What you need to know before hiring a contractor
When it’s time to make the decision to put on a new roof, you want to make sure that you get a good roofing company to do the job — one who won’t rip you off or leave you with a poorly-done job. When you call any roofing company to get a quote, you’ll have a chance to speak with one of their representatives. Everyone will give you their sales pitch to try to convince you that they’re the best, but how do you know whether they’re telling you the truth? One of the best methods that you can use to sort the good contractors from the bad ones is to ask a standard list of questions to everyone. We’ve come up with 20 questions that you should ask any potential roofer.
1. WHY SHOULD I GIVE YOU MY BUSINESS?
This is an invitation to the company to give their best sales pitch, but it can tell you a lot. Listen carefully to the response, as it may come with the answers to many of the questions below. What to listen for:
Does this person have a prompt answer, or do they stutter? Every business should have this very clearly defined, and it should be easy for them to articulate the reason why they should earn your business
Does it sound like they believe in the value of their service?
Do they have a story that convinces you why you should give them your business?
2. HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN IN THIS BUSINESS?
This is a piece of verifiable, factual information, and it should be very easy for most companies to answer. Anyone from the company should be able to quickly and easily say, “Since 1997,” or “For three years,” or “For 20 years in X location and then for 5 years here.” This detail should also be up on their website, making it easy for you to see if the answers match. To go the extra mile, after your conversation, go to your local Secretary of State’s Business Search website and type in the business name. See if they’ve really been in business for as long as they say. If not, maybe they’ve been running around from place to place to place doing poor quality work and moving to a new place as soon as their reputation catches up to them. (Hippo Roof has been in business since 2008 with the same name and corporate entity.
3. ARE YOU LICENSED AND INSURED? CAN I SEE PROOF?
The license is the roofer’s permission to do business, issued by the state or municipality. The insurance is the policy that they carry so that if anything goes wrong, their insurance will pay. Both of these are vitally important for every roofer to carry. You can avoid scams by asking to see proof of the roofer’s license and insurance, and if they can’t give it to you, you do not have to do business with them. The risk to you is too great. What if they’re not a roofing contractor at all? What if they’re not insured, and someone falls from the roof and sues you as the property owner? What if building materials or tools get stolen while the job is in progress? There are too many ways for things to go wrong, and the best way to protect yourself is to make sure that your roofing company carries insurance and holds a valid license.
4. WHAT MATERIALS DO YOU PLAN TO INSTALL ON MY ROOF?
This is a question where if you can do just a bit of homework beforehand, you’ll do yourself a favor. Look up the major types of roofing material and then look at the difference between a few items on the high-end and the low-end of the price spectrum. For instance, if you’re looking at a shingle roof, check out Lowe’s or Home Depot’s website for their shingles. Compare the warranties and other features, such as high wind resistance (crucial here in Florida) or algae resistance (also important, especially if there are trees shading your house) and get a basic grasp on the prices.
That way, you’ll be more knowledgeable in the conversation with any potential roofer, and you’ll be able to glean meaningful information and make conclusions from what they’re telling you, rather than just saying, “Yeah, ok, X brand of shingles, whatever,” while the whole answer went over your head. At the most basic level, you should understand that there are grades of quality to every potential roofing material out there. Shingles, shakes, tile, slate, and metal roofing all have different life expectancies, level of performance, and features.
Why do you need to know this? Because it’s your house. You definitely don’t want to get stuck paying premium prices for a roofer to install bargain-basement roofing materials that will disintegrate in five years. So protect your interests and get the exact name and brand of the roofing material that will be installed on your home. If you don’t understand it all during the sales pitch, you can at least look it up later. Protect your own interests, because you can be sure that the roofing contractor is going to be protecting theirs.
5. WHERE WILL YOU STORE THE MATERIALS WHILE THE JOB IS IN PROGRESS?
Every roofing job requires a large volume of materials and tools. If you’re getting a metal roof, there will be sheets of metal delivered to your property, or if you’re getting a shingle roof, there will be bundles of shingles. Depending on the size of your roof, this could be a lot of material. It weighs a lot and it takes up a lot of space. Case in point: One bundle of shingles weighs approximately 75 pounds. The way shingles are typically packaged, it takes three bundles to cover 100 square feet. That’s 225 pounds right there, just for 100 square feet (which is called one “square” in roofing terminology).
What’s important for you to know:
- Will this make a big mess on my lawn, block my driveway, or damage my landscaping?
- Will it create an HOA violation?
- What security measures will need to be taken to prevent the building materials from going missing or being stolen? (This goes back to the importance of your roofer carrying adequate insurance.)
