There are many outstanding roofing companies, and your job, if you contract, is to find the right company. Your roof is a long-term investment spanning twenty to thirty-five years. This places you in the position of dealing with a contractor who knows you won’t need his services again for twenty years or longer. Once you have paid your contractor for completing your roof, the only residual value he can gain from you is the referral work you send him. A top quality contractor lives by referrals and will make sure his customers are pleased.
The flip side of this is that once you have paid your contractor for completing your roof, the only residual value he can gain from you is the referral work you send him. A disreputable contractor doesn’t care about references from you. There are enough easy marks out there that he doesn’t give a rip about anything but slapping your roof on as quickly as possible and getting your money. Things could be worse. Your contractor could take your deposit and disappear forever. Things could be worse still. He could screw up the job so badly that you suffer extensive damage to your home especially the interior.
Throughout this book I have inserted specific words of caution highlighted by the word “Nail” These “nails” include many of the shortcuts and the reasons bad contractors use them. The basic reasons all boil down to time and money.
Don’t panic. I just want you to receive full value for your money and effort. There are several things you can do to make sure you get the right contractor.
1. If a friend tells you he is pleased with the contractor who did his roof, ask questions. Did the contractor keep him advised regarding his schedule? Did the work proceed on schedule? Were shrubs and flower borders protected and kept clean during the job? Is the completed work neat? Are the gutters and downspouts clean? Did they receive a warranty from the contractor and the manufacturer’s 20-, 25-, or 30-year warranty on the shingles themselves? If the answers are all yes, get that contractor’s name and number and call him.
2. Talk to the manager of the local roofing materials supplier and ask for the names of contractors who are doing top quality work.
3. Check with state and county offices to makes sure your contractor is properly licensed. Also check with the Better Business Bureau to see if they have knowledge, good or bad, about the contractors you are considering.
4. Many established companies are listed with Dun & Bradstreet. Ask for the DUNS Number, but be prepared they may not want to give this to you. Dun & Bradstreet gives each company a rating, but you probably can’t get it unless you are a member of Dun & Bradstreet too. The rating gives the range of their annual volume of business and their credit standing. Some companies don’t disperse that information freely.
Nail: Materials suppliers usually extend their regular customers (your contractor) a line of credit. When the economy is tight and work is scarce, some contractors don’t or can’t pay the company that supplied their materials. You can end up paying the con tractor full contract price for your new roof, then find out a few months later that the materials supplier has placed a lien against your home for the cost of the materials. Find out who will be supplying the materials for your roof and give them a call. See what your contractor’s track record is with them.
It’s still not a guarantee, but your call may save you a real shock. Below is an example of a Lien Waiver Form, which homeowners can add to the contract.
5. Does your contractor have the company name and phone number painted on his trucks and other equipment? Beware of the “gypsy” company with no name and no phone number on anything.
Nail: There is a nasty scam which can (and does) happen. A highly regarded contractor will replace several roofs in a neighborhood. The contractor’s equipment is all painted distinctive colors and his name is on everything. You get a knock on your door and a pickup truck is in your driveway with the same distinctive colors you have seen all over your neighborhood. The man says, “Hi, We’re working here in your neighborhood. Would you like us to replace your roof while we’re here?” You think he’s from the highly regarded company. You haggle and hash out the details and agree to the terms of a contract. When you start to write the deposit check you find out it’s not the same company at all. He is working on his own. It’s surprising how many people, having made a verbal commitment, will go ahead and sign that check even though they know they have already been misled. If you push the man about tricking you, you will probably find he has done a home within a five-mile radius (which he considers to be your neighborhood). He will point out that there is no sign on his truck and he never said who he worked for. He is sorry you assumed he was working for the other contractor. He will give you a nice speech about his absolute honesty. All you have lost is your time and patience. Cut your losses and get rid of him.
6. Well-maintained and clean or new equipment speaks well for a contractor, but beware if he doesn’t have his name and number on any-thing.
7. Signs held on with magnets don’t impress me. The contractor can pop that sign off tonight and be a different type of contractor with a different name tomorrow.
