Picking a Contractor

Choosing the right contractor is easier said than done. All contractors say they’ll do a good job, all say they’ll use top grade materials, and all say they’ll provide great follow up service after the job is done.

Keep in mind, however, that what contractors say doesn’t matter. It’s what they do that’s important. The fact is that there’s a world of difference among roofing contractors . . . and between the appearance, durability, fire protection, safety, and value of the roofs they provide. While price is obviously important, choosing a roofing contractor simply by taking the lowest bid can be disastrous.

Here are some guidelines to help make sure you get the best roof, the highest value and the greatest satisfaction for your investment.

  • Find out how long a contractor has been in business. And be wary of fly-by-nights who are more interested in selling new roofs than in recommending ways to obtain the best long term value. Contractors who are just interested in selling new roofs probably won’t be very helpful – or even be around –when a leak turns up or materials start to wear.
  • Look into experience. Has the contractor you’re interviewing installed and maintained a variety of roof types. . .or just one or two? Does he just have experience with commercial properties . . . or residential properties . . . or both?
  • Check the contractor’s reputation. Contact references for whom the contractor has done work – especially ones for whom he’s done the type of work (commercial or residential) and style of roof (asphalt, composition, shake, shingle, tile, etc.) you’re considering. If he won’t provide you with a list of jobs he’s done in your area, be wary. Also contact local Better Business Bureaus to see whether the contractor has a lengthy history of complaints.
  • Learn about the contractor’s staff. How many full time employees? How much training do they receive? Do they participate in industry and state sanctioned apprenticeship training programs? Are the installation specialists backed by an equally qualified office staff? (“One-man, do-it-all” contractors may be skilled craftsmen, but the absence of a qualified support staff often translates to delays, disruptions, and ultimate dissatisfaction.)
  • Ask to see licenses and insurance papers. Legitimate contractors are licensed by the state. They must carry workers’ compensation insurance and should carry substantial liability insurance. Check the contractor’s safety record. Take this into account when choosing a company to do your work.
  • Check the specifications and warranties of materials. Make sure the U. L. fire and wind ratings meet the highest standards, and that the warranty protects you for the longest possible time against the greatest number of conditions.
  • Verify all information a contractor gives you. Ask to see a copy of the contractor’s license or call the California State License Board at (800) 321-2752 (you can also check through their website at www.cslb.ca.gov). Make sure of insurance coverage. Check to see whether litigation is pending or has been filed in the past.
  • Find out about payment policies. Don’t agree to payments of more than 90% of work which has been completed and, before making final payment, do insist on seeing lien releases from suppliers and subcontractors.
  • Insist on written clarifications of anything you don’t understand. Be sure you understand all the terms and language the contractor uses in discussions, proposals, bids and/or contracts.
  • Get answers, bids and promises in writing before giving the go-ahead to do any work.