How to Hire a Roofer for Your Home
By: Danny Lipford
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
Check 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:
- 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.
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.
- 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.