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Be smart in selecting a roofing contractor

If the roof isn't too high or too steep, you may be able to get up there to cover the damage with a tarp held down with sandbags or with a piece of plywood. (Tip: Gather these supplies now and be ready.)

If the roof isn't too high or too steep, you may be able to get up there to cover the damage with a tarp held down with sandbags or with a piece of plywood. (Tip: Gather these supplies now and be ready.)

If it turns out that your roof isn't hurricane-proof, how do you select a contractor to repair it? Some homeowners panic and sign on with the first roofing contractor they can get on the phone, or the contractor who pulls up out front in an unmarked pickup truck. Don't do that. Roofing contractors offer these tips:

• Take photographs and call your insurance company, which may want to inspect before repairs are made. Typically insurers will encourage you to secure your property so you sustain no further damage. If the roof isn't too high or too steep, you may be able to get up there to cover the damage with a tarp held down with sandbags or with a piece of plywood. (Tip: Gather these supplies now and be ready.)

• But be careful. Walking on a roof may damage it further, or you may fall and injure yourself. Proceed with caution.

• Seek recommendations from friends, neighbors, co-workers. (This is a good task to do in the off season, before you're desperate.) Obtain several estimates. Look for someone who has been in business for some time. Be sure the roofer has experience with the kind of roofing you want: shingles, tile, metal, built-up. Check out roofers with the Better Business Bureau. Visit your county construction licensing board to read the roofer's file and study the complaint history, if any.

• Roofers must be licensed and should carry both workers' compensation and general liability insurance. The contractor's vehicle and paperwork — estimates, contracts and business cards — must bear the contractor's license number. Beware of contractors who show up in an unmarked truck and have only a cell phone and no office address. You can check a roofer's license at

• Determine exactly who will be doing the work: the roofer or another company to whom the roofer subcontracts the job? Subcontracting is common and there's nothing inherently wrong with it, but make sure that the subcontractor is also licensed and insured. Check out the subcontractor as carefully as you checked out the initial roofer.

• Ask for references, then check them. Call several previous customers to see how satisfied they are and whether they would use the roofer again.

• Have the roofer specify the exact materials to be used, then call a roofing supply house. Ask whether those are top-of-the-line materials or the cheapest basics. Make sure you understand what you're getting. As you solicit bids from several roofers, make sure they're all bidding on the same specifications.

• Beware of the roofer who wants large amounts of upfront money. It's normal for a roofer to expect 10 to 25 percent upfront; another 25 percent when the materials are delivered to the job site; and the balance upon completion of the job.

• Determine start and completion date of the work. You don't want a half-finished job sitting there untouched for weeks or months. The roofer you ultimately hire may be able to do a quick temporary fix to keep you dry until the real work starts.

• What does the warranty cover? The work? For how long? What is the manufacturer's warranty on the materials?

• Don't do business with a roofer who wants you, the homeowner, to obtain permits. That's often the sign of an unlicensed contractor.

• The contract should detail how the roofer will dispose of old materials, avoid damaging your landscaping, and keep your property safe (pick up loose nails and scraps of material).

Be smart in selecting a roofing contractor 05/16/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 16, 2012 11:28am]
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