Selecting a Qualified Roofing Contractor
There’s More to Pick Than Just Price
Regardless of the price, your roof is not affordable if it leaks each time it rains. That’ll of course be long after the contractor is gone, and you’ll be stranded in the rainy season to fend for yourself while your tenants scream at you about water damage. Maximizing value is about selecting the best roofing contractor, who uses 1st quality materials with certified workmanship, all at an affordable price.
Too often, property owners and managers fall victim to letting their guard down. Many roofing salesmen hope you skip the background check and make a knee-jerk decision to get a “deal.” Then, you’re unfortunately stuck with a problematic and leaky roof for years to come…
At the same time, you’re busy managing your business and your personal life. You shouldn’t have to spend hours and hours getting “second” opinion after second opinion, and the good news is: you don’t have to. If you pick the right contractor from the start, you’ll achieve peace of mind for 10, 15, or even 20 years or more! Plus, you’ll save thousands of dollars in potential emergency repairs and eliminate the stresses of a leaky roof.
Maximizing the value of your roofing needs comes down to two key factors. Do you need a master’s degree in construction management to understand them? Are they more secretive than the Coca Cola recipe? Will you fall out of your chair when you hear them? The answer to these is NO, but what is shocking is the amount of people willing to compromise on one (or both) of these components, and most don’t realize their mistake until it’s far too late…
Two Key Factors to Picking a Contractor: (1) Who is Doing the Work and (2) The Quality of Their Materials
How to Verify Your Roofer is Qualified
The roofing industry is approaching $20 billion with almost 200,000 contractors. THAT’S big business. Unfortunately, they aren’t all reputable, and many customers get taken advantage of.
To protect yourself, you first need to ensure your contractor is:
- Licensed with a “C-39 Roofing Speciality” license from the California Contractors State License Board (CSLB)
- Bonded with the CSLB
- Insured with workers’ compensation insurance and at least a 1M General Liability policy
- Reputable with a long list of referrals and proven pedigree
Licensed — You should NEVER use an unlicensed contractor, and especially not for your roof. When you’re in your home or office building, you’re standing between gravity and the elements, and you don’t want to take a chance by letting your roofer cut corners. Once you identify a roofing contractor that you’re interested in, the first thing you should do is contact the Contractors State License Board at www.cslb.ca.gov or at (800) 321-CSLB (2752) to ensure they have a valid license that’s been active for at least 20 years. After all, how can you believe a contractor with a 2-year-old license giving a 15-year guarantee?
Bonded — While you might have a special bond with your Golden Retriever, California requires a different type of bond with all of its contractors. A Surety Bond is a contract between a roofing business, the licensing authority, and a “Surety Company” (think insurance company) that financially guarantees that the contractor does what they say they will. Why should you care? This benefits consumers (you) financially in the event of defective construction, legal violations, and other violations made by a bad contractor. You can view the CLSB bonding requirements on their website, and it’s vital (and legally required) that your contractor has one in place to protect you.
Insured — Accidents happen, and you need to be certain that you are protected from the risks of personal injury and damage to your property. As if horror stories of construction aren’t reason enough, mixing that with stereotypes of the legal system after an accident should be plenty of motivation to check your contractor’s insurance policy up front. The three main types of insurance to check your contractor has are:
- Workers’ Compensation — reimburses employee lost wages and medical bills, including for rehabilitation
- General Liability — protects against third-party bodily injury, property damage, and reputational harm (like defamation or slander)
- Commercial Auto — covers the cost of property damage, vehicle repairs, medical expenses, and legal liabilities after a commercial auto-related incident
Reputable — While the previous checklist may seem thorough, you can check all of these with a computer, an email from the contractor including their credentials, and 5 minutes on the CSLB website. Meeting these points is the bare minimum to even consider a contractor, and assuming they do, you should check their reputation next. Reputable contractors are always happy to provide you with 3 personal references and examples of past work. Nothing is better than hearing reviews directly from real customers, and knowing that a company has countless happy customers bringing repeat business speaks for itself. It takes 20 years to build a reputation and only minutes to ruin it, so a company with a strong history is worth putting at the top of your list.
