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Comparing Roofing Estimates

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When considering a roof replacement, there are many things to consider. One of the most important things is to completely understand what to look for in a roofing estimate. Talking to neighbours and family members is a good start, though opinions can be difficult to sift through. Once you’ve narrowed the contractors down to the top three, and are setting up appointments and consultations, now is the time to research what separates a good estimate from a bad one. Of course, you want a decent price, but opting to go for the lowest bidder can often end in disaster. Here’s some advice, from an actual roofing contractor, on what to look for and what questions you should be asking.

What You Need to Compare

While you could break everything down to the last cent, that is generally a lengthy process. These are your four main comparison points:

Warranty: Most quality roofing shingles will come with a manufacturers warranty, but you want to hire a roofing company who offers their own workmanship warranty as well. This way, should any issues occur, you will be covered on both sides with installation and materials. Reputable contractors will generally offer a workmanship warranty that matches the length of the asphalt shingle warranty, usually about 25 years. If all three of your top choices offer the same warranty, it is often best to choose the roofing company who is closest to you. This is mainly because it will be easier for you to contact them, for any repairs that may be needed down the road.

Materials: Many roofing companies will not hand you an itemized estimate, don’t hesitate to ask for one. An itemized estimate will make it easier for you to understand exactly where your money is going, and what its being used for. When you receive a broken-down estimate, make sure that every material has been accounted for. These estimates should obviously include your chosen type of shingle, but they should also include any additional materials needed to complete the job, including any sealants, underlayment, or plywood. Occasionally, these contractors will leave things like plywood off of the estimate, as they only need to be replaced if they have begun to rot. The problem with that is, they will often discover that they do need to be replaced after the fact, and in turn will try to charge you an exorbitant fee for the add on. This is why its important to know of any potential addition costs, before you sign any contract. An itemized estimate will give you a far better idea of the actual cost of your shingle replacement, and it will also ensure that you are receiving the quality of materials that you were promised. Here’s an example, there are two main weights for felt underlay, 15 lb and 30lb. The 30lb will obviously be more expensive, as it has a greater thickness, though it will provide better protection, and may in fact be the best option for your home. So, although the price differential in the material section may differ greatly between one contractor and the other, it could be because they are installing a higher quality of material, not simply over charging you. Again, this is why it is so important to fully understand each portion of your estimate.

Labour: Receiving an itemized estimate will also help you to understand this section better as well. The section of your estimate relating to labour is very important. Most people assume that the cost of labour will be fairly similar across the board, this is false. The labour section is truly the make or break of your entire estimate, in our opinion at least. The majority of the time, a contractor who charges you more for labour will generally have more skilled tradespeople. Though most people tend to shy away from estimates with increased labour costs, it typically means that the roofing company is paying a higher wage, because their labourers are more experienced. And if you’re looking to receive an attractive and functional roof, you want experience tradespeople.

Incidentals: ‘Incidentals’ is an industry term used for additional services, such as clean-up and waste disposal. Of course, you don’t want to hire a contractor who doesn’t clean up after themselves, but you also don’t want a contractor who charges you at the last minute to perform these duties. If there is no section on any one of your estimates that refers to ‘incidentals’, do not hesitate to ask about it.

What to Ask Your Competing Contractors

Now that you have a better understanding of what you are comparing, as far as your estimate goes, you have probably made your final decision on which contractor to hire. Before you sign on the dotted line, there are a few questions that we recommend asking. Be sure to ask your favorite contractor the following questions:

What types of insurance do you possess? Any roofing company that you sing on with should have, at least, two forms of insurance. The number one insurance that all tradespeople must have is WSIB. This workers compensation insurance ensures that, should any worker get injured while on the job, the contractor is entirely responsible for their compensation, not the customer. The second insurance that all contractors should possess is liability insurance. Liability insurance is required to ensure that, should any damage be done to your home during your household renovation, it will be completely covered by the contractors’ insurance. Meaning no money will leave your pockets, to rectify the damage. If you choose a contractor without proof of this insurance, the cost to fix any damage that is done, accidental or otherwise, may rest on your shoulders alone.

Are you licensed? Don’t just ask if they have a license, ask to see it. Make sure that they are legally licensed to work in your province and that their licensing is completely up to date. If you choose a contractor who is not licensed for your particular area, they may not understand the building codes and there is a good chance that your roof will not be up to par with current building standards.

How long have you been in business? If a couple of your estimates are similar, and you are not sure who you should choose, this question is a good way to set them apart. If one of your contractors have been in business for 15 years or more, this is a decent indication that they do quality work. It is not easy for a smaller business to remain in this industry, especially if their jobs are sub par. Most established contractors that have been in operation for a while have most of their issues worked out and should know how to install a high-quality roofing system.

Will you obtain the necessary building permits? If the roofing contractor doesn’t mention anything about permits, make sure you ask. This should be included in the estimate, and if it isn’t, this should be considered a huge red flag. The reason why you want the contractor to obtain the permit is because, if they do a poor job any fines incurred, will be there responsibility in the end, not yours. If you, yourself, get the building permit, and your contractor mucks up the job and gives you a roof that isn’t to code, you will be responsible for paying all of the necessary fees and fines, not the ones actually responsible.

Will you remove my old roof? Though you may have already addressed this prior to getting an estimate, it is still an important question to ask. If your contractor is removing the old roof, be sure to ask how much that will cost you. While it may be more cost-effective to apply your new roof directly on top of the old one, this is often not the best choice. If your new materials get applied on top of your old ones, this will add additional weight to your roof, and may make any structural repairs difficult. If the boards on your rooftop happen to be rotting, there will be no way to know, until its too late to fix it simply. A good roofing contractor should have no problem with removing the old roof and replacing it with the new one.

Do you plan on hiring subcontractors to install my roof? Last but not least, it is important to find out who will be working on your roof. While using subcontractors isn’t necessarily the nail in the coffin, as far as your final decision goes, it doesn’t hurt to question their practises. The issue with subcontractors is this, for one, you can really control their actions, as they are a completely separate entity. Two, there is a good chance that the cost of your roof will be higher than necessary. With subcontractors, there is really no way to determine whether or not they are sufficiently licensed, insured, or possess the necessary permits. You will basically be paying your chosen contractor to find someone else to complete your re-roof, which you could have accomplished on your own, for a far lower price at that.

Though you will probably have a list of your own questions for the contractor, these are a few that absolutely need to be asked. Once all of your questions have been answered, it should be fairly simple for you to make an educated decision, on which contractor is right for you.

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