We’ve all been told to hire reputable contractors to do work on our property. But what exactly does “reputable” mean? What do you really need to know when hiring a roofer?
There’s a lot of noise out there on this subject and it can be very confusing, so we’re going to break it down and give it to you straight.
The roofing industry is unregulated, meaning that anyone can open a roofing company at any time and provide services. This has given our industry a bit of a bad rap due to the numerous “fly-by-night” roofers that come and go every year, and a lot of shoddy workmanship. But rest assured that there are plenty of good, solid roofing contractors out there that actually care about the work they do, building relationships with customers, and growing and operating an honest business. The onus is on the property owner to vet the roofing contractor.
Anyone performing roofing services MUST carry a Fall Arrest/Working at Heights certificate, WHMIS certificate, and a valid WSIB clearance as mandated by the government. Professional roofing contractors know the rules and possess these credentials. If you opt for the local guy, just be sure to ask and have them show you proof. As the property owner, you could be held liable for any injury, fall or even death if you hire a roofer that doesn’t possess these insurances.
There's a lot of choice out there when it comes to roofing contractors. You can go with a large, well-known company with a lot of tenure under their belt, choose the small to medium sized roofers that often give a more personal approach to their work, or go with the local guy whose installed some roofs in the area. Regardless of what roofing services you require and which type of roofer you choose, the key is to understand exactly what is being done to your property (e.g. what materials are being used, what's included and what isn't, etc.), and what avenues are available to rectify any problem or issue that may occur following the completion of work. Don’t ever be afraid to ask questions about the work and what is being done to your property. A reputable company will always take the time to inform and educate.
Ministry of Labour regulations have changed over the last few years requiring anyone participating in roofing services to exercise additional safety measures. These include setting anchors and wearing ropes or harnesses. Is your roofer tied-off? For your own safety and peace of mind, please ensure to inquire about these protocols when hiring a roofer prior to having them start any work on your property.
Reputable roofing contractors will always provide a written, detailed quote for work. So you got three quotes -- one is $3,500, the next is $7,000, and the last is $8,500. You love the look of the $3,500 quote but why is it so far off from the other two? The key is to make an apples-to-apples comparison between all the quotes to fully understand what you’re getting for your money. What is the $8,500 quote offering that the $7,000 quote isn’t? Are the materials in the $3,500 quote comparable to those in the other two? Take the time to assess and ask questions. It’s your money after all – you get what you pay for.
You should only accept work from roofing contractors that provides a written contract. Whether it’s a minor repair or a complete re-roof, there should always be some sort of written document outlining any terms, conditions, details and/or expectations. It is strongly advised that you stay away from cash transactions and roofers that do not offer written agreements, as there’s generally no recourse for the property owner in the event of a deficiency and certainly no warranty offered for the work.
Most professional roofing contractors will offer a workmanship/labour warranty between 2-10 years for new roof installs. The labour warranty is different from the manufacturer warranty for materials, and this is a key feature for property owners because it provides added comfort in the event of a deficiency following a new roof install. In some cases extended or upgraded warranties are available depending on the materials used. Always ask about a workmanship warranty and how you'd go about making a claim.
The reality is that most roofing contractors use sub-contractors to install roofs. Why? Because it's much cheaper for them to sub-out the work than hire and keep roofing crews on staff year-round. There's nothing wrong with having a sub do the work as long as they're experienced and carry the appropriate credentials. The roofing company is ultimately responsible for vetting the sub and is also liable for any damages to the property or deficiencies resulting from the installation. Small to medium sized roofing companies generally have in-house technicians install roofs and also provide service work (e.g. repairs, warranty claims, etc.), often providing a more personal experience to their customers. But as long as the work is solid, the crew has the required insurance, and you know exactly what you're getting, there's no real difference between a sub-contractor and an in-house technician.