6. WHAT IS YOUR PROCEDURE FOR PULLING THE NEEDED PERMITS?
Notice that we phrased this as an open-ended question, not as a yes/no question. If you say, “Will you pull all the needed permits and everything?” of course you will hear, “yes.” Everyone knows that’s the right answer. Instead, ask the open-ended version so that you can test whether the roofer has a prompt and knowledgeable answer.
If your roofer doesn’t know how to pull a permit, doesn’t know when a permit would be needed, doesn’t know where to file the permit application, or think permits are overrated, that’s a red flag. Run away fast.
Brevard County accepts electronic documents and offers an expedited permit process for licensed professional contractors who are doing residential re-roofing jobs, so it should be AUTOMATIC for any roofer to take out the needed permits for your roofing job. If they don’t, it’s possible that they might not even be authorized to do business, and you won’t have any confidence that the roofing job they do will be up to code. Permits are required for roofing jobs in Brevard County, and the lack of a permit could cause you to incur additional costs, delays, or even redoing the whole job. Just avoid a nightmare and avoid working with any contractor who can’t tell you that they just need to submit the PDF of the permit application to Brevard’s Advanced Service Site (BASS). It’s that simple, and any roofer should know it.
7. WHO WILL BE AT MY HOUSE DOING THE WORK?
Whenever strangers are going to be showing up at your home, you have a right to ask about the details of who it will be. You probably don’t know or care about the exact names of the people who will be on your roofing crew, but you should be able to learn the following key details:
- How many people will probably be on the crew?
- Who is the project manager?
- Will it always be the same people?
People on your property should never make you feel unsafe or uncomfortable.
8. HOW LONG WILL THE JOB TAKE?
Any professional roofing company should set your expectations about the length of time the job will take. Roofing is a major home improvement project, and it has the potential to disrupt your life to some extent while it is in progress. You lead a busy life, and you’re juggling a hectic schedule to fit roofing into the mix. A professional roofer should be able to give you an accurate estimate about the following points:
- When will the job be started once we enter into an agreement?
- How long will the job take once work begins?
Of course, there are things that can happen that are beyond the roofer’s control, such as when a hurricane hits right in the middle of when your job was supposed to be happening, but these variations should be rare and understandable departures from the approximate timeline that you receive.
9. HOW LONG WILL MY ROOF LAST?
Do you want to have to repeat the roofing process again in a few years or after every hurricane? We didn’t think so. One of the most important questions to ask about your roof is how long it is likely to last. Here’s the thing: There’s almost no way for a roof that’s made of shingles to last through all the abuse that nature throws at it. Shingle roofs are the kind most prone to damage, and no matter how long the warranty is on the shingles themselves, most roofers can only cover the labor and installation for a few years at the most. This is simply due to the nature of shingles. What should you do instead? Get a metal roof. Metal roofs last practically forever and give you a much better value for your investment.
No matter what kind of roof you get, knowing the relative “lifetimes” of the different major roofing materials can make a big difference in helping you to know whether your roofing contractor is telling you the truth. For instance, if you are deciding between shingles and metal and someone tells you that shingles also have a lifetime guarantee, this is technically true, but “lifetime” means 30 years for shingles (read the fine print). Don’t base your decision on a version of the story that’s impossible to actually come true.
10. WHAT KIND OF GUARANTEE DO YOU OFFER? CAN I SEE A COPY OF IT?
Get any guarantee or warranty in writing from any roofer you do business with. Just like you wouldn’t get a used car based on verbal promises alone, you shouldn’t do it with your roofing decision, either. The unfortunate truth is, there are too many sharks out there who are just interested in gobbling up your insurance money.
Hippo Roofing is proud to offer guaranteed results in writing to all of our clients. For a sample of our guarantee, see page 14 of our Roofing Contractor’s Standards Guide.
You can download this free PDF by visiting the link, clicking on the image of the cover, and scroll down to page 14 for our guarantee. We stand behind the quality of our work and make every effort to ensure that our clients are satisfied. Still not sure? Check out the numerous video testimonials we’ve received from happy clients who are willing to tell their neighbors in Melbourne about their experience.
11. HOW WILL YOU TAKE CARE OF MY PROPERTY WHILE YOU’RE DOING THE JOB?
Choosing a roofing contractor who will respect your property is easier said than done, because of course everyone will claim that they’ll do this. Again, just like in question 6, don’t phrase this as a yes or no question, because that won’t give you meaningful information. If you ask, “Do you plan to respect my property and keep it clean while you’re here?” no one would ever answer, “no.” But if you leave the question open-ended, you’ll have a better opportunity to listen for whether your roofer can show you how they will take care of your yard, home, driveway, and surroundings while they’re there.
