Avoiding the Common Mistakes in Roofing


Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them - Step by Step

Here we'll go through, in order, the most common mistakes made by homeowners when faced with a roofing repair or replacement. We'll also include, of course, how to avoid these mistakes.

Taking on a DIY Roofing Project

When a homeowner realizes that their roof needs replacement or repair, often their first thought is to tackle the job themselves. While many jobs around the house can be successfully handled on a DIY basis, roofing is generally not one of them. Roofing isn't merely applying tar and shingles; many factors go into installing a quality roof, and the average homeowner just isn't familiar with most of these factors.

Professional roofers have years of experience installing and repairing roofs in their local area. They're also the first to learn of innovations and new regulations in the industry. Unless you have fairly extensive experience, play it safe and let the pros do what they do best.

Choosing a Roofer Based on Little or No Information

Since roofing is such a big job, and one that's vital to the structural integrity of your home, it's crucial to find a roofer with the best possible reputation. Looking through the phone book can be intimidating, since you're faced with a list of phone numbers but no idea which roofers are experienced, licensed, or insured.

Thankfully, home improvement websites have taken nearly all the stress out of this task. On these sites, you can view roofers in your local area. Licensing, insurance and consumer reviews are available, giving you a well-rounded picture of a particular contractor's professionalism and reputation. In many cases, you can view pictures of past projects. You can also ask for pictures when you contact a potential hire.

Once you've narrowed your list, you can start digging a bit deeper. There are several resources which can be helpful in determining which roofer is best for you. Your local Better Business Bureau can let you know if any complaints have been filed against a particular roofer or contractor. Ask any potential hires about their licensing (different states have different requirements; if you're not sure, call your local government office which handles building and construction).

You should also ask about insurance coverage. Due to the inherent dangers of working on a sloped roof, a reputable and responsible roofing contractor will carry general insurance as well as liability insurance. Some contractors will offer you a very low bid for your roofing job...beware! Low bids are often the result of skimping on insurance. Ensure that any potential hire has full insurance coverage for every member of their crew, and that the insurance will carry through the full length of the project.

Contact references for valuable insight into how the contractor operates. If a contractor seems hesitant to give you references, take it as a red flag and look elsewhere.

Ask how long the contractor...and crew...have been in the industry, and how long they've been working together. While everybody has to start somewhere, it's in your best interest to hire a contractor with as much experience as possible. Experience translates into knowledge, and with a job like roofing, knowledge matters a great deal. Crews that have been working together for a significant period of time are sometimes hard to come by, but they're the best bet for reliable work. A crew which is familiar with one another tends to work more efficiently.

Many home improvement websites have this information available for you to view, which means fewer phone calls and a quicker decision-making process. However, if you can't find the information online, don't be afraid to make those calls and get the information you need to make an informed decision.

One of the biggest and most common mistakes made by homeowners is hiring a contractor with little to no information regarding their qualifications and background. This can be a very costly mistake. Thankfully, with a bit of digging, you can avoid this mistake and make an informed, smart decision.

Failure to Obtain an Estimate or Proposal

Once you've done your homework and contacted some qualified contractors, the next step is obtaining estimates and proposals. These are two very different points of reference. Ideally, you will obtain both.

An estimate is generally a very short document, offering a bid on the project, an estimated time frame, and possibly a list of the materials to be used. A proposal is much more detailed, including bids for several different types of materials, allowing you to choose the option which fits your budget. Proposals often include brochures with pictures of the proposed materials, or even samples.

The two biggest mistakes to be made during this step of the process are failure to obtain an estimate and proposal and being lured by an ultra-low estimate. Contractors who offer significantly lower estimates then their peers are nearly always cutting back severely in some area. This may be insurance coverage, quality materials, or qualified workers. Regardless of the reason, always be wary of an estimate which sounds too good to be probably is.

Avoid this mistake by choosing the contractor which offers the most reasonable (not necessarily the lowest) estimate, provides you with clear information, and offers options.

Hiring Without a Contract

Unfortunately, there are some unscrupulous contractors out there who will try to lure customers by offering a ridiculously low estimate and then telling the homeowner that no written agreement is necessary. They will come up with many reasons why this is the case, but don't be fooled. A reputable contractor will always offer you a written contract. This is essential. Don't make the mistake of taking part in a “verbal contract,” since these contracts do virtually nothing if a discrepancy or legal issue should arise. If your roof fails, and your contractor offered only a verbal contract, you have little to no legal ground to stand on in regards to obtaining repairs. Always insist on a written contract, and if the contractor hesitates, walk away.

In your contract, several important points should be covered.

  • Suppliers and Sub-Contractors - These individuals should either be paid directly by you, or you should ask to see receipts, proving they have been paid, before paying your contractor. This ensures that everything is being done honestly and legally.
  • Payment Terms - Whether you play to pay in full upon completion or make installments, it should be in writing. This portion of the contract should also specify that any liens will be removed once payment is complete.
  • Permits - Your contract should specify that all applicable laws are followed in regards to building permits. If you're not sure what these laws are, check with your local building authority.
  • Products and Materials - A complete contract will contain a listing of all products to be used on the project, including specifications such as color. Pay particular attention to products which have a more costly “green” alternative, since many contractors will use the least expensive product unless told otherwise.
  • Work Procedures - Things such as work-site cleanup, working hours and safety precautions are important to have in writing. This will avoid the annoyance of having construction materials left littering your yard. Check with your local building officials about time constraints; many communities have regulations regarding any work which produces a significant amount of noise and may disturb neighbors.
  • Warranty and Repair Information - Your contractor will likely offer some form of warranty; the types and lengths vary greatly. They will also offer free or discounted repairs for a certain amount of time.

Remember that these are just guidelines. If you want to avoid any potential mistakes during the process of reviewing and signing a contract, have the document looked over by a lawyer. For such a small task, the fees are usually quite low. Try to find an attorney with experience in building or construction-related fields.

Not Taking Climate into Account

Your contractor should be fully aware of any climate-related needs and requirements, but it never hurts to educate yourself. Do you live in an area with heavy snowfalls? Hurricanes? Heavy rainfall? Ask your contractor what special considerations are warranted by your climate, and ensure that the appropriate products and construction methods are being implemented. The last thing you need is your roof flying off during a storm because its wind rating wasn't high enough for your area!

As you can see, a lot of thought should be put into selecting your contractor. However, once you've made a quality decision, you can relax. A reputable contractor working within the boundaries of a solid contract is the best you can ask for, and following the steps we've outlined will help get you there with the least amount of worry. No home repair is foolproof, but by being a smart consumer, you can avoid this project's biggest and most common mistakes.

Posted by: Diane Sheppard
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