Any contractor that doesn’t have all of this information readily available has something to hide, and you should look elsewhere for your roofing needs. If they only do the bare minimum here, how good could the quality of their materials and work be?
Is Your Roofer Secretly Using “Reject” Materials to Save Money?
You sign the contact, hear the hammering, and smell hot tar. That means everything is perfect and you’re getting the best job possible at the best price, right? WRONG
With so much to consider about your roofer, you can’t forget to make sure they’re using the right materials. No matter if it’s a new roof, re-roof, leak repair, or just regular maintenance, you need to ensure your roofer is using the highest quality of materials possible.
“But how can I tell good materials from bad? I’m not a roofer!”
Step #1 is to make sure the brand of shingles, tiles, or rolled roofing is from a manufacturer with a household name like CertainTeed Corporation, Owens Corning, or GAF Materials. Largescale, experienced suppliers have been in business for decades because their products perform well, and they’re experts in quality control.
That said, not all finished materials are equal. In fact, a little known secret is that manufacturers sell their imperfect materials. Think about a chef with leftovers from a few days ago. Instead of wasting food, they may combine ingredients into a “special” soup of the day to limit waste. Manufacturers don’t want to waste either, so they sell flawed inventory at a discount. This is fine as long as your contractor isn’t buying them for your roof. Unlike the comparison above, your roofing materials must be perfect because you have to live with it for decades!
But how do you tell good materials from bad? There are four grades for roofing materials:
- 1st Quality
- 2nd Quality (known as “2nds”)
- 3rd Quality (known as “3rds”)
- Reject Quality
Manufacturers have a variety of reasons for downgrading the quality rating of what they’re producing. Errors can be related to poor reinforcement, a lack of proper asphalt content, appearance, and poor granule bonding, among other factors. Each flaw dramatically affects waterproofing and life expectancy.
Out of everything mentioned so far about getting the most value out of your roof, this is one tip you cannot afford to ignore. Literally.
How do you spot the differences? Talk to your contractor and ask them to confirm they will only use 1st quality materials for your job. If you ask and they no longer make eye contact, or even worse, try to convince you that “2nds” are ok to use, it’s time to put their quote in the shredder and move on to a highly ethical roofing contractor.
Contractors with high standards will be proud to talk to you about the excellent quality of their materials and point them out in their quote. First quality materials always come wrapped from the factory with detailed labels showing their logo and a barcode. If you see materials with blank brown or white labels – or even worse, just wrapped in plastic without a label – there’s a 99% chance your contractor is using 2nd quality materials.
One usual dead giveaway is the price. If you get a few quotes to compare and see one that is 15-50% or more below the others, they’re likely using 2nd quality materials. At the same time, a bid price in the same ballpark as others does not always mean good quality. Sadly, some roofers are bold enough to use cheap materials and charge you full price. How would you feel finding out that you paid thousands of dollars for work in good faith for inferior quality products from someone that paid 20 cents on the dollar for them? Not good…
It’s up to you to educate yourself and maximize the value of your roof investment that needs to last you 20-30 years. Take comfort in knowing that with the key tips mentioned above, you are now better prepared than most buyers to maximize the value of your next roofing project.
About the Author
Whether you’re just getting started or already have bids in hand, you should always include Royal Roofing Company in your next roofing project. Led by Owner and industry veteran Steve Pinkus, Royal Roofing Company has stayed in continuous business for 40 years in Southern California under the same license. That’s because we only hire the “best of the best” roofers and use the highest quality materials. We maintain the highest level of business integrity, as proven by our 40-year CSLB license that stands without a single violation, citation, or disciplinary action.
Royal Roofing Company is so confident our roof consultation will be of value to you, we offer free estimates no matter how big or small your project is. Call today, and one of our roof specialists will inspect your roof at no cost, then walk you through their recommendations with photos, and ensure that you’re educated to make the right decision. Together, that will save you thousands of dollars over the course of your roof’s life.