I assume from your question you are planning or installing or replacing an existing roof on your home. There are a number of considerations, not just question to ask your roofer, but how to approach the project from beginning to end.
Plan ahead. Get your roof project scheduled long before you need it
Many people wait until the last minute – until water is pouring through the ceiling – before they call a roofing company to take a look, but it’s likely to be a lot more cost effective to deal with the problem in a preventative way. That means getting regular roof inspections, and taking care of any issue that arises when it is discovered.
So, you’ve decided that this summer, you’re going to swap out the old roofing materials and install the new ones. The project will take a few days for the average roofing company but, especially in the Pacific Northwest, many roofing companies are likely to be fully booked up for the summer months. Add to that a record breaking wet winter, and many roofing companies are scrambling to catch up with their customers’ needs. If you want to replace a roof in the summer, think about selecting a roofer before spring is over. If you are in a position to get the work done over the winter months, many roofing companies will offer you a better deal that in the high demand season of the summer. That’s because they benefit from keeping a steady team of staff all year long. It’s expensive to let team members go elsewhere for work, and then to find them again when demand increases.
How many roofs have they installed in this region?
Roofing in the Pacific Northwest presents a different challenge than, for example, the same work in a state like Arizona. The almost relentless precipitation here in the Seattle area can leave some or all of a roof in permanent dampness. If a roof is occasionally dried out and baked by the summer sun, it at least resets the moss and lichen level to zero at some point in the year, but if that doesn’t happen, the roof may be impacted by an uninterrupted attack. A roofer who has installed hundreds of roofs in the region will likely know how to install a roof and mitigate that impact.
Licensed, bonded and insured
It’s pretty easy to check online, but all home service vendors must of course be licensed by the state of Washington. What’s more, their license number must appear on the business cards, letterhead and website. You can use that license to search the Web to see if their paperwork is up to date. You might get a slightly better deal from an unlicensed operator, but if one of their employees has a little accident on the roof of your house, you may be liable for all of their injuries and then some, even if that roofing worker and his or her employer was breaking the law by not being fully licensed.
Anyone working on your home should have the correct licenses. Otherwise, you may find yourself in a legal situation that quickly spirals out of control. Even if you have excellent personal liability insurance – which every cautious homeowner should have – your first step in the event of a mishap on your property is to use the state-based insurance and bonding system. That way, your own insurance premiums won’t be affected.
Get a roof inspection
Strangely, this is a service few homeowners avail of, even though it is essentially free in most cases. At least, if you do pay an inspection fee, the typical roofing company will discount that amount from any resulting work that needs to be done. If no work needs to be done, well that’s also goo news, right?
The reason you should have a roofing company inspect your roof is more a question of motivation than of expertise. Knowing that he or she is first in line to receive any potential business, a roofer will be eager to do a thorough inspection. A general house inspector, while he or she might provide an analysis of your whole house and not just the roof, doesn’t have that same motivation.
The report that comes from a roof inspection is usually very obvious. When something is wrong, you can usually see it, so a roofer is unlikely to overestimate the work that needs to be done. On the other hand, someone inspecting for example your water heater might be tempted to recommend replacing your whole heater when in fact only a ten dollar switch needs to be replaced.
A roof should be inspected every two or three years. If it’s more than fifteen or twenty years old, those inspections should be closer together. Finding a small problem before it damages part of your house is a good investment. Sometimes replacing a couple of shingles is all that’s required to give your roof a longer life.
Ask for references, and/or look up online reviews
Most house contractors (roofers, plumbers, carpenters, etc.) can be sought on social media platforms where reviews of their work are easily found. A few years ago, I saw a car for sale I liked in a Seattle neighborhood dealership. The first place I went to look was on Yelp, where the dealership had eleven reviews and each of them was a one-star review! The consistent nature of the content was compelling, and I decided immediately to not even test drive the car.
Yelp.com, Angie’s List, Houzz and other online organizations give an excellent insight into any potential trouble from a given vendor. Be sure to check them out thoroughly and remember, it’s perfectly OK to have a small minority of negative reviews. For example, if Acme Roofing has ten reviews on Yelp, and 9 of them are four- and five-star reviews, but one of them is a one-star review, you’re probably in good shape. That’s the nature of online reviews.
In summary, I would say, it’s all about doing your homework first, and well ahead, and you will greatly reduce your chances of problems later.
More next week!