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How to Choose a Roofing Contractor

A new roof is a huge investment, and materials make-up but a small part of it. Most of your money actually goes to skilled labor. Thus, you need to be smart when deciding whom to hire.

Seems easy? Probably not. Anyone can be like a roofer, but that doesn’t mean they’re automatically qualified.

Seeking Quality Prospects

Look in the yellow pages only if you can’t get a referral from someone you know and trust. You should have at least two or three prospects, and each one should have been in business for a minimum of five years. Poor quality roofers usually don’t stay that long. Start by asking them about their availability. Ask for client references as well, and drop anyone who won’t provide any.

Then check out some of their latest projects. While alternating shingle rows, water gaps, or those spaces in between individual shingle tabs, should line up laser straight. Check the shingles – are they trimmed in a clean line as they run along the valleys? Shingles should be nicely trimmed too so they line up with the roof edge. Ragged lines indicate slipshop work and are totally unacceptable. You should also find neat, tar-free flashings at the roof valleys and eaves.

If you like what you’ve seen, start calling the references, making sure to ask crucially relevant questions. For example, did the roof leak? If so, was the roofer prompt in responding to your call? Was the budget fairly accurate or did you end up spending more? Most importantly, would you work with the roofer again in the future?

What to Look for in a Roofer

After finding some really good prospects, see if they carry workers’ compensation insurance and at least $1 billion of liability insurance. If they tell you they’re insured, ask for copies of their proof-of-insurance certificates. Then request an estimate, which should cost you absolutely nothing. Because roofing is a one-time project, divide the total amount into two parts – typically, you have to pay one-third of it upfront (this will be used to purchase the materials) and the remainder will be settled as the project rolls on to your satisfaction.

Also insist on a warranty – usually one year – on all issues related to labor, such as leaks and flashing failure, plus the type of shingles they will use. Get the highest rated, most durable shingles that fit your budget. Warranties are usually voided if shingles are simply placed on top an existing layer, so be ready to pay the extra cost of having that existing layer torn off. Asphalt roofs are generally good for about 13 years, so a 20-year warranty would be just great.
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