Doing your initial homework online and finding several qualified roofing contractors and obtaining estimates from them is simple. Making that final decision on who to go with may not always be so. Asking for detailed estimates so that you have all the information available to make a decision can help make this process less painful.
Along with the estimate, you should receive a list of previous customers you can contact as referrals for the contractor, the more of these available the better. Contact these people before reviewing the estimate, taking note of each experience to be reviewed along with the estimate.
Many people gravitate to the bottom line immediately upon receiving an estimate, and while cost is an important factor, it should never be the basis of comparison for roofing estimates alone. Look at the complete picture, what are you getting for your money? Is it worth a couple of hundred, even a thousand bucks to use cheaper materials or labor who may not have expertise?
Review the estimate carefully, specifically:
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 roof that won’t last as long or should you pay now to avoid the hassle for a few extra years (even decades)?
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. 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, but there is no reason for the contractor not to. If the estimate is provided prior to a roof contractor getting up on the roof to make measurements, ask them to justify their numbers. Compare the numbers to other estimates (especially those who 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 a bit 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.
Customer References and Online Reviews
Contact the references you are furnished with (the more the better!) but also do your research on the internet and study the reviews provided on their website and third-party sites such as Yelp! and Angies List, taking note of customer experiences and anything else you feel is pertinent.
You should be taking notes throughout this process, listing any questions and responses from previous customers as well as having a summary of the bid overall. Once you’ve reviewed all the bids in this manner, it’s time to review your notes and compare the estimates!