SUMMARY: When you need work done to your roof, you want to hire a trustworthy and knowledgeable roofing contractor. Knowing what questions to ask and what to look for ensures you hire a contractor who knows what they are doing.

It’s relatively well-known that contractors tend to push the limits to see what they can get away with and what corners they can cut. While not true of all professionals, many will try to pull a fast one, particularly when it comes to working with homeowners. From projects that stretch well beyond expected completion dates to those that surpass a budget limit, there’s always the opportunity to encounter a poor contractor.

That’s why you must always do the proper research before hiring a professional, especially when it comes to roofing projects. Shoddy roof work can mean the difference between a ruined home — including everything inside — and one that lasts for decades more.

What are some things to look out for when hiring a roofing contractor? More specifically, what questions should you be asking before signing a contract?

Are They Licensed?

In most states, contractors cannot do roof work without first acquiring the appropriate license. In fact, doing so is generally against the law. While that does put a damper on scams and frauds, it doesn’t eliminate them.

Always ask to see a contractor’s license information and use the appropriate portal to check its validity. Many states, including California, North and South Carolina, Florida, Nevada and more, all maintain a public database you can use to double-check this information. Furthermore, be sure to validate whether or not the license is still active or has expired, as some may try to pass off an expired license.

2. Is There a Written Contract?

Never strike up a verbal contract even for small or one-time projects. Always get a written proposal of the work with detailed information that covers the materials, permit requirements, schedule and extraneous information. At this time, you must also dictate modifications or suggest changes, as well as have them approved by the contractor.

When you have all the details in writing, if things progress poorly and end in legal recourse, you have proof of everything the contractor promised and a point of reference for what wasn’t handled appropriately.

 Do They Have Authentic, In-State References?

Unless you’re willingly working with a new contractor, you also want to have proof that the company is established and has a history of success. Spend some time trying to get in touch with references and see if you can’t find someone to offer a verbal recommendation. You’re looking for customers or people who have worked with the contractor in the past. You also want to be sure the reference had work done in the same state or general area as you.

Many guides recommend looking up a business on sites like Angie’s List. While this can work, you will likely want to look elsewhere as well since online reviews can still end up biased.  

4. Do They Guarantee Their Work? 

Warranties protect your home, materials and the work itself in the event of a failure or accident. That includes improper installation or problems that arise due to shoddy work. Be sure that any contractor you collaborate with offers a guarantee on their labor, which generally comes in the form of a warranty. For supplies and equipment, always be sure the warranty is backed by the manufacturer, too. For an A/C unit or air handler, for example, warranties are almost always honored by the manufacturer like Carrier, Trane and more. The same is true of roofing materials and supplies.

 Is It Possible to Observe Work on This Project or on Other Job Sites? 

If you have the opportunity to visit one of the contractor’s previous project sites, that’s another great way to review their experience and skills. There are many signs you can look for that would indicate shoddy work. Improperly applied fasteners, missing drip edges, missing underlayment and dark stains are all excellent examples.

If you do not have the opportunity to visit another project site, then you should at least spend some time reviewing their work on your own home. While it can be troublesome to stop a project mid-progress to deal with shoddy work, it’s still better than the repercussions of doing so after the fact. Besides, then you can find a more suitable replacement if need be.

6. What Do Payment Requirements and Timelines Look Like?

There are many misconceptions when it comes to contract work. For example, contractors should never demand money upfront, at least not in full. Making a down payment and paying the rest of the balance when the job is complete is a much better plan. It gives contractors more incentive to complete the work on time and with the best quality.

Mind the appropriate event timelines, too. It doesn’t matter what the project or task is. The lineup is usually the same. Handle payments appropriately — not upfront. Always double-check permits and make sure they’re available before work starts. Also, check proof of insurance and warranties, and be sure that all materials are on-site before breaking ground.

Bonus: Remember to Vet All Parties

Sometimes, a business will work with partners and other subcontractors. It’s not uncommon with home projects, major roof overhauls included. Since you’re already researching the contractor you plan to hire, be sure to look up anyone else who will be involved, too. Are they licensed? Did they do the appropriate background checks on employees? Can the validity and accuracy of their past work be verified? Are all parties insured? Who’s responsible if something goes wrong?

By asking these questions, you will not only earn yourself peace of mind, but valid proof that the contractor you plan to hire is trustworthy and above board.

-This is a guest post not written by the sites’ owner.