How to choose a Professional Contractor
Choosing a professional Contractor
Contracting / Roofing is a process you may not be familiar with until it becomes time to replace the roof on your own home. And even then, there's a lot to learn about which products to use and what procedures best meet your individual needs. Therefore, it's vital to know that you can rely on the contractor you choose to give you good advise about those productsand procedures that may be new to you.The key is to find the right contractor for your job.
A top-notch, professional contractor will be only too happy to supply you with answers to these questions. And just as it makes good buisness sence to see sereral bids on your job, it also makes good sense to ask several different contactors these questions.
We've also outlined some important points to consider as you evaluate the terms of your proposed job contract.
Being confident you've selected the right contractor will help assure that you have a quality project and that your hard-erned moneyhas been wisely spent
Seven Questions to ask your Contractor
We suggest that you evaluate your contractor as carefully as you would a doctor or lawyer. It is certain that you will want a contractor who employs caplable applicators and tradesmen. It is also clear that you will ned to look closely at the propsal offered, the products selected, and the price / value relationship of the entire package.
But what criteria can you use to decide if the contractor is a true professional who will stand behind his work? While there is not a single, clear-cut answer, there are a number of indicators that you can look for when going through the evaluation process.
Interview the Contractor
You cannit choose a professional contractor by looking at an estimate and comparing prices. Allow yourself and hour, more or less, to sit down with each contractor. You might be speaking with a sales person or even the owner. Bothof you need time to ask questions and explore the possibilities. You will be suprissed at how many options you have.
Good contractors take pride in their work, and so should the sales person representing the company.
The sales person should show pride and enthusiasm in discussingother jobs.
The sales person should be knowledgeable about their jobs (which shows the amount of involvement in the actual work)
1. What is the full name and address of the company
Getting the complete address of the company can be an inportant factor in determining a company's time in buisness. If a post office box is given, ask for a full street address as well.
2. Does the company carryinsurance?
A contractor should carry comprehensive liability insurance and wokers compensation insurance to protect you in the event of an accident. This canbe verified by askingto see the ontractor's certificates of insurance (workers' compinsation and general liability). Let the contractor know you want current certificates sent to you by the insurer before the job is started.
Contractors may also carry othe kinds of insurance includig health, life and auto insurance. Bland assurances of insurance coverage may refer to these. Don't be confused. Ask for proof of general liability and workers compensation coverage for roofing projects.
Workers accidents. Be aware that if a worker is injured on your property, the homeowner might be held liable for all costs unless the employee is covered by workers compenation insurance. Hospital bills for serious accidents can be extraordinarily expensive.
Contractors who carry insurance and follow safety guidelines on fall prevention endure higher job overhead costs. These expenses could be the cause of price variations between contractors who follow the standards versus those who ignore them.
Uninsured Contractors. For example roofers who do not carry insurance will most likelybe cheaper to hire as they do not have the large insurance premiums to pay. Workers' compenstaion premiums can increase wage costs from about 20% to as much as 100%, depending on the state.
There are a varietyof reasons why full insurance may not be carried by a contractor, such as:
Not a full-time contractor
Operates as a partnership or self-employed without employees
New in the buisness
Can't afford insurance premiums
Doesn't stand behind work
It is up to you to determine if it is worth the risk to hire a contractor who does not carry insurance.
3. Is the company a licensed or credentialed contractor?
When you pose this question, you are, in effect, asking if the contractor is licensed by your state and or city.
Several roofing manufacturers offer a variety of programs to professional contractors that establish their credentials as a nowledgeable roofing company. Homeowners can view a contractor's credentials as another indicator of their degree of knowlege, professioanalism and dedication to the roofing trade.
4. How long has the company been in buisness?
Needless to say, longer is usually better. Under three years may signal an unstable buisness or one low on th elearning curve.
On the other hand, everybody has to start somewhere. References will be helpful to double check any buisness, and are especialyimportantwhen dealing with a new buisness. A newer buisness may have a great future but it is only reasonable tobe more careful when consideringit referrals. The failure rate of small buisness in the first three years is very high.
5. Will theCompany Provide Referrals of References from Previous Jobs?
Ask for photos of completed work, if available.
