Wondering What Questions to Ask a Roofing Contractor?

Get the answers in IKO’s 7-point checklist for hiring a roofing contractor

Your home is among the biggest investments you will ever make. So, when it’s time to repair or replace your roof, it’s important to protect that investment by doing your homework and knowing exactly what questions to ask a roofer.

When you think about it, finding the right contractor among the sea of roofers vying for your project (and your hard-earned money) is a lot like conducting a job interview. We’ve all been through that, either as the job-hunter or as the employer. In this case, you’re searching to hire the right roofing contractor for your specific job.

The first thing you should do is ask people you know and whose opinion you trust for their recommendations. Then go online to read reviews of professional, reputable roofing contractors who operate in your local area.

Once you have a short list of no more than three to five potential candidates who seem well qualified and respected to do a good job, it’s time to set up interviews. We suggest that your decision should be based on the following criteria:

  1. Presentation/first impressions
  2. Professional experience
  3. Education/credentials
  4. Communication skills
  5. Family fit
  6. Their value to you
  7. Reputation/references

Let’s look at each of these points and figure out what questions to ask a roofing contractor.

1. PRESENTATION/FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Both of these salesmen are smiling and offering their hand. Which one would you feel more comfortable with handling your roof project? First impressions count. Be sure it’s a good one!

Research shows that we make judgments about people within seven seconds of meeting them! So here are a few questions to ask yourself when you first meet with a roofing contractor:

  • Did the roofing contractor show up on time for your appointment?If not, he may have trouble keeping your project on schedule or managing his crew’s time.
  • Was his appearance clean and neat, professional-looking?Did he show up in a vehicle that was clean and in good repair? These are signs that he’ll take pride in a job well done and will respect your property as his crew is working.

    Which company vehicle would you prefer to have parked and working on your property?

  • Was he friendly, approachable and willing to answer any questions?You want to work with someone who will listen to your concerns, address them appropriately and patiently explain his process, guarantees and other aspects of the job.
  • Did he project confidence in the roofing products he’ll be using?A professional contractor will have devoted considerable time to sourcing quality roofing products for his jobs. Don’t hesitate to question why he recommends and uses a certain brand of materials. Reasons may vary, depending on where you live. Possible factors include climate, choice of colors, his crew’s experience and product availability, just to name a few. He should be able to tell you exactly why one line of shingle within a brand is the most appropriate choice for your home and budget, too.

2. PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE

  • How long has the roofing contractor been in business?Unqualified, disreputable roofers don’t last long. Word gets out fast, so longevity can be a good indication of a solid company. However, roofing contractors who are just starting out on their own may be equally qualified so don’t base a hiring decision solely on years of operation; consider other factors as well.Your new roof is definitely a long-term investment. You want to be sure the contractor’s company will still be in business to honor any guarantees.
  • Does he have a permanent place of business with a telephone number and a valid contractor’s license number?You may know this before you actually meet, but it’s important to be sure. Unfortunately, there are some unscrupulous, fly-by-night operators who descend on entire neighborhoods with only a truck and then disappear as soon as the job is done, with no means for you to contact them if something goes wrong in future.
  • Can he show you a portfolio of projects he’s completed?A reputable roofing professional will be proud to share pictures and details of projects that his company has done. You may find a photo gallery online at his website; if not, be sure to ask to see a portfolio. You might also want to drive by the residences to take a look at the actual roof.

    Ask to see a portfolio of roofing projects your prospective contractor and his crew have completed and look for homes that are similar in style to yours. For instance, if your roof has complicated angles, planes and roof structures, you’ll want to see how well they handled installing shingles around them.

3. EDUCATION/CREDENTIALS

  • Does this roofing contractor have the appropriate licences for your community?Every community has a unique set of codes and bylaws that a reputable company must respect. Ask to see written proof that the contractor is in compliance.
  • Does he carry appropriate insurance?This is such an important question to ask. Insist on seeing the contractor’s proof of liability and worker’s compensation insurance. Also, make absolute certain that the coverage will remain in effect throughout the entire duration of your project.
  • Does the roofing contractor’s business have a satisfactory record with your local Better Business Bureau?Check this online ahead of time, then ask directly when you meet. If he says “yes” and you’ve discovered otherwise in advance, there may be a reasonable explanation or it could be a red flag in terms of honesty.
  • Is this roofer willing to put all agreements, guarantees and understandings in writing?It’s in your best interests to insist on a written proposal that details the work and job specifications, approximate start and completion dates, all project costs (labor, material, taxes, etc.), payment terms and any other items you may have discussed, such as protecting certain landscape features during the work.
  • Does the roofing contractor invest in his crew’s on-going education?Make sure that any roofing contractor you choose makes training, as well as worker health and safety, a priority. Roofing materials and their proper installation are constantly changing, especially in light of environmental issues. Health and safety rules are also frequently updated, so ensure that the contractor you hire keeps his staff on top of all the latest developments.