8. Call the number the contractor gives you. Too many people call after they have already lost their deposit and find that there is no such number or the phone has been disconnected.
9. Get the license number and a description of the contractor’s vehicle.
10. The contractor should furnish you with references including names, addresses, and phone numbers of previous customers. Don’t just call them; take the time to go look at the work done on a few of the homes. A satisfied customer will be pleased to talk to you or show you the outstanding work he received.
11. How carefully did the contractor check and measure your roof? Did he just glance at it from the ground and give a figure?
12. Is the contract proposal on a company form with company stationery in a company envelope or is it on a “buy-em-by-the-box” form you can pick up at any office supply place?
13. Is the work spelled out in detail including brand, quality, and color of shingles? Does the contract specify the type of flashing, plumbing vents, and aluminum trim to be used? Are the type and size of fasteners listed? Is all of the work to be done included in the contract? Don’t do what too many others before you have done.
Don’t sign a contract with, or give a check to, someone who gives you a contract as vague as the following:
Mr. and Mrs. Reader
13 Sucker Punch Place
Dumfries, VA 22000
Shingle roof $ 3,000.00
DEPOSIT DUE NOW $ 1,500.00
14. Go by the contractor’s place of business. If he is working from his home, don’t hold that against him. It helps him hold down his over-head and give you a more competitive price.
How is his building or home maintained?
15. Check with his insurance company and make sure he has liability insurance sufficient to cover possible damage to your home.
16. If the contractor does not carry worker’s compensation insurance and he or one of his men is injured on your property, then the injured worker places his claim against your home owner’s insurance and you personally! It’s not legal, but many roofing contractors “run bare” because of the high cost of worker’s compensation. If one of these ends up being your contractor, you are “running bare” with him.
If the contractor does have worker’s compensation insurance, he is precluded by law from filing a suit against you or your homeowner’s insurance.
Nail: When a contractor lies to you about having insurance, he is trying to nail you by forcing you to take a risk you aren’t aware of. You may be lucky and get by without damage to your home and with no personal injury accidents. You were still nailed. Incidentally, if he succeeds in nailing you, his costs are much lower than the insured contractors he is competing with and he and you have nailed the quality, insured roofing businesses in your area.
17. If you are negotiating with a contractor and you get a bad feeling about the whole deal, trust your instincts. Keep looking!
18. At this point the negotiations can still be blown.
Let’s say that you have done all of the above things and your contractor has passed with flying colors. You are dealing with a top contractor who now knows that you know it. Top contractors do mainly referral work, and they have customers waiting. Now it is your job to be the kind of customer this contractor wants to deal with. Listen to his recommendations regarding the work to be done. Remember, a top contractor will walk away from a potential customer he believes will be impossible or unreliable.
19. Now you can sign the contract proposal. Keep a copy signed by both you and the contractor.
20. You can expect to pay up to one-half the cost of the project as a deposit to the contractor. This will cover his purchase of materials and other startup costs. Your deposit assures the contractor that his customer won’t do what an ex-friend of mine did to me; arbitrarily cancel the job the day the special-order materials are to be delivered.
21. A good contractor will have the materials delivered and (if possible) stocked up on your roof a few days before he has the work scheduled. If an independent supplier makes the delivery, expect the contractor to come by and make sure all the materials are in place.
22. Don’t expect the contractor to negotiate on items like the requirement for a deposit or payment on completion (POC). He may have started out contracting without requiring a deposit and run into a customer who took delivery of the materials and then wouldn’t let him “trespass” to do the job or retrieve his materials. He was then out the price of the materials and the job; his only recourse was through the courts. Your contractor can be a “prince among men,” but he is probably also a battle-scarred veteran of the contracting game.
On pages 17-19 is a sample of the contract I developed and used. The thoroughness of this contract proposal swayed some prospective customers to contract with my firm for their roofing project. The contract is detailed, perhaps too detailed, but there was never a dispute or even a question about what work was to be done. We had a great relationship with our customers. The second year we were in business all but one of our customers came to us as referrals. A comprehensive contract followed by our workmanship guaranteed the referrals.