Request a list of names and phone numbers of recent customers (last 12 months). It is not necessary to check all of them, but you will be able to pick randomly from the list those you do call.
6. What is the company,s workmanship waranty?
Typically, contractor workmanship warranties are for one year or more. Longer warranties are not necessary more valuable than shorter warranties. The length of the warranty is less important than the intent and ability of the roofer to stand behind his warranty. That is best evaluated using customer referrals. Ask his customers specifically for information about these four things.
1. Did he or she perform his work on a timely basis?
2. Was he or she responsive when asked for information and changes?
3. Did he or she act if he cared about the customers interests?
4. And finally, would you call the company trustworthy?
The contractor will warrant his workmanship. The manufacture, on the other hand, warranties the roofing material against defects in manufacturing. Thus, two warranties will cover the shingle roofsyste. Understand them both. Ask for a copy of the manufacturer's warranty pertaining to the specific products you are considering.
Usually, problems of either workmanship or material show up very quickly. Therefore, the near-term warranty given by the contractor or manufacterer is more important than the warranty coverage during the later years of the warranty. Even if problems of workmanship arise after the workmanship warranty has lasped, a reliable contractor usually will want to stand behind his work.
7. What is the company's track record for solving customer complaints?
Try to find out how your contractor handles problems when they do arise. Request a referral from a job that involved a complaint.
Ask the contractor if he has ever lost a job-related court case.
Also, in talking to the appropriate authorities, such as the BBB (Better Buisness Bureau) and licensing departments, find out if any complaints have been filed against the contractors whom you have interviewed. Many contractors in buisness for any length of time have been involved in a dispute. Ask how the dispute was resolved, to test your contractor's reputation.
Evaluating the Contract
Before you get to this stage, you will have recieved from the contractor either a job proposal or an estimate. Estimates and proposals can be very different approaches to your job.
What is an Estimate?
To simplify, an estimate will typically offer a single price, a generically described product, a color and no options. This is traditional and legitimate.
What is a Propsal?
Simply put, a proposal is a tentative agreement for a project. It offers a choice of products by brand name, prices, services and even designs. Many other provisions may also be included such as change order conditions and financing options. The homeowner should expect three product choices. These could be presented in the typical range of good, better and best.
Appropiate product literature and samples should be offered.
Misunderstandings are more often the cause of contract disagreement rather than actual dishonesty or incompetence.
It is in your interest that certain items which are important to you be stated in writing in the contract. Thefollowig are some of the basics that should be covered.
Compliance with local codes and ordinances.
Will they be observed? Are permit costs included? Who will obtain the permit? What about provisions for posting zoning notices? Have inspections been planned?
Have you been offered a choice of good, better and best products? Are they identified by brand and manufactureer name? Is there a clear referance to the warranty which will cover the products to be applied? Is the manufacturer's name for the color of the product you are buying stated on the contract? Do you understand the difference in the asthetics from one product to another ( including not only color but the texture, style, construction, reinforcement and UL ratings)?
Start and stop dates are difficult to pin down due to the unpredictability of the weather. But you can control expectations. For instance, negotiate a "no-later-than" clause. Be reasonable, but do make it clear that these terms will be enforced if necessary.
This clause establishes a time period in which the homeowner can cancel the contract without penalty. Some states require such a clause in contracts. Check with your local authorities.
Three days is usually the time period given for a right-to-rescind without penalty. If the homeowner cancels the job after the right-to-rescind period has elapsed, then the contractor may request a certain dollar or percentage value of the contract in return.
Manufacturer's warranty specifications
Confirm that the agreement states that all workmanship will conform to the requirements of the manufacturer's warranty and installation instructions. All such terms are normally found on the packaging or will be found on manufacturer's literature available from suppliers.
Call for a daily cleanup of the premises.
Schedule, terms and method of payment should be written out fully with no room for misunderstandings.
Finally, agree to an inspection before the job with the job supervisor. Establish the condition of the property before any work is done. Take special care to list the conditions of landscaping and equipment located under or near roof eaves. DO not be unreasonable on your expectations. It is not possible to reroof a house without some damage to landscaping. Discuss and agree on what is reasonable. A thorough inspection after the job will determine if any valid property damage claims exist.