Five Questions Roofing Contractors Do NOT Want you to Ask

Home Improvement Advice / How to Hire a Contractor

Adam Helfman

Adam Helfman

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Having to buy a new roof for your house is an expensive and anxious undertaking. You’re spending a lot of money in the “hope” your roof will never leak.

How many squares is my roof and how much waste will there be?  
A square is simply 100 square feet of shingles.  Shingles are usually purchased in this bulk, so if someone says your roof is “25 squares, it means that 2500 square feet of shingles are necessary to cover your roof.  However, if your house measures 25 squares, the contractor will need to order a little more to account for waste that occurs on every house.  Whenever you shingle a roof, there is some amount of square footage that is “wasted” to ensure clean lines and proper seams along the various edges of your home.  When the roofers order your shingles, they need to make sure they