COMPANY INFORMATION SHEET
A Virginia Corporation
Virginia Class “A” Contractor, License Number 0123-45678
Fairfax County Business/Professional License Number 98765-43-21
Insurer: Great Plains Insurance
1 Plains Way
Richmond, VA 23220
Agent: Mr. I.M. Derevoc Phone: (804) 555-6543
Liability coverage: YES
Worker’s compensation coverage: YES
Insurance on all vehicles: YES
A member of Dun & Bradstreet: DUNS Number 567-890/12
VISTA ENTERPRISES, INC. May 1, 1993
5500 Summit Street
Centreville, VA 22020-2032
110 Prosperity Lane
Fairfax, VA 22033
Home Phone: (703) 555-1234 Work Phone: (202) 555-4321
Subject: ROOFING OF RESIDENCE
110 Prosperity Lane
Dear Ms. Tomlinson:
This letter is a formal contract proposal for the reroofmg of your home. The work will consist of the items indicated on the “Contract Work Items” section of the contract attached to this letter.
The total price of the contract is $……… .
A deposit of $………is required.
The remaining $………is payable on completion.
This proposal will remain in effect until May 15, 1993, and can be formalized by your signature and the receipt of the deposit check.
COLOR OF SHINGLES GRAY FROST
Elizabeth Tomlinson John W Chiles, Jr.
Information Sheet about Vista Enterprises, Inc.
Contract Work Items
Shingle Color — Examples of Gray Frost are noted on list of recent customers.
CONTRACT WORK ITEMS
Tear off the existing roof to the plywood/plank sheathing.
Install ice shield along the eaves.
Install No. 15 felt.
Install certain-teed glass-guard, self-sealing, fiberglass/asphalt shingles with a Class A U.L. fire resistance rating. These shingles carry a twenty (20) year manufacturer’s warranty.
Use one and one-half (IV2) inch galvanized roofing nails. Valleys will be shingled as indicated on the options list.
Plumbing vent pipes will be flashed using aluminum-based neoprene collars. Clean and tighten gutters. Police yard and flower borders thoroughly.
PRICE OF BASIC ROOF: $……..
PRICE OF CHOSEN OPTIONS: $……..
TOTAL CONTRACT PRICE: $……..
OPTIONAL CONTRACT WORK ITEMS
Install certain-teed glass-guard 25 self-sealing fiberglass/asphalt shingles with a Class A U.L. fire resistance rating (twenty-five  year manufacturer’s warranty.) $……..
Install certain-teed “Independence shangles,” self-sealing fiberglass/asphalt shingles with a Class A U.L. fire resistance rating. These are dimensional shingles that simulate the surface texture of a cedar shake roof.
The shingles have a thirty (30) year manufacturer’s warranty $……..
All-lead plumbing pipe vent flashing $……..
Aluminum step flashing $……..
Aluminum counter (or skirt) flashing $……..
Reuse existing aluminum valleys $……..
Valleys constructed of twenty-four (24) inch wide, 27 gauge aluminum over an underlayment of No. 30 felt $……..
Valleys constructed of double woven shingles over an underlayment of No. 30 asphalt felt $……..
Forty (40) inch wide modified bituminous sheet used as an underlayment for the valley $……..
Flash the brick/stone chimney $……..
Caulk cracks in the chimney cap $……..
Install a new concrete chimney cap $……..
Wire brush, paint, and caulk the metal chimney $……..
Wire brush, paint, and caulk the existing roof vents $……..
Replace the existing roof vents with new aluminum pot vents (Type: ……..) $……..
REFERENCE AND SHINGLE TYPE/COLOR LIST
The list included the following for each home we reroofed during the previous two years:
Owner’s Name Home Phone
City, State, Zip Code
Manufacturer, type, and color of shingle
(I never had anyone request that they not be in- eluded in this list of previous customers. I didn’t realize this until I sat down to write this book.)
A contract is a legally binding document about something as nebulous as mutual trust. A contract obligates both parties to perform. It takes a good contractor and a good customer to give top quality results.