The reason the area is an important part of the question is two-fold. One, roofs in the Pacific Northwest are subject to a lot of moisture, but also under cooler temperatures than other parts of the country where, in fact, they might have a lot more precipitation, but higher temperatures and hotter days that dry out rainfall quickly. Two, each state has its own set of laws regarding contractors (roofers, carpenters, electricians, etc.), so it’s important to tailor your requirements and questions to the jurisdiction you live in. Cities, as well as the state itself, will have unique requirements. Lastly, your very neighborhood plays a role. If you live on a street where covenants are jealously enforced, you need to choose a roofer that can comply with any such local rules. If the covenants say your home’s roof’s cedar wood shakes must be replaced with real, cedar wood shakes, then your roofer must be sufficiently skilled and experienced in such work. Let’s look at the questions you want to ask of any roofer who is interested in working on your roof:
How long have you been in the business of roof replacement / installation?
It might seem like an obvious question, but you would be surprised to know just how many roofing companies go out of business within a year or two of starting. Some will say, running the actual business is more difficult than actually doing the work of roof replacement and installation, and many new business owners learn – at great shock, I might add – just how much harder being a self-employed roofer is than that predictable, nine-to-five steady job they left to become a stalwart entrepreneur. Starting a roofing company involves many, many aspects, and what often happens is, newcomers get distracted with the sheer complexity of cash flow, lead generation, job wrap-up, and getting paid. Writing bids that are both attractive to a potential customer, yet offer some decent profit in the job for the roofer, is an art in and of itself. A roofing company that has been in business for ten or more years, and has remained profitable and has survived, has likely mastered all of those complexities, and knows how to identify suitable clients who are highly likely to become satisfied customers. It’s not just the actual experience of roofing that is required here, therefore, it’s the contractor’s ability to develop happy customers and be around in a few years when you need them again.
How experienced is the actual team who will work on my roof?
Some companies seem to hold on to their employees a lot longer than others. Most of us have had the experience of having held a ‘nightmare’ job, and a wonderful job. Some companies treat their employees well, while others … not so well. A roofing company that looks out for their employees will likely look out for their customers well, too. In fact, it has been my own experience that, the first visit to a new prospect or client is a great opportunity to how they treat their employees. It’s usually pretty obvious as you watch the interactions in front of you. If the boss or supervisor treats people with respect and dignity, you can expect them to treat you that way, too. But I digress. Well treated employees tend to stick around, and the more they stick around, they more experience they bring to the job of replacing your roof. They are also more likely to care about their work quality, wanting to remain in good standing with their employer. So, ask about the experience of the team. How long have they been employees of the company, etc..
Licensed, bonded and insured?
It’s tempting to not care about this particular question. You might say, who cares, I just want my roof replaced, and I don’t need the workers to be insured this way versus that. The problem is, if someone falls off your roof and injures himself, you can be held responsible for it. (Even if a burglar injures himself on your property, you can be held responsible. Strange, but true!) If a thirty year-old roofer falls off your roof and has to spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair, but is not insured with the state, his lawyers can come after your assets to cover his costs. It’s a nightmare situation you don’t ever want to be in, and it won’t happen if your contractor is fully insured with the state. It’s easy to check with a quick search of their license number. Make sure the Washington State license website matches the company exactly. If there is a telephone number you can call, it should match that of the roofer wishing to do your roof. It has happened that a roofer has masqueraded as a different, but similarly sounding, company in order to garner business. Do your homework and be sure before any contract is signed, or money changes hands.
Can you provide references?
Every experienced company has customers who can be called. Any company, even if they are mediocre, can probably line up a few customers who are willing to support them, so calling references is not something I ever came to rely upon. Far better is to check online. Yelp and Google reviews now are often brutally valuable. They might be frightening for a weak vendor, but that is exactly the point.
When you’re looking at Yelp or other review boards, don’t be put off by a small minority of one-star reviews. Even the best provider will always mess up at some point, and if there are twenty five-star reviews, but only two one-star reviews, it’s still an excellent score. And sometimes a customer might have completely misunderstood something and decided to hang their vendor out to dry. All that aside, Yelp and Google reviews tend to be excellent measures of a vendor, especially if the number of reviews are in the dozens. That’s much harder to fake, and both Yelp and Google go to great lengths to wash fake reviews out of their databases.
Remember that your roof, while relatively simple in construction you might say, plays an important role in your house. It stops the heavens from destroying your home. Improperly installed, the damage later can cost many times the simple cost of the roof. Think about that when you are selecting your roofing vendor. Do your homework and rest easy later.
See you next week I hope!