Understand that roofing is a service, not a pre-manufactured product.

You are hiring a contractor primarily based on their ability to provide a service. You can’t compare roofing bids like you are buying a big screen TV. Simply comparing specs, warranties and prices won’t necessarily pay off. It just isn’t that simple. Everyone wants to “compare apples to apples” but it is difficult to compare service based businesses that way. Zoom out and look at the entirety of the bids you are comparing and the contractors behind the bids. If you accept the wrong bid, you could wind up paying a second company to fix the first companies’ mistakes. Look at the whole picture to save yourself potential money, time and hassle.

Don’t attach undo importance to a certain specification.

Don’t hire a roofer on the basis that they are installing a special underlayment, vent or type of flashing. Don’t pay a $1,000 extra just because the contractor professes to employ “hand-nailing” or uses plywood clips. These differences are negligible at best and may not add any value whatsoever. Also, be wary of a roofing company that employs the term “exclusive”. Everyone wants the latest and greatest but there is more than one way to install a quality roof. You should hire a company on its overall value and reputation.

Put into perspective special warranties and certifications.

Nowadays, many roofing contractors offer and advertise special certifications and factory warranties. These contractors can offer extended product warranties for the products they are certified for. If a roofing company leans too heavily on a 3rd party certification, it is most likely covering for several other deficiencies. It’s OK to hire a company that has special certifications and product warranties, but understand that there are many roofing contractors with certifications and extended warranties that frequently perform shoddy work and have unhappy customers.

Don’t get excessive bids.

2-3 bids is plenty. If you are getting five or more bids, ask yourself what it is you are looking for. With a high number of bids you will most likely end up justifying hiring a cheap contractor and find yourself very confused at what each company is offering. Remember, with each bid may come an eager salesperson, so save yourself the hassle and potential bad decision of getting excessive bids. Instead, request a reasonable number of bids from reputable, residential-only roofing companies.

Don’t get bids from wholesale stores.

Avoid getting bids from Home Depot, Lowe’s, Sears, etc.. You will end up paying these middle men too much, as the work will most likely be performed by a subcontractor. Stick to dealing directly with local, residential-only roofing companies.

Watch out for dropping prices.

If a company keeps dropping its price, beware! You want a company that is transparent and straight-forward. Every roofing company should be accountable for the original bid they present you with. If they are willing to take the job for $1,000 or more below their original price, this poses one of two unfavorable scenarios: Either the company was willing to charge you an excessive amount, or the company is desperate for work and is just trying to keep its crews busy by taking you on as a customer. Hire a company that is consistent and fair with its pricing.

We can start on Monday.

In buying a roof, you are making a 25-30 year decision. Don’t rush into a decision because a contractor you are getting bids from can start next week. Quality roofing contractors consistently have a lead time of 4-12 weeks. If a roofing company can start next week then why don’t they have more customers? Are they pulling in a part-time crew to install your roof? Roofing is a seasonal business and the good contractors have learned to employ only full-time, year-round crews and to never bring in part-time labor. Hiring a roofing contractor is a big decision. Don’t be put off by lead time.

Avoid financing or zero down payments.

If the roofing company has a financing agreement set up, trust me it’s a rip off. Get financing on your own, from your bank if you need to go that route. Also, any roofing company that advertises or requires “no money down” is a little suspect as the longevity of this company could be in question. A 10-30% deposit is completely reasonable for a roofing contractor to request.

Avoid high-pressure sales tactics.

If the pressure to buy is too high, the price is also too high. Most roofing companies that employ high-pressure sales tactics won’t follow up with you if you don’t hire them on the spot. This is because they know that when you get other bids, you will discover that their bid is unreasonably high.

Visit a jobsite in progress.

This is a very good way to see if a roofing company is worth the money. Ask to visit a live jobsite and speak with the foreman. If the contractor shies away from this idea then there is a problem. Quality roofing companies are proud to show off their work, cleanliness and organization. What better way to judge a roofing company then to meet the roofers that could be installing your roof?

Visit the main office.

Once again, a quality company wants to show you the value in their service. Familiarize yourself with the office staff responsible for planning, scheduling and executing your roof project. Find out who you will be communicating with during the project. You want to hire a transparent company who is eager to show you what goes on behind the scenes.

Talk to recent or local references.

Every company has a reference list but asking for recent or local references is also a good way to gauge customer satisfaction.

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