    The best, most successful roofing contractors are committed to and invest in the on-going education, training and development of their staff.

  • Does the roofing contractor have any professional affiliations?For example, most roofing shingle manufacturers – including IKO – have special programs for qualifying that participants have been trained in terms of their products and installation. Find an IKO ShieldPRO plus+ contractor near you for more information.

4. COMMUNICATION SKILLS

Clear communication is vital to the success of any project. You and your roofing contractor must be able to work well together. In turn, he must be able to convey your concerns and wishes to his crew. Here are some questions to ask yourself, during your first meeting.

  • Is this roofing contractor an active listener?Does he really hear what you’re saying? One way to tell is by the follow-up questions he asks for clarification or to summarize what you’ve just said.
  • Is he easy to talk to?Sometimes people make it clear that certain subjects are off-limits. No reputable roofer will appear to be insulted when you ask about qualifications, testimonials, insurance or other issues that are important to you.
  • What’s his body language saying?It’s estimated that over 90 percent of our communication is non-verbal. Genuine smiles and good eye contact are easy signals but also pay attention to hand and body gestures that can be open or closed. Trust your gut if you sense something may be off.
  • Are his written materials professional?As mentioned above, it’s critical to get certain information in writing so look closely at how he writes up his quote or proposal. Is his language detailed and clear or do his sentences not make any sense? All the paperwork, sales brochures, etc. he presents should look professional.
  • How does he speak about his staff and clients?Ask him about a project that didn’t go as well as expected and what he did to resolve any issues. It’s a huge red flag if a roofing contractor complains, makes excuses or claims that past clients made unreasonable demands. Does he speak in positive terms and have a service mindset?

5. FAMILY FIT

When hiring a new employee, companies look for someone who will fit their corporate culture. Similarly, you should ensure that any roofing contractor you hire will “fit” your family. Here are some questions to ask.

Make sure that the roofing contractor you hire will respect your family, home and property.

  • How will you protect my family and property while working on the roof?You don’t want children or pets stepping on roofing nails. Or discarded shingles on your lawn. Professional roofing contractors will talk to you ahead of time about any garden or landscaping concerns you might have as well as how they’ll keep the job site as clean and quiet as possible.
  • What time will you start and stop work every day?Most communities have noise bylaws and, while roofing work takes place during daylight hours, you or your neighbors may have some concerns about too early a start. You want a roofing contractor who will respect your time so, if this is an issue, don’t hesitate to mention it.

6. THEIR VALUE TO YOU

Even among the most qualified, reputable roofing contractors, each one will have something unique to offer so it’s up to you to decide what you value most. Here’s one of the most important questions you can ask a roofer:

  • Why should I hire you?Some contractors may be more committed to quality craftsmanship or to using a specific brand of building materials. Others may pride themselves on their after-sales service or guarantees. Still others may feel they have the best-trained installers in your area. Always base your hiring decision on value, rather than price.

7. REPUTATION/REFERENCES

If you started your list of potential roofing contractors by asking around for referrals or checking online reviews, you’re off to a very good start. Because a roofing contractor who stands behind his work no doubt has already earned a good reputation in your community and will work hard to keep it by ensuring customer satisfaction.

Always ask a prospective roofer for client references and then be sure to follow up with those people! Here are some questions you might ask them.

  • Was it easy to talk to this roofing contractor and his crew?If there were any misunderstandings, ask how they were resolved.
  • Were the workers involved as professional and courteous as the salesperson?
  • Did they clean up the job site before leaving every night and respect your property?
  • Were you pleased with the quality of their work?
  • Was it completed on schedule? 
  • Were there any unpleasant surprises along the way or did the contractor fulfill his obligations as expected and promised?
  • Did your neighbors have any complaints or express concern while the work was being done?
  • Would you recommend this contractor without hesitation?

By doing your homework and asking the right questions upfront, you’ll be well on your way to finding the right professional contractor for your new or replacement roof.