You have a right to know the following information:
- What time should you expect workers to arrive at your home every morning while the job is in progress?
- What noise levels should you be prepared for?
- Will anyone need to use your bathrooms, electrical outlets, or parking spaces?
- How can you expect the project to be cleaned up after the end of every work day and after the completion of the project?
You also have the right to expect certain bare minimum standards of excellence and professionalism by the folks who are on your property to serve you by installing or repairing a roof.
You have the right to expect that no one will be using alcohol or drugs on the job site.
You have the right not to hear foul language or loud music.
You have the right to expect that dirt and messes won’t be tracked through your home and yard.
The best roofers won’t leave the care of your property to chance. They will proactively establish a strategy for how to leave a customer’s property better than they found it. Part of Hippo Roof’s strategy to win your confidence and earn your business is that we have documented our standards for how we will show respect and care for customers’ property while we are on any job. We have a 16-point agreement that all of our roofers are required to sign, and we would be happy to share this with you.
12. IF SOMETHING GOES WRONG LATER, WHAT AND HOW MUCH WILL YOU FIX?
What you’re really asking here is, “How much do you stand behind the quality of your work?” The unfortunate reality is, most roofers won’t stand behind the quality of their work. Why? Because of the nature of roofing: Most people won’t need another roof again for years and years, so roofing companies usually don’t have much incentive to cultivate relationships and earn repeat business with customers. So they figure, “I’ll just do the quickest, cheapest job I can get away with.”
We think this is a short-sighted strategy. Yes, it’s costly to the roofer to make a service call to the roof they installed last year. No, there’s not as big a profit in performing needed maintenance to PREVENT the roof from getting to the point where it needs repair. However, here at Hippo Roof, we’ve chosen to take the exact opposite approach. If someone is not going to need another roof for years, we aim to ensure that the roof we install is so spectacular, durable, and permanent that the roof truly won’t need to be replaced. Whereas other roofing companies offer a “lifetime” warranty that’s actually only 30 years when you read the fine print, we have come up with a roofing solution that will genuinely be the last roof you will ever buy. Our roofs also come with a free annual inspection when requested, and if we see maintenance issues, such as a problem with your fasteners, they would be addressed at no cost.
How can we do this, and why do we take this approach? Simply because we aim to create a community of such raving mad fans of our work that our customers can’t help but talk about us to their friends and neighbors. When someone gets a great-looking roof, they might give us a good review, but when they get a free annual inspection, they’re so blown away that they start sharing the good vibes with everyone around them.
Is your roofing company going to be short-sighted or taking the long view? You owe it to yourself to ask this question.
13. WHERE WOULD YOU RATE YOURSELF ON THE QUALITY OF WORKMANSHIP THAT YOU DO?
Here’s a question that might throw a curveball to the roofer you’re talking to. On the surface of it, it gives the roofer a chance to brag about the work they do. However, what you’re really going after with this question is, “Are you going to be honest with me?”
Here’s a sample of how some of the answers might sound:
- The company does poor quality work: “You know what, we get the job done fast, but we’re going to be able to offer you the cheapest price, so if budget is the main issue, choose us. Roofing is simple…no one needs to be a perfectionist.” Follow up with, “How do I know you won’t cut corners or make mistakes?”
- The company does middle-of-the-road work: “I’d rate us a 4 out of 5. There might be companies out there who are more meticulous, but they’re going to charge you an arm and a leg for all the extra time they take.” Follow up with, “Can I have some references of satisfied customers you’ve served?”
- The company does top-quality work: “Quality work is in my blood. When I work on your house, I treat it like it was my own home. I wouldn’t be true to who I am if I didn’t do things the right way.” (Watch for the person’s face to light up when they’re talking about quality. If they really care, it will show.) Follow up with, “Can you give me an example of an area of quality that’s you do but that most other roofers wouldn’t do?”
What you should watch out for is an answer that’s patently false or impossible, such as someone claiming that they’re a 5 out of 5 on quality while also quoting you the lowest prices, or someone not being able to keep up the charade once you ask the follow-up questions.
Quality workmanship is one of the hallmarks of the Hippo Roofing name, and it’s why we have chosen to specialize in metal roofs. Rather than being frustrated at our roofs failing, we just pivoted into an area that let us do work that will stand the test of time. Metal roofs are durable, wind-resistant, and energy-efficient, and they allow us to pour all that pent-up desire for quality into roof after roof.
