How Do I Choose the Right Contractor?
WHO DO I TRUST? YOU DON’T TRUST!! YOU VERIFY!!
We strongly suggest you check out any contractor prior to even setting an appointment!! Why spend an hour of your time getting a “Price and Pitch” from somebody only to find out later that they are not licensed, insured, do not have references and do not meet your standards.
Below are some of the things you should be asking and verifying before you invite an estimator to come to your home. (click to expand)
Automatically reject any contractor without a permanent place of business.
Contractors may also carry other kinds of insurance including health, life, and auto insurance. Bland assurances of insurance coverage may refer to these. Don’t be confused. Ask for proof of general liability and workers’ compensation coverage for roofing projects. Today, insurance to protect the workers and your property is a significant cost of a construction project. For example, worker’s compensation premiums are typically no less than 20% on top of the worker’s wage, and can go as high as 100%, depending upon the type of work. The contractor, working without insurance, saves between 20% and 100% of his labor cost by operating without insurance, but he puts you at great risk. The contractor working without insurance generally has no assets and nothing to lose, so you as the Owner are totally exposed to any losses. The minimum to look for would be $500,000.
Worker accidents– Be aware that if a worker is injured on your property, you the homeowner might be held liable for all costs unless the injured individual is an employee and is covered by workers’ compensation insurance. Hospital bills for serious accidents can be extraordinarily expensive.
There are a variety of reasons why full insurance may not be carried by a contractor, such as:
- Not a full-time contractor
- Operates as a partnership or self-employed without employees
- New in the business
- Can’t afford insurance premiums
- Doesn’t stand behind work
It is up to you to determine if it is worth the risk to hire a contractor who does not carry insurance. You can view current copies of Fortress Roofing’s liability and workers’ compensation insurance here. A certificate of liability and workers’ compensation can be sent to you directly from our insurance company with you listed as a certificate holder upon request.
- Make sure that the company has, at the very least, a roofing license and is factory trained and certified to install the materials required for your job. A business license is a tax requirement only and is not directly relevant to the contractor’s competence. Several roofing manufacturers offer a variety of programs to professional contractors that establish their credentials as a knowledgeable roofing company. Homeowners can view a contractor’s credentials as another indicator of their degree of knowledge, professionalism, and dedication to the roofing trade. Fortress Roofing, Inc. has established the following certifications for shingle installations:
- GAF/ELK Master Elite Contractor (GAF/ELK’s highest certification) 1 of only 5 in the entire state of Utah
- CertainTeed Select Shingle Master (CertainTeed’s highest certification)
- Owens Corning Platinum Preferred Contractor (Owens Corning’s highest certification)
- Use only Certified Installers on your roof project. Sometimes a contractor is certified but not all of their installers. Make sure that everyone is certified. Think about it… the person who really needs to be certified is the person on your roof, not necessarily the owner back in the office.
Contractors Licence/Murray City Business License:
This can be difficult to determine but in today’s economy, is one of the most important factors. There are stories in the news everyday of contractors taking “deposits” from home owners and not completing the work or not paying their suppliers and the customer ending up with a LIEN on their home after they paid for the job. One of the ways you can protect yourself is to ask if they can supply you with the following:
- Current reference letter from their bank
- Current letter of recommendation from their supplier stating how they pay their bills on time
- No Money Up Front
There should only be one reason ever to give a contractor cash up front for projects like this ….and only one! Reputable roofing contractors will not need your cash up front on 99% of the jobs they do. The only circumstances that would make it necessary is if you are asking them to install special order materials that are non-returnable.
Be careful of contractors who ask for money up front especially if your roof is standard materials like composition shingles or flat roofing. This is the number one area of fraud among contractors.
One of the best ways to ensure your job is done correctly is to understand what the process is that the contractor uses to do the work. This starts at the initial presentation from the company: products and pricing to the specifics your job will include measuring, designing and completing the work. If the contractor has well designed, thorough and documented processes, you are much more likely to be satisfied with the final result.
Questions here should include:
- What are the phases of the work project?
- How will my project be managed?
- Will there be one main point of contact I can call?
- How will you inform me of what is happening with the work effort?
- What is the quality control process during and after the work is completed?
- Is the post-completion inspection in writing and will it be shared with me?
- Does the company have documented professional installation standards and guidelines for the work effort?
- How does the contractor ensure the job is built at or above local code and restrictions?
- Is there a management system for my project that is used such as electronic communication, project coordination and tasks planning, etc.?
A common source of dissatisfaction is that items the customer thought were included in fact were not. The bid did not list each item in the roofing process and at the end the contractor required more money to complete the job the way the customer thought it was going to be done. The way to avoid this is to require exact item bid specifications. If you have a detailed bid listing all items including shingle color, siding, cleaning gutters, valley metal, protecting landscaping and clean up it will lead to greater satisfaction at the end of your project as you and your contractor have the same expectations.
If a contractor has been in business 10, 15 or 20 years and more it is expected that they have had some complaints along the way. Did they listen to the customer and resolve the problem? Did the customer have to resort to legal action or registering a complaint with the contractor’s board? Do they have complaints on forums like Angie’s List?
- Is your contractor is a member of the BBB?
- Is their rating at least an A-?
- What do people have to say about them on Angie’s List?
- Are there any or have there ever been any complaints against the company’s contractor’s license?
As experienced and professional as the employees of Fortress Roofing are, nobody is perfect. Fortress Roofing completes between 500 and 1,000 jobs per year and occasionally we make mistakes. How these mistakes are handled is the reason that Fortress Roofing has grown to be one of the largest residential roofing companies in Utah!
The critical success factor in any construction project is the contractor. A qualified, professional, experienced contractor knows what results are required for owner satisfaction, as well as, what will lead to dissatisfaction down the road.
Allow yourself a minimum of one hour to sit down with each contractor you are considering. Both of you need to explore the problems, products, and prices. You will be surprised at how many options and questions can be discussed with a professional contractor. Taking just one hour of time getting to know and qualifying the contractor prior to awarding your project can save endless hours of time and frustration.
Most dissatisfaction involves an owner who did not fully know what they selected or committed themselves to. A professional contractor will take pride in his work and will have no problem discussing your options, his previous experience, and his list of satisfied customers.
If you have verified all the licensing, insurance requirements, quality of materials, company reputation, and the cost is equal or similar, our advice is to choose the company that fills you with the most confidence and compatibility. Was the estimator on time, was he WITH YOU or constantly answering his phone and speaking with others? How do they sound when they answer the phone at the office – or do you always get voicemail instead? If they are not comfortable to deal with before you commit to the project, what will they be like once you are on a contract?