When you’re looking for a roofer, sorting through the list of potential options looks like a full-time job in its own right.
After all, this isn’t like changing a lightbulb. A roof is a major undertaking. If you have an incompetent contractor, you could waste thousands of dollars on costly roof repairs (the average repair call costs around $650).
So the question is, how do you separate the questionable contractors from the outstanding ones?
Simple: ask the right questions.
If you’re looking for Meridian roofers, here are 15 of the best questions to ask a roofer.
Questions About the Company
The best place to start sorting fly-by-night roofing contractors from the best roofing contractors is to ask a few basic questions about the company.
These questions will help you determine whether the roofer is credible. Don’t ask for a quote until you’ve established their credibility. This will also give you a chance to assess whether they have enough experience to be trusted on your rooftop.
1. What is Your Full Legal Business Name and Physical Address?
This seems like a pretty basic question, but it’s surprisingly informative.
You’re looking for the business’s full legal name because it’s increasingly easy for individuals and businesses to misrepresent themselves. You can accept answers that include:
- The exact name the business is using to market themselves
- Our legal name is X, but we’re doing business as Y
- We market ourselves as X [i.e. Point Roofing and Restoration] but our legal name is Y [i.e. Point Roofing and Restoration LLC]
You should not accept an answer that is hesitant or unclear. Any business should be able to provide their full legal name when prompted. When in doubt, ask for proof–any legitimate business will have no problem verifying their information.
You should also ask for a complete physical address. If they provide a Post Office box, ask for a physical location. Any business that cannot provide a physical location is cause for concern.
Ask yourself: if they don’t have a location, where do they store materials? Where do they keep tools?
If they don’t have a real address, move on.
2. How Long Have You Been in Business?
Another good indicator of credibility is how long the company has been in business.
Any business that has longevity is a good sign. A company that has been around for many years has a strong customer base. If they have a strong customer base, that means that they do good work, since customers are willing to refer them to other potential customers.
That’s not to say that a young roofing company can’t provide a great experience. A roofing company could be a few years old and give you a fantastic roofing job. But as a rule, unless a friend referred you and you’ve seen evidence that the company does great work, a company that’s been around for a while is a safer bet.
3. Can You Tell Me About Projects You’ve Worked On?
This question is designed to ascertain whether the roofing contractor has worked on projects similar to yours.
Residential roofing and commercial roofing are two entirely different animals. That’s because commercial and residential properties have different roofing systems available to them. Most homeowners have a far smaller roofing budget than a commercial property which significantly limits their material options.
Commercial and residential projects also operate on completely different timelines. The average residential roofing project can be completed in a few days, while a commercial roofing project can take over a month to complete.
This is due to size (commercial buildings are far larger than most residential homes) and the fact that commercial roofing systems are typically more difficult to install.
Look for a roofer who has experience working on projects like yours. If they have done similar projects, ask if you can speak to previous customers to assess their experience.
Questions About Insurance
Once you’ve assessed that a roofer is credible and familiar with roofing projects like yours, you can move on to more practical details.
Like insurance, for example.
Think of it this way. You’re paying a significant amount of money to have workers walking on your roof with tools. They’ll be up there all day, pulling up the old roof and laying down the new one.
Are you really willing to risk paying the price if someone got hurt?
4. Do You Have Insurance? What Level?
Roofing insurance can be a bit tricky since many states require different levels of insurance depending on what type of contractor you are.
Idaho outlines its requirements for insurance in Idaho Code 72-212.
Look for a contractor who matches at least the minimum state requirements. Ideally, look for a company that goes one step above where insurance is concerned. Again, it’s better to be safe than pay the price later.
Don’t accept any answers that are hesitant, unclear, or don’t match the legal requirements under local, state, or federal law. It’s easy to answer, “Yes, we have insurance!” so you have to ask for a specific dollar amount.
Keep in mind, however, that if a roofer hesitates to answer this question over the phone, it’s a red flag, but they may not be lying about having insurance. It’s possible that the person speaking with you doesn’t know the exact amount off the top of their head.
As long as they’re willing to email you a copy of their liability insurance policy, they’re still in the clear.
5. Do You Have Workers’ Compensation Insurance?
At a bare minimum, your roofing contractor should have general liability coverage. But it’s better to find a contractor that has both general liability and workers’ compensation insurance.
Workers’ compensation insurance is insurance coverage designed to ensure that workers receive adequate medical care after injuries, as well as compensation for a portion of income lost while they are out of work. It also protects employers from lawsuits.
