The roofing industry in Canada and the United States is largely unregulated.
Each year, the Better Business Bureau and other consumer agencies receive thousands of complaints about roofing contractors. This creates a huge “buyer beware” situation when it comes to choosing a contractor.
Installing a roof is a complex project and without an experienced, reputable roofing company that knows what they’re doing, it’s practically impossible.
So, you need to be vigilant when choosing a company for your project or you can end up getting your fingers badly burnt.
But what exactly do you need to check? What questions should you be asking?
Follow these four simple steps to ask the right questions, evaluate your roofing contractor, and protect yourself from a bad installation that could end up costing you much more than you planned…Download Checklist
1. Establish company credibility with these three questions
Before you even consider the costs involved in hiring a roofer, make sure they’re credible. Most credible contractors will actually appreciate you doing your due diligence and they have nothing to hide.
Here are 3 questions you should ask any contractor before you consider hiring them.
- What is your legal business name?
This is one of the easiest questions to guard against being scammed. No contractor should hesitate, stumble or be offended by you asking this question.
Many contractors operate under a trade name, which differs from their legal name. This is perfectly legal and often encouraged so don’t get worried if you can’t find them by their legal business name.
You can read about trade names and legal names in Canada here.
- What level of insurance and certifications do you have?
Every reputable contractor should be able to provide details of the certifications and insurance they carry.
Insurance and certifications are mandatory and must be held by all contractors to legally work as a roofing company. Any professional contractor should be able to demonstrate to you that they are part of a credible company and qualified to do the job.
The difficulty lies in verifying and clarifying the details, which you as the homeowner will have to do. Insurance rules and requirements vary by province/state so check with your local authorities on the code requirements in your area. Then, ensure the proper permits are up to date and in place for the contractor to conduct the work.
It’s important not to just take their word for it. Ask for the paperwork to be emailed to you for verification purposes. Be sure to ask about the workman’s compensation and general liability insurance as well.
- Who will be the representative on site that I can communicate with?
There’s a good chance you won’t be dealing directly with the owner of the company during your roofing install. Don’t panic.
Many companies have project managers whose sole focus is to make sure your roof is installed according to both local laws and manufacturer guidelines. Roofing is complex, so if there’s “nobody running the show,” a small problem can easily turn your roofing project into one that you read about in the newspaper.
Make sure you have a few methods to contact your onsite representative and ensure that you are given a scheduled start date, estimated end date, and a plan to protect your property during the different phases of the project.
2. Prescreen the company’s work quality and ethics with these four simple questions
Now we start getting a little technical – but these are simple questions that any homeowner can ask to screen a contractor’s approach to the work.
- How many nails do you recommend using per shingle?
To save on costs, some less-than-honourable contractors may use fewer nails than necessary to secure your shingles.
As a rule of thumb, no fewer than four nails should be used per shingle. Subtracting one nail can make or break a manufacturer’s warranty protection.
The required number of nails needed for each type of shingle is available from the manufacturer and should be clarified before your roof installation.
- Can you do a layover instead of removing the existing roof and installing the new one?
This is kind of a trick question as a credible contractor will say no.
A roofing layover is when the roofer nails new shingles directly over your existing shingles instead of first taking them off: effectively placing one layer directly over the other.
Most likely you’re replacing the roof in the first place because there’s something wrong.
In this case, covering it up with a layover will do more damage than good and is considered an unscrupulous practice in the industry.
An ethical roofer will advise you to strip the shingles first so that your roof isn’t at greater risk.
- Do you use subcontractors?
Sometimes the company you hire is not the actual company that goes on your roof to do the work.
Be sure to clarify that the company you hire will be performing the job and, if not, verify the qualifications and training of the company that is, as well as if the original company’s insurance covers them.
Do not use a company that cannot confirm who will be doing the work or that doesn’t meet the exact criteria and expectations you have verified the parent company.
