Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Roofer

nick-coyle-carlson-exteriors-project-managerProject Manager Nick Coyle has been in the roofing industry practically his whole life. He currently manages the roofing crews, meets with homeowners to provide estimates on roof replacements, roof repairs, and stop tricky roof leaks. I sat down with Nick to find out the most popular questions from homeowners but more importantly the questions homeowners should be asking before hiring a roofer.

 

Mastic Russet red vertical siding, white trim, natural clay shake siding, certainteed moire black shingles in canton il

Frequently Asked Questions

Are you licensed and insured?

Nick said this is almost every homeowner’s first question. Most roofers say yes but many homeowners fail to ask for proof. A quality roofer should proudly display this documentation and make it easy for a homeowner to verify. Nick leaves a copy of Carlson Exteriors Inc Roofing License and current insurance with the homeowners that he meets with.

Carlson Exteriors' License, Bond, and insurance

Do I have storm damage?

The best any roofer can do is to give his professional opinion. Nick takes photos when he is inspects roofs to bring down and explain what he sees to homeowners. Nick can provide his opinion whether the roof looks storm, wind, or hail damaged but ultimately the decision lies with your insurance company. When homeowners contact insurance about potential storm damage, they start a claim which has the potential to raise your rates. Nick advises homeowners to familiarize themselves with their current plan, know their deductible, and to see if it’s worth potentially having higher rates. Example- If it’s a small repair that barely exceeds a homeowner’s deductible; it might not be worth making a claim.

What’s the difference between synthetic felt and regular felt?

Synthetic felt has grown with popularity amongst roofing companies. It’s easier/safer for crews to walk on and it has a higher resistance to ripping in the wind. Regular 15lb or 30lb felt rips very easy in the hands, while synthetic felt is practically impossible to rip. Some shingle manufacturers require synthetic felt to qualify for warranties. Carlson Exteriors only uses synthetic felt. Click here to read more about synthetic felt.

Winterguard and Diamond deck photo

What’s the difference between the Landmark shingles and the Landmark Pro Shingle?

This question usually comes after Nick presents the estimate to homeowners. Landmark is the standard shingle and Landmark Pro is a slight upgrade. Both are manufactured by CertainTeed and both qualify for the Unconditional Roof Warranty. Aesthetically, Landmark Pros have a wider selection of color choices and the shingles are Max Def. Max Def means the lights are lighter and the darks are darker giving each shingle a higher contrast. Landmark Pros have a 15 year algae warranty to protect your roof from getting streaky. Nick advices homeowners with many mature trees to select the Landmark Pros because of the 15 year algae warranty. Landmark Pros can have a higher wind rating than the Landmarks; this is dependent upon your contractor. Landmarks and Landmark Pros both can meet the max wind rating of 130 mph if shingle starter is also applied up the roof rakes. Carlson Exteriors uses starter up the rakes to ensure max protection for every homeowner.

Ridge vent vs Box vents – Is one better than the other?

As long as the roof is adequately vented ridge vents and box vents are equal. Currently the trend is to go with ridge vents because it provides a cleaner look on the roof. Nick advises homeowners who are thinking about putting the house on the market to select ridge vent because of the current housing trend. When replacing the roof, there is no price difference between using box vents or ridge vents. Every roof Carlson Exteriors replaces, Nick does an inspection to make sure it has enough ventilation. If a home does not have much ridge line, Nick advises box vents.

Questions Homeowners Should Be Asking Roofers

Can you be more detailed about the products you are using, how you use them, and why you use them? 

Nick says many roofers only provide a price for roof replacement with minimal supporting information. Nick gives every homeowner a packet of information that includes:

  • Summary of roof replacement process/ what to expect
  • Roof selection guide
  • Warranty information
  • Letter from Carlson Exteriors Bank
  • Letter from Carlson Exteriors Supplier
  • Information sheet about synthetic felt
  • Information sheet about ridge vent
  • A copy of Carlson Exteriors Roofing license
  • A copy of Carlson Exteriors current insurance
  • Information sheet about protection from ice dams
  • A customer reference list with contact information (Upon request)

All of this falls into gauging a roofer’s professionalism. If a contractor just provides a homeowner with a slip of paper with the cost it’s essentially the same as someone expecting to sell a used vehicle on craigslist with no listed mileage, information on condition quality, and not allowing a test drive. Click here to read more about gauging contractor professionalism.

Upon comparing two estimates that are $500-1000 different, what am I getting or not getting?

So many homeowners think all roof quotes are created equal and the cheapest is best. Nothing could be furthest from the truth. The easiest way to find out why the cost difference is to call the more expensive roofer and see what they are providing  above and beyond the lower estimate. Usually it is because of a better warranty, higher quality products, not re-using certain products (drip edge, flashing, etc), better reputation, better customer service, or more stable company. More stable companies have an office and don’t work out of their house, they have office hours where customers can walk in. Stable companies pay their employees with checks and not cash.

Nick concluded our conversation by saying he wished homeowners did more research on roofers and the owners of the company. Information, good or bad, is so easily found online; it’s ashamed that many homeowners don’t utilize this resource. He recommended homeowners to read “How To Find a Contractor You Can’t Live Without” and “Why does a 30 year shingle not last for 30 years?” to better educate themselves on products and finding contractors.

