Allow yourself an hour, more or less, to sit down with each contractor. You might be speaking with a salesperson or even the owner. Both of you need time to ask questions and explore the possibilities. You will be surprised at how many options you have. The salesperson should show pride and enthusiasm in discussing other jobs.
The salesperson should be knowledgeable about other jobs (which shows his amount of involvement in the actual work).
The Seven Questions to Ask –
Good contractors take pride in their work, and so should the salesperson representing the company.
1. What is the full name and address of the company?
Getting the complete address of the company can be an important factor in determining a company’s time in business. If a post office box is given, ask for a full street address as well.Try to hire a contractor that has an office nearby. The likelihood of quicker service is greater if the company is based near your home.
2. Does the company carry insurance?
A contractor should carry comprehensive liability insurance and workers’ compensation insurance to protect you in the event of a roofing accident. This can be verified by asking to see the contractor’s certificates of insurance (workers’ compensation and general liability). If he can’t show them, he’s probably not insured.
Contractors may also carry other kinds of insurance including health, life and auto insurance. Bland assurances of insurance coverage may refer to these. Don’t be confused. Ask for proof of general liability and workers’ compensation coverage.
Worker Accidents. Be aware that if a worker is injured on your property, the homeowner might be held liable for all costs unless the employee is covered by workers’ compensation insurance. Hospital bills for serious accidents can be extraordinarily expensive.
Homeowners’ insurance policies normally exclude such injuries. Be aware that the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has recently imposed fall prevention standards on roofing contractors that mandate the use of safety devices, adding considerable cost to job overhead. These expenses could be the cause of wide variations in prices between contractors who follow the standards versus those who ignore them.
The homeowner is not responsible for enforcement of OSHA standards, but you benefit from them insofar as job safety awareness is higher when OSHA standards are followed. Worker accidents are much less likely.
Note, too, many OSHA regulations are very restrictive and controversial. Rules are likely to be changing.
Uninsured Contractors. Roofers who do not carry insurance will most likely be cheaper to hire as they do not have the large insurance premiums to pay. Workers’ compensation premiums can increase wage costs from about 20% to as much as 100%, depending on the state.
There are a variety of reasons why full insurance may not be carried by a contractor, such as:
- Not a full-time contractor
- New in the business
- Can’t afford insurance premiums
- Doesn’t stand behind work
It is up to you to determine if it is worth the risk to hire a contractor who does not carry insurance.
3. Is the company a licensed contractor?
When you pose this question, you are, in effect, asking if the contractor is licensed by your state and/or city.
Not all states require contractors to be licensed. If your state does license contractors, then he might have had to pass a written examination in his specialty. A number of cities also require professional licensing. Check with your local licensing authority for details (see the appendix for a partial listing of states’ licensing requirements).
A contractor may also answer this question by telling you he has a business license. However, a business license is a tax requirement only and is not directly relevant to the contractor’s competence.
4. How long has the company been in business?
Needless to say, longer is usually better than shorter. Under three years may signal an unstable business.
On the other hand, everybody has to start sometime. References will be helpful to double-check any business, and are especially important when dealing with a new business.
A newer business may have a great future but it is only reasonable to be more careful when considering its referrals. The failure rate of small businesses in the first three years is very high.
5. Will the company provide referrals or references from previous jobs?
- Ask for 10 (yes, 10) job-site locations in your area that you can visit.
- Ask for photos of completed work, if available. Keep in mind, however, that many roofers will not have photos.
- Request a list of names and phone numbers of recent customers. However, realize that the roofer can legitimately refuse to give a long list – many customers may not want their names released.
6. What is the company’s workmanship warranty?
- Typically, contractor workmanship warranties are for one year or more. Longer warranties are not more valuable than shorter warranties. The length of the warranty is less important than the intent and ability of the roofer to stand behind his warranty.
- The roofer will warrant his workmanship. The manufacturer, on the other hand, warranties the roofing material against defects in manufacturing. Thus, two warranties will cover the shingle system. Understand them both. Ask for a copy of the manufacturer’s warranty pertaining to the specific shingle products you are considering.
Usually, most problems of either workmanship or material show up very quickly. Therefore, the near-term warranty given by the contractor or manufacturer is more important than the warranty coverage during the later years of the warranty.
Even if problems of workmanship arise after the workmanship warranty has lapsed, a reliable contractor usually will want to stand behind his work.
7. What is the company’s track record for solving customer complaints?
- Try to find out how your contractor handles problems when they do arise. Request a referral from a job that involved a complaint.
- Ask the contractor if he has ever lost a job-related court case.
- Ask if his contractor’s license has ever been suspended and why.
Also, in talking to the appropriate authorities, such as the Better Business Bureau and licensing departments, find out if any complaints have been filed against the contractors whom you have interviewed. Many contractors in business for any length of time have been involved in a dispute. Ask how the dispute was resolved, to test your contractor’s reputation.
Click Here To View The Answers