- What warranties do you provide with your work?
A manufacturer’s warranty only covers the materials used on your roof and not the quality of the install.
It is the responsibility of the contractor to provide a workmanship warranty on the work completed. If your roof fails because a product was not installed correctly, you would be reliant on the warranty of the contractor who provided the installation.
A one- or two-year warranty is standard among professional roofing companies. Be sure to get this in writing.
3. Ensure they have your best interests at heart with these two questions
- Does the roof estimator need to come inside my house?
This is another type of trick question. A reputable contractor will say “yes”.
Nowadays, many reputable roofing companies have teams dedicated to performing small-scale inspections and estimates that will benefit you, the homeowner.
Roofing systems that appear to be okay from the outside could be riddled with interior damage upon further inspection. A trained inspector/estimator can quickly spot the hazard signs associated with potential roof failures by looking inside the home.
For many homeowners, this brings the peace of mind that they’re hiring a professional who is considering the project from all angles.
A reputable company will, at a minimum, want to check your attic for adequate insulation and ventilation. They will also want to see that the bathroom fans are hooked up and venting properly.
- How will the job site be left at the end of each day?
Roofing projects are often multi-day jobs. You want to make sure that your house is protected from the elements.
- What happens when the weather suddenly changes?
- How will they secure the work that has already been done?
Also, the job site should not look like an eyesore at the end of each day. Untidy sites can create unnecessary safety hazards.
Decisions on where to place, secure, and leave equipment can impact your day-to-day lives during the work. Verify that the contractor will keep access points clear, dispose of trash, place bins appropriately, and remove unwanted materials.
4. Perform these four final checks before hiring
If you’ve got this far with your potential contractor, things are looking positive. However, there are four final questions you need to ask before hiring.
- Am I making a decision on price alone?
The lowest bid isn’t necessarily the best option. In fact, it is seldom (if ever) that the lowest price proves to be the best value. Be wary of any bid that is substantially lower than the others.
It is probably an indicator that the contractor has made a mistake, has included all the required work quoted by the competitors, or is planning to cut corners during the installation.
The costs associated with running a reputable business are significant (e.g., taxes, licensing, insurance, and training) and contractors need to factor those into the quote. Bear in mind that the number one reason that roofing contractors go out of business is the failure to factor all the variables into the price.
This means that they are unable to cover their costs, which can put you at risk of a poor install or (even worse) an unfinished project.
- Do I need a second (or third) opinion?
Most homeowners only hire a roofing contractor every 10 years or more and aren’t familiar with the process of comparing proposals.
This has led to some unscrupulous contractors trying to take advantage of homeowner’s lack of knowledge in order to make some extra money.
It is highly recommended to get at least three estimates from reputable companies so that you are able to compare them. Be sure to ask questions that check the value associated with the cost so that you compare like for like.
- Are they listed as a preferred/certified installer by the manufacturer?
Many contractors go through manufacturer certification processes and earn a badge that displays their ability to install the specified products.
In order to be factory-certified or listed as a preferred installer on a site like Euroshield, contractors need to pass a minimum standards test outlined by the manufacturer.
This is a good place to start as it adds an immediate “filter”, helping you avoid the risk of hiring an unethical roofing contractor.
All of Euroshield’s verified installers are listed on our site.
- How are their reviews, recommendations, and ratings?
Check with the Better Business Bureau before hiring any contractor.
There you can read any complaints lodged against the company and what the outcomes were. Also, read as many reviews as you can from sources like Google, Facebook, Homestars and Yelp to name just a few.
By following the steps and the questions above, you will select the right roofing contractor to carry out your installation ethically, cost-effectively, and with the necessary quality to last the distance.
Looking to find a Euroshield installer?
The Euroshield products and contractors are industry-leading. Feel free to ask all the questions you need to qualify your contractors as the professionals you require.
If you are ever in doubt, we’re a phone call away and are happy to assist in any way we can!