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August 3, 2009

My Turn: Get the facts before roofing


This week's "My turn" column is by Jeremy Meyers, owner of Dundee Brook Contracting Services.

Re-roofing is a process you may not be familiar with until it becomes time to replace the roof on your home.

Even then, there is much to learn about which products to use and what procedures meet your individual needs. Therefore, it is vital to know that you can rely on the roofing contractor you choose to give you good advice about those products and procedures that may be new to you.

Unfortunately, it's not like buying a new car or a barbecue grill off the assembly line. Roofing products and accessories between roofing contractors may be similar; workmanship and warranties are not. The key is to find the right roofing contractor for your job.

Evaluate the roofing contractor as carefully as you would a doctor or a lawyer. It is certain you will want a roofing contractor who employs capable applicators to install shingles. It is also clear that you will need to look closely at the proposal offer, the products selected and the price-value relationship of the entire package.

What criteria can you use to decide if the contractor is a true professional who will stand behind his work? There is no clear-cut answer; there are a number of indicators that you can look for when going through the evaluation process.

References? Ask for a list of 10 names and numbers of customers from the last 12 months. It is not necessary to check all 10, but you will be able to choose randomly from the list of those you do call.

Ask to see photos of roofing projects completed. Take a drive-by to see projects in progress or recently completed by the contractor to view firsthand what their workmanship is like.

Each particular roofing contractor will warrant his workmanship. The manufacturer, on the other hand, warranties the roofing material against defects in manufacturing.

Thus, two warranties will cover the shingled roofing system. Understand them both. Ask for a copy of the manufacturers' warranty pertaining to the specific shingle products you are considering.

Protect yourself further by including a workmanship warranty that should be clearly noted within your contract.

You can not choose a professional roofer by looking at an estimate and comparing prices. Allow yourself plenty of time to interview and evaluate each contractor. Ask questions about the project, including how long will the project take, how many employees will be on the project from start to finish, a start date and a completion date. And my personal favorite, are you fully insured?

Does the contractor carry insurance? Unfortunately, this does not mean car insurance or health insurance. A professional roofing contractor should carry comprehensive liability insurance and workers' compensation insurance to protect you in the event of a roofing accident.

Ask for proof of general liability and workers' compensation coverage before the roofing project starts. The best and safest choice is to have these certificates mailed directly to you with your name and property address listed on the policy, showing you the homeowner is protected. This will prevent any false information, such as copying, scanning, etc.

Be aware that if a worker is injured on your property, the homeowner may be held liable for all of the costs unless the employee is covered by workers' compensation insurance. Hospital bills for serious accidents can be extraordinarily expensive.

Roofing contractors who do not carry insurance will most likely be cheaper to hire as they do not have large insurance premiums to pay.

Workers' compensation premiums can increase wage costs by about 30 percent. It is up to you to determine if it's worth the risk to hire a contractor who does not carry insurance.

Another key tip is knowing the physical address of the contracting company. This step is crucial; if an issue or problem arises you can visit the contractor firsthand. Phone call after phone call can get frustrating. Reassurance of knowing where your contractor is located is a must.

Check all your resources. The Better Business Bureau has a terrific website, www.bbb.org, where you can search a contracting company to see if there are any complaints filed by other customers. You can also view the rating status of each contractor. A visit to your local Chamber of Commerce or code enforcement office may reassure your decision on a contracting business.

Being confident you selected the right roofing contractor will help assure you have a quality roof overhead and your hard-earned money has been wisely spent. Use these tips when choosing your next roofing contractor, and it is sure to be a successful one.

I look forward to responding to any questions you may have at jeremy@dundeebrook.com.

To write for "My turn," contact Daily Star Publisher Tanya Shalor at tshalor@thedailystar.com or 432-1000, ext. 214.