Barnett Says:
    September 10th, 2015 at 5:58 pm

    My family is looking to hire a roofer to fix up some leaks in our roof and this article really helped me see what I should be looking for. I would have never thought to ask for a warranty on the work provided but I will definitely do that when we find our guy. Thanks for helping me see how important the roofer actually is in the process!
    Bill Barnett



  • James Bay Says:
    August 21st, 2015 at 8:58 am

    Roofing is a very large expense. I can see why it would be so important to make sure you have a great roofer! I like how you said to check with other people, and their experiences with their roofers. Thank you so much!



  • kathy Says:
    April 6th, 2015 at 10:51 am

    This article was written 8 years ago, Yellow Pages are not the way to go, check online reviews, Yelp, Angies List, Google Reviews. Select a contractor with a RECENT reviews, sometimes a company is sold, new owner, same company name.



  • Rita Janicki Says:
    March 28th, 2015 at 11:48 am

    Which should we replace first, the gutters or the roof? Underneath i believe it’s called the soffit n fascia, iit’s wood with tiny metal louvers that the painter painted when he painted the wood. Should I replace and update that too? We built the house in fall of 1988.
    Thank you



  • Betty McClanahan Says:
    March 27th, 2015 at 4:10 pm

    I live in northeast Mississippi. I am a widow with no family or friends who can advise me. I live fundamentally on social security …. money is so limited …. but its urgent that I get a new roof. The present one is almost 30 years old, and I have a huge leak. What is the least expensive, most economical type of roofing material I should select? It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t last as many years as others. I’m 80+ years old. It will certainly outlive me. I really need your help with this and any advice on choosing a contractor or any pointers in this area. Thank you so very much. I hope this reaches you, because I feel you will try to help me if you see this message. Thanks again.



  • Connie Says:
    September 15th, 2012 at 10:39 am

    I have a yankee gutter that leek back into the house over a window. What experience do a contractor need to repair this type of gutter?



  • Alan Says:
    March 31st, 2012 at 11:07 am

    When asking a contractor for referrals, what company in their right mind would give a referral of a bad customer or a job that went wrong???????? Lets be honest, 5 times out of 10 they probably give an address of a relative or friend, and even if you do get a reference of a true customer – as an everyday “Joe” how would I the customer know the difference between a bad job and a good one? If I the customer don’t know the difference between a “3D shingle” and a “dimensional shingle” as the true term, how will I know the difference between anything else that I am looking at?



  • mike denzer Says:
    December 1st, 2011 at 1:03 pm

    I know someone that hired a roofer but isnt licensed. Right after a rain now the roof leaks in bathroom. What now?



  • RoofDiagnostics.com Says:
    October 9th, 2010 at 10:11 pm

    A few items to consider when hiring a roofer:

    How long have they been in business?

    How available have they been? (consider the ability to contact the contractor, if you have difficulty when they are still trying to earn your business – imagine if you are trying to get them to return for a leak call)

    Do they have a physical office? (without an office, the contractor is less likely to be around 5 years from the installation)

    Are they insured? Have they worked locally, do they provide references?



  • Kelcy Says:
    October 9th, 2010 at 10:06 pm

    A few people have asked about flashings. Flashings ARE the most important part of a roof installation. A steep slope roof will almost never leak in the field of the roof, that is the vast majority of leaks in a shingled roof come from flashings.

    The roofing contrator should include flashing in the roof proposal. Make sure to get a written proposal with specific scope of work details, including materials to be used.

    Flashings should be comprised of aluminum or copper. The chimney is the most comprehensive flashing system and the contractor should have experience with this.



  • karen patterson Says:
    September 25th, 2010 at 8:37 am

    is flashing included with the roof



  • Lone Mountain Roofing Says:
    May 3rd, 2010 at 2:02 pm

    Bob,

    Although Lone Mountain isn’t in AZ, we have been specializing in flat roofs (and only flat roofs) for over 25 years. We have a flat roof video available on our website (www.lonemountain.com) and on YouTube.



  • Bob Says:
    November 27th, 2007 at 8:19 am

    However, you say nothing about flat roofs. Kinda difficult to check the work just driving by.

    I live in the Phoenix area, and I’ve seen “This Old House” refer, on houses on the East Coast, some kind of roll-out sheet for a seal AND Elastomeric AND a mesh fabric to hold it all together.

    However, in the heat of summer, I’m not sure about such a tight seal, even with under-eave venting and those “onion” vents that turn in the wind. Don’t you need it to breathe through the roof surface so, during the summer, heat doesn’t build up in space between the ceiling and the roof?

    So, what are the answers on flat roofs? When installing a new, flat roof, is it preferable to pitch it a little so water can run off more easily?



  • Erin Says:
    September 24th, 2007 at 2:16 pm

    I had a new roof put on my home last June. I was up pointing my chimney up with my husband and a noticed a funny looking shingle like it had been pulled out from the others. I went over to it and lifted it and underneath there was a hole no plywood of anything. I felt around and ot appeared to be hallow ina basketball size round areas. Also we walked on the roof and it felt really mushy in spots like we were going to fall through it. I’m sick to death knowing I paid almost $8,000 and my roof isn’t properly done.



  • Suzanne Says:
    June 9th, 2007 at 3:02 am

    Should a new roof include new flashing around the chimney? I have leaks around both chimneys but he didn’t say anything about flashing when he gave me an estimate. I just assumed that was part of it.



  • Wood Says:
    April 10th, 2007 at 7:51 am

    Everything they say in here is true.. check you Roofer carefully ; if you are gettinga speciality product like Metal shingles /or membarne EPDM roof for low slope roofs. Make sure your Roofer is certified to put the product in. Call the manufacturer, they know who is CERTIFIED in the craft. WWithout a certified installer you run the risk of your warranty being declared invalid if any ‘problems’ arise with the installation.


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