The roof of a home is an investment in property value, structural integrity and energy-efficiency. With so many roofing materials and styles to choose among, it’s important to hire a competent and professional contractor who not only can do a great job, but also understands how to work within the budget and particular style of a home. Here are some ways to make sure your next roofing project will be in good hands:

1. Find out How Long the Contractor Has Been in Business

Though every professional needs to start somewhere, choosing a roofer who is experienced is more important than giving someone an opportunity. Researching how long a contractor has been in business also allows a homeowner to see examples of previous work—and the more examples, the better. Of course, it’s best to find a contractor with a work portfolio that complements your goals, but finding one with creative versatility can lead to a design that beats your expectations.

If a roofer has been in business for several years, they probably have had successful projects that allowed them to find new work or attract new customers. Experience also indicates that they have been exposed to different types of construction, which prepares them to identify the ideal approach to your roofing project.

2. Look Into the Contractor’s Public Profile

Observing how well contractors advertise their services can give you a sense of the level of confidence they have in their work. Be on the lookout for places where contractor ads generally appear and see who’s listed.

The Yellow Pages, or even sections in the local newspaper, are great starting points. It’s also a smart idea to peruse the contractor’s Internet presence. Check to see if he or she has a professional website or social media account. This indicates, again, that the contractor has reached a career point where they can advertise their work and “develop a brand,” so to speak. A contractor who’s not afraid to advertise has a certain level of confidence that will show in their work.

3. Ask for Estimates on Costs

For most professional contractors, knowing the true cost of a job requires more than just understanding what work needs to be done. Once the job is underway, they begin to get a better sense of how much time, work and materials will be necessary.

When planning a project with a contractor, always ask for an estimate as to how much the final job may cost. Try to avoid asking for quotes; fixed prices are a rarity in home improvement, so you should beware of contractors that make low-budget guarantees. By asking for an estimate, you’re also communicating that you are a smart buyer who isn’t naïve.

4. Seek out Multiple Estimates

Even if you’ve found a contractor who has a great public presence, a long work history and reasonable estimates, it’s never a bad idea to speak with other roofers. Remember, though, not to reveal one contractor’s cost estimation to a competitor; this will surely upset the contractor you plan to hire. But having a selection of roofers to choose among increases the likelihood that you will find a contractor whose experience complements your goals.

Sometimes, a contractor who charges slightly more may be a wiser choice. Roofs can be expensive, and the last investment you want to make will be repairs on a recent installation.

Remember to take your time when comparing the options. With so much money on the line, it’s important to avoid any rushed or impulsive decisions.

5. Make Sure the Roofer Has Liability Insurance

This is a very important piece of advice that is often ignored at the cost of disastrous consequences. Compared to uninsured roofers, those with the proper insurance are generally more established, experienced and professional.

Perhaps more importantly, if the contractor damages your property, you have the reassurance that compensation will be paid. Often, it’s not necessarily the roofer’s fault that property becomes damaged or injuries occur, which is why even the best roofers should have insurance.

When considering a roof installation, most homeowners are quick to consider functionality, looks and power savings. But choosing the right roofer is perhaps the most important decision of all. By researching and comparing the options, homeowners can comfortably select a professional contractor to meet their goals.

Paul Kazlov is a “green” home remodeling enthusiast and an industry pioneer for innovation in home renovation. Paul writes for the Global Home Improvement Blog and strives to educate people about “green” products such as metal roofing and solar. Follow him on Twitter @PaulKazlov