If you are in need of a professional opinion of your roof, need a roof replacement, or have a roof leak and want Nick Coyle to inspect – Contact Carlson Exteriors.

 

Out-of-Town Roofing Contractors

Roofing Bloomington, IL

Many homeowners in Central Illinois were devastatingly impacted by the storm that arrived last fall- home repairs continue to ensue 6 months later.  As a local contractor, it is our responsibility and duty to both inform and educate the Bloomington/Normal area in regards to the risks of out of town contractors, commonly known as “storm chasers”.

The exterior construction business is a rather large portion of all remodeling that takes place on homes; it continues to have national, year over year growth.  As the demand for exterior construction needs rises, the population of “storm chasers” has proportionately grown. These contractors will follow storm activity nationally, never staying too long in one place. It is commonplace for “storm chasers” to ascend upon a storm ravaged area with a sales staff exceeding twenty sales people.  These sales people will go door-to-door knocking and asking for permission to inspect the damaged roof, siding, gutters, and/or air conditioner. Upon completion of the inspection, the sales staff may ask to contact your insurance company directly; they may even ask for a signature seeking permission. Be cautious and hesitant of what you sign- read all contracts and legal documents carefully; many of these permission slips and documents have a clause requiring the homeowner to employ said contractor upon an insurance settlement.

Feel free to contact your insurance company for contractor recommendations.  For example, Country Companies’ adjusters have a policy in place where they can recommend three contractors. State Farm has a preferred vendor list.  However, most insurance companies have additional policies in place to attempt to mitigate their liability to the homeowner in the event of the contractor not completing the work in a professional manner.  This is the exact moment where it becomes the homeowners responsibility to perform their due diligence.  The majority of insurance companies nationally place a one-year timeframe upon the initiation of a claim from a storm.  This being said, unless there is imminent damage, most homeowners have time to initiate an insurance claim.

The following are a list of bullet points on ways to perform said diligence:

-Run “construction storm chasers” through whatever Internet Search Engine you use.

-If a salesman comes to your door, do not sign anything.  Please take time to review the estimate and the contractor.

-Inquire as to where the company is physically located and the length of time in that location.

-If it is an out of town contractor, inquire what type of service after the sale will you get.  Is the contractor willing to drive, in some cases, hundreds of miles to return for service?  Please get this portion in writing.

-Please demand copies of both Liability and Workmen’s Compensation Insurance.

-Ask to see required state permits and licenses. Both contractors and insurance adjusters have to be licensed by state agencies.

-Inquire if the company has employees performing the work or will it be subcontracted out.  If it is subcontracted out, demand copies of the Subcontractors Insurance as well.  Ask to meet the Subcontractor that will be working on your home prior to work being started.

Please utilize the above questions.  There are many other tools available for a homeowner to use.  Such as, Internet reviews, local business associations and reviews, BBB, and referrals.  We urge you to use these resources to determine the caliber of your potential contractor.

Storm Damage

Siding damage from a high wind storm
Siding damage from a high wind storm

While a good storm can be good for a deep sleep, it’s usually pretty hard on the exterior of our home. The strong winds can dislodge shingles and siding while hail can pock-mark or pierce it. We all have had a contractor knock on our door letting us know they could fix it for free through our insurance. This is often true, however, don’t feel like this contractor is your only choice. When picking a contractor to do your storm repairs (or any work for that  matter) you might want to consider the following:

  • Does the contractor have a local, physical location? A traveling contractor, one who follows the storms, could pose future communication issues. If you would have a problem with their work later down the road it might be hard to get a hold of them or have them return within a timely manner.  Local contractors gives you the benefit of being able to walk through their door and address any issues face to face.  You also have the word of mouth advantage with a local contractor; use your neighborly resources and find out if this contractor is of good quality and character- your community will know.
  • How long has this company been established? This goes without saying, but a company that has been around for a while usually has good business models in practice. You should ask if there has been any company name changes within the years they have been in business; many companies when faced with a lawsuit change their name afterwards to shed any negative images or legalities that could haunt their business. This doesn’t mean all companies change their name for this reason alone; some companies change their name to better fit their expanding company.
  • Does this company ask you, the homeowner, to get any building permits or do they do it? If a company asks you to pull any permits this should set off red flags. A city will not issue any permits to a company who is not licensed but will issue a permit to any homeowner.
  • Is this contractor licensed, bonded, and insured? This gives you, the homeowner, a little peace of mind through knowing they know what they are doing and if anything does go wrong they have the money to rectify it.
  • Do your research! Both local and traveling contractors have a website or at the very least have reviews on the web. Look up that contractor and see what previous customers have to say about their quality and craftsmanship. See if the good out weighs the bad.

While you cannot control when a storm hits, you can control who does the repairs. If someone is offering to do it free through your insurance that means any contractor can do it for free!

 

Hail damage shows up as pock-marks.
Hail damage shows up as pock-marks.
Shingle damage from high wind
Shingle damage from high wind