14. HOW DO YOUR PRICES COMPARE TO YOUR COMPETITORS?
This question gives you valuable information at face value, but it also functions as an open door for the roofer to say negative things about their competitors. No matter what business someone is in, throwing dirt on a competitor is usually in poor taste. It’s better to keep the focus on the positive value you bring to the table than to start trying to stomp on the other guys. It can also indicate insecurity or unprofessionalism. The higher road is to refrain from bashing the competition, so listen for whether you can respect their approach when you bring it up.
This a particularly difficult question to answer for someone whose prices are higher than the competition, but it’s also the chance for them to show you where they shine. For instance, the more expensive companies might tell you something like this:
“Our pricing is set to recommended prices by the identical source that insurance companies utilize. Prices change monthly to reflect increases and decreases in the cost of materials, labor, insurance as well as the many other factors that must be considered. We all know insurance companies are not generous with their pricing so you can be assured that our pricing is very competitive in the marketplace. This does not mean that you can not find a lower price. There is always a lower price complete with poor material quality, inferior warranties, expiring guarantees, inexperienced labor, no place for service, etc. Contracting a roof for the lowest price can be a receipt for disaster and often, in the long run, far more expensive than contracting with the right roofer in the first place.”
Give your roofer a chance to offer an explanation for why their prices are higher (or lower) than the competition, and at minimum, you may find out some useful information.
15. DO YOU HAVE REVIEWS OR RECOMMENDATIONS BY YOUR CUSTOMERS?
We’ve touched on requesting this in question 13, but if you haven’t done so already, ask! This is a great way to find out what other local people are saying about the roofing company you’re talking to.
The most powerful kind of review is one that lists the full name of the person giving the review, with an address, telephone number, or other method where you can verify that the review is not fake. It goes without saying that most people won’t want to give this kind of review, as they don’t want their personal information being broadcasted. With that in mind, it’s a remarkable fact that we have a list of over 100 clients who are so happy with our work, they’ve given us permission to give out their telephone number and stated their willingness to provide a reference to any potential new customer, describe their experience, and talk about their overall satisfaction with the job.
We’ve worked hard on our SEO to ensure that when users research our company, they find verified reviews on Google, Facebook, and other platforms. You can simply search Hippo Roofing to find reviews from around the web.
Another great type of review is a video review because you get to hear the person’s authentic voice as they tell in their own words about the experience they had and whether they would do it again if they could do it over. Be sure to check out some of our Facebook reviews here.
16. WILL MY BID BE ITEMIZED?
When you get a quote, you never want the final job to be padded with surprise charges, items that you didn’t pay for, or other fees that don’t have an explanation. But how do you protect yourself? If the estimate comes as one lump sum, you have no idea what could be included in that. The most straightforward way to ensure that you’re looking out for your own interests is to ask for an itemized bid, and the best time to ask for this (and get agreement that you’ll receive it) is before you agree to have any work done.
Keep in mind that any roofing estimate you receive is just that: an estimate. Any job can come with unforeseen surprises, and just because you get an itemized bid does not mean that things couldn’t crop up. Say your roofer tears off the shingles and discovers black mold underneath that wasn’t visible until then. You don’t want them to leave it there and cover it back up. However, what your estimate should include is a clear statement of charges, a preview of common things that could cause the price to go up, and an explanation of what will happen if a situation should arise that will increase your final bill.
For example, the roofing company might tell you, “If we discover a problem that’s going to incur additional expense, we’ll let you know about it and allow you to make the decision about how to move forward.” Or they might provide you with an estimated range between the worst-case scenario and the best-case scenario.
Either way, if your roofer does agree that you’ll get an itemized bid, it’s a good idea to say, “Can I see a sample?” This will give you insight into whether itemized bids are standard practice for them or if they’re making a concession just for you to win your business. If they don’t have one readily available, or if they need a lot of time to produce one, you might that they’re not used to making itemized bids.
If the roofer does NOT agree that you’ll get an itemized bid, ask why. You have a right to see if their reason satisfies you
17. WHAT ARE THE PAYMENT TERMS?
There is nothing that can so quickly make you feel sour about a deal than when the money business gets uncomfortable. Spare yourself the headache and the stress by knowing up front what the payment terms are and whether you are ok with that. Even a job well done can turn into an experience that leaves you with a bad taste in your mouth if your roofer is demanding payment before you expected it to be due or if you’ve paid and the work didn’t get started on time.
Find out all the details about the payment schedule. What is due when? How much of a down payment will you owe? What’s the timeline for the work to be started, and how does that coordinate with payment times? If the work gets delayed, will that affect when you get billed.
This is not a topic where there’s necessarily a right or wrong answer, it’s just one where both parties need to err on the side of clear communication and setting accurate expectations. Don’t be afraid to ask enough questions to feel like you’re clear on all the payment terms and any contingencies that could affect the payment or billing.
