You’ve done your homework, chosen at least 3 roof contractors to come out and give you an estimate for a new roof or to repair your existing roof and now, you have all your estimates in hand and just need to make that final decision. If you’ve done this before, you may already know what to look at for but if you are a new homeowner or this is your first time going through the process, how do you evaluate these estimates and make the choice?
Cost Shouldn’t Be The Deciding Factor
Many people gravitate to the bottom line immediately upon receiving an estimate, and while cost is obviously an important factor, it should never be the main basis of comparison for roofing estimates. You get what you pay for in the roofing industry with quality being the driving factor in pricing. Look at the complete picture, what are you getting for your money? Is it worth a couple of hundred, even a few thousand bucks to use cheaper materials or labor who may not have expertise? Considering your roof protects the things you value most, we hope the answer NO!
Review The Estimates
Type of material quoted and it’s price
Especially when a contractor knows he is bidding against other roof contractors, reducing the bid by purchasing “cheaper” materials to bring down costs is a common tactic. You have to ask yourself, is it worth to pay less now for a cheaper roof that won’t last as long and will likely to need repairs in a few years or would you rather have a roof you know will stay strong for decades?
Cheap materials are cheap for a reason, they are weaker and don’t last as long as their more expensive counterparts. It’s your budget and your roof so it’s ultimately up to you but when it comes to roofing materials, avoiding the cheapest materials is a good rule of thumb. Get the best you can afford.
What type of insulation and sealants are budgeted?
Although the price gap between cheaper types of insulation isn’t large, the difference in quality can mean money in energy costs. Thinner insulation and sealants won’t keep the home insulated as well as thicker insulation. This translates in to increased energy costs that over time will likely exceed the initial costs of the better product.
Are they bidding on the correct amount of material?
No one would suggest you go up on the roof itself and make measurements to answer this question (much too dangerous!), but there is no reason for the roof contractor not to. If the estimate is provided prior to a roof contractor getting up on the roof to make measurements, be skeptical, ask them to justify their numbers. Compare the numbers to other estimates (especially those who actually made measurements) and note any discrepancies. You want to be sure you aren’t overpaying for someones guess or underpaying and ending up with additional costs when materials run out.
Labor and Incidental Costs
If labor and other incidental costs such as material delivery and such seem high, don’t be afraid to ask why! Training and retaining the higher qualified roofers and supervisors costs money, good roofing contractors will charge higher for labor to retain these people. In cases of smaller organizations and “one-man” operations having similar labor costs can mean larger profits with no increased value to the customer.
Inversely, if a roof contractor is quoting hundreds or thousands less in labor costs, be especially wary. These are the cases where “surprise costs” appear as the roofer was attempting to undercut the competition or worse, provides less than 100% because the budget was too low and they had to cut corners to make the price work. When it doubt, ASK!
Customer References and Online Reviews
Contact the references you are furnished with (the more the better!) but also do your research on the internet. Study the reviews provided on their website and third-party sites such as Yelp!, Angies List and GuildQuality. Take note of customer experiences and anything else you feel is pertinent.
You should be taking notes throughout this process. List any questions and responses from previous customers and have a summary of the bid overall. Once you’ve reviewed all the bids in this manner, it’s time to review your notes, compare the estimates and make your decision!