That’s because workers’ compensation is based on an agreement that workers will receive benefits regardless of who was at fault in an accident. In exchange, employees cannot sue their employers for work-related injuries.
Without workers’ compensation, you could be held liable for medical bills and associated costs if someone is injured while working on your roof. And since your homeowners’ insurance may not cover these types of accidents, you could end up paying out of pocket.
Ask a contractor about this before you hire them. First of all, it isn’t legal to operate without workers’ compensation insurance if the state requires it, and second of all, it’s a sign that the company is prepared to take responsibility for the health and wellbeing of their employees.
Questions About Workers
And speaking of employees, you’re going to have to ask a few questions about workers as well.
You’re hiring a contractor to complete a professional service on your behalf. It would be nice to assume that they only hire employees who know what they’re doing. Credible roofing companies do.
The problem is that there’s a critical difference between full-time employees and subcontractors.
6. Who Will Be On the Job Site During My Roofing Installation?
When you ask who will be on the job site, you’re actually asking for a few different pieces of information, some of which will require follow-up questions.
First, you’re asking this question with the understanding that a credible roofing contractor with a strong customer base will likely have multiple roofing jobs happening at the same time. This means that the company owner likely won’t be present when your roof is installed.
That’s fine, because many larger companies hire project managers. A project manager is there solely to ensure that your roof is being installed in accordance with local laws and guidelines provided by materials manufacturers.
Second, you’re asking about whether the roofing company will handle every job role within the company or whether they will hire subcontractors. Full-time employees are employees hired and insured by your contractor, while subcontractors are brought on to help execute some of the work in your roofing contract.
This creates an implicit contract within a contract, i.e. a subcontract. That’s important because there are different insurance and legal responsibilities for subcontractors.
Look for a company that will have the owner, a company manager, or a specifically designated project manager on-site for the duration of the installation. Don’t accept any answer along the lines of, “Our roofers are highly experienced, they don’t need supervision.”
7. If You Use Subcontractors, What are Their Roles?
If the company does use subcontractors to complete some portion of the work, you need to ask who those subcontractors are and what roles they fulfill.
Remember, you hire the roofing contractor, but the roofing company hires the subcontractors. This means that if you don’t know the roofing company hires subcontractors, you won’t have the opportunity to screen those subcontractors.
If a roofing company does hire subcontractors, you should screen them with the same thoroughness as your regular contractor. That’s why we prompted you to ask about it–you want to make sure you’re getting licensed, experienced, and well-insured experts from start to finish.
Questions About Ethics
Wait, you’ve already established that a roofer is credible–why do you need to do an ethics check?
Because ethics is a slippery slope and everyone takes a different view of it.
We’re not here to launch a philosophical conversation. The point is, you want to hire a roofer who has your best interests at heart.
These questions hit harder than our previous questions. But if you’re really looking for a great roofer, they’re worth asking.
8. Can You Leave the Roof Estimate in My Mailbox?
This seems like a simple question–why wouldn’t a roofer be willing to leave a roofing estimate in your mailbox? But it’s actually a subtle question.
Why? Because any roofer worth their salt wouldn’t dream of leaving a roofing estimate in your mailbox.
Many roofing companies get away with leaving estimates in mailboxes as they go through an entire neighborhood. At the time, it might seem helpful–after all, you can compare several estimates at once.
The problem is that a roofing estimate is based on a number of factors unique to your home, from the roofing materials to the size of the roof to the slope of the roof to any underlying repairs the roofer may find during their inspection.
A roofer leaving an estimate in your mailbox is unethical because the roofer has no clue what your project will look like. They’re giving you an estimate that may not even apply to your home–or offering an estimate for a project they may not even be able to complete.
Any roofer worth hiring will tell you they can’t do that. They need to ask questions, assess your property, and discuss what materials you want to use.
9. Does the Roofing Estimator Need to Come Inside My House?
The correct answer to this question is it depends.
In order to provide an accurate estimate, a reputable roofing company will have to conduct a professional roof inspection. Homeowners can spot obvious problems like missing shingles, but other problems won’t be visible to the untrained eye.
If your roof is several years old or shows signs of potential water damage on the roof exterior, the inspector may need to come inside your house to inspect the attic. They do this to get a more complete picture of the problems your roofing project will have to address.
If you don’ have an attic, a roofing inspector may still need to come inside your home. A trained eye can spot small cracks or stains that could spell serious trouble. Good roofers will take the time to repair these problems during your project, but it’s going to take longer and cost more.