18. WHAT ARE YOUR FINANCING OPTIONS?
It’s nice when your homeowner’s insurance pays for your roof replacement, but it’s not always possible to get insurance to pay for a roof, leaving you to find a way to pay for it. Most people don’t have a “roof savings fund” just sitting around accumulating money, so when it comes time to pay for your roof, you might be looking for the best option. Not all roofers offer a way for you to finance your roofing job, but the ones who do are going above and beyond to make every effort to win your business and make it easy for you to get the roof that your home needs.
Just like with any financing offer, be sure to read the fine print, understand the terms of the contract, know the interest rate, and be informed in general about whether it’s a good deal for you. Ask someone you trust, if necessary, to read through the contract with you and see if it’s a good deal. Compare the roofer’s financing offer with other options available in the marketplace, such as a bank loan or a home equity line of credit, to see which option offers you the most favorable terms.
Keep on high alert any time you’re dealing with a financing offer, as there are ways to get scammed. Some of these financing scams are relatively easy for bad actors to get away with, and they leave you footing the bill for work that may have never been performed. One big one to watch out for: A contractor comes around and has you fill out some papers. It’s actually a credit application. They then have you sign a form that authorizes them to take the payment. They pull the entire credit limit as “payment” for the service you’ve applied for. You get stuck with a maxed-out credit card, and they run off with thousands of dollars from the credit card company.
19. WHO WILL BE MY POINT OF CONTACT, AND WHAT’S THE BEST WAY FOR ME TO GET IN TOUCH WITH THEM?
The person who gives you a quote may not be the same person who will be the project manager for your roof, and even that person may not be the correct point of contact to handle any questions or problems that might arise. However, the fact is, issues do arise, and you don’t want to be stuck getting the run-around, being passed from one phone number to the next while you attempt to reach the right person. Whether you need to tell the roofers not to come to your house that day because of an emergency, talk to someone to request a last-minute design change, or request an explanation of something that has occurred, learn how to reach the person who will be your point of contact during the process. The best roofing contractors will have one person take ownership of ensuring your satisfaction during the completion of the job, and you should be able to contact this person to ask for help, share a concern, or resolve any issues.
20. WHAT IF AN ISSUE COMES UP WHERE A CUSTOMER IS NOT SATISFIED?
Don’t be uncomfortable to ask this question. Every roofing company should have a standardized procedure for customers to file a complaint, and if worst comes to worst, you need to know that the company is going to handle any disagreements respectfully, professionally, and thoughtfully. If you know the proper procedure and channels to go through, you’ll be in better shape to be able to make your dissatisfaction known in an appropriate and productive way.
BONUS: THINGS TO WATCH FOR, BUT NOT ASK
While you’re asking your 20 questions, keep a keen eye out for the following red flags. If you see them, you can make your own conclusions about whether or not you’re comfortable moving forward with that contractor.
- Does the company use high-pressure sales tactics or arm-twisting techniques to get you to buy now? (You have the right to sleep on the decision. They will always be there tomorrow for you to get back to them about what you’ve decided.)
- Is this going to be a bunch of hassle for me, or are they showing me that the hassle is mostly on them? (The companies that are working the hardest to earn your business will also be the best at giving their customers a great experience.)
- Am I getting a halfhearted or unenthusiastic response? (This may indicate that the salesperson or representative doesn’t really believe in the quality of what they’re selling. Maybe they know something is wrong behind the scenes and don’t feel comfortable getting people to sign on.)
- Is it hard to get a clear answer to my questions, or do I feel like asking questions is not welcome in the first place? (You have the right to ask questions. After all, you’re about to exchange a lot of money for the service this business offers. If your questions keep getting shut down, the company might have something to hide. Go elsewhere.)
- Is this person being honest with me? (It’s always hard to tell if people are lying to you, but if something doesn’t sit right, ask follow-up questions until you’re satisfied. If you observe a number of their statements to be patently false, you probably don’t want to provoke them, just end the conversation politely and don’t give them your business.)
THE HIPPO ROOF APPROACH
Here at Hippo Roofing, we are passionate about quality, excellence, and attention to detail. We’ve shared this list because we want to lead the way in holding ourselves and other contractors accountable to the highest standards. It’s our goal to help homeowners to have the tools they need to make an informed decision about roofing services, so we’ve put together the Roofing Contractors Standards Guide as resources to help people in Melbourne and the surrounding communities to get the best roofing solution for their needs. We specialize in metal roofs in order to provide customers with a long-lasting, permanent roofing solution.
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