The point is, they would never know about these structural problems unless their inspector was thorough. If a roofer doesn’t seem to consider the possibility that an inspector would have to come inside, move on.
10. What is Your Pricing Per Square Foot?
Pricing per square foot doesn’t seem like an ethics question at first blush, but it’s surprisingly effective in weeding out bad contractors.
Any good roofer knows that pricing per square foot is based on a number of factors, from your roofing materials to the slope of your roof to the age of the roof to the condition of the roof. Look for a roofer who can take a big-picture perspective on the project–and can explain why each roofing factor will affect your final price tag.
You don’t want a roofer who bases their square foot price on a single factor, like materials. This leaves a great deal of room for error and leaves you open to a surprise price hike during installation day. This is when you’re most vulnerable–you don’t want to send away roofers if you’ve already gone to so much trouble.
A roofer who puts you in such a situation isn’t treating you fairly. Look for a roofer who’s willing to show their experience and treat you with basic dignity.
11. Can You Do a Layover Instead of a Full Roof Replacement?
If a company is willing to do a layover, run in the opposite direction.
A roofing layover is when a roofer nails a layer of new shingles on top of the old ones instead of removing the old ones first. This is a cosmetic fix at best and it sets you up for potentially serious restoration costs down the line.
Think about it. If you’re hiring a roofer, chances are, there’s something wrong with your roof. Maybe it’s old, maybe it’s leaking, maybe it was damaged in severe weather. A layover might make the roof look better from the street, but it doesn’t actually fix the underlying problems.
Instead, you’re allowing underlying water damage, moss, lichen, or structural damage to fester. You’ll have to pay for a new roof again in a few years–and this time, the bill will include hefty repair costs.
Questions About the Job
We’ve spent a lot of time focusing on roofing practices and processes. But you also need to find out how a roofer conducts their installation jobs.
You could drill a company on every aspect of their installation process, but you don’t need to. You can find out important information with a few relevant questions.
12. How Do You Handle Permits?
Don’t hang up the phone before you ask about permits.
Before any roofing job can begin, you must acquire the appropriate roofing permits. This grants you specific authorization to conduct construction or installation work. In fact, you’re not legally able to move ahead with roofing installation if you don’t have a permit.
However, permits are handled differently between companies.
Some companies will handle the permits on your behalf. Others expect the homeowner to acquire the appropriate permit in advance. If your contractor falls into the latter category, ask them to explain what specific permit your job will require and the process of applying for it.
13. How is Payment Handled?
This question is about two things:
- Identifying fly-by-night operations
Ask if a roofing contractor accepts payment in the form of cash, credit, or checks. If their method of accepting payment seems questionable, trust your gut and turn elsewhere.
You also need to ask when payment is expected. If the roofing contractor is providing materials for you, it is acceptable for them to ask for a down payment. If you’re expected to provide the materials, you should not pay the contractor until the job is complete.
If a contractor asks you to provide materials and also demands payment up-front, go elsewhere.
14. How Do You Schedule a Job?
The best roofing contractors are the busiest roofing contractors. If they’re busy, it means that several customers like and trust them enough to want to hire them.
As such, if you’re looking to schedule a roof installation with a good company, don’t be surprised if they’re booked out for quite a while in advance. However, you should get an understanding of their scheduling process so you don’t get any surprises.
You should ask about what kind of schedule they keep. Look for a contractor that keeps a tight schedule. A tight schedule means that they value your time and they’re working as efficiently as possible in the knowledge that they have several other jobs waiting.
15. How Do You Ensure Worker Safety?
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), roofing contractors are legally obligated to take certain steps to ensure the safety of their workers. This protects workers from harm and protects the company (and the homeowner) from liability.
It’s helpful to do a bit of reading on the current local, state, and federal safety regulations for roofers. This will give you an idea of the standards roofing companies are expected to uphold.
That way, when you ask a contractor what steps they will take to ensure worker safety, you can fact-check their answers against what you know about their safety obligations. This requires a bit of homework, but it significantly reduces your potential liability if someone gets hurt on the job.
Looking for Meridian Roofers?
If you’re looking for Meridian roofers and you’re ready to have a conversation about your project, we’re ready to help.
We are committed, experienced contractors with over a decade of experience in roofing and restoration. We know what it takes to install and repair a roof, and we’re proud to bring you the best quality on the market every time.
Ready to get your project in motion? Click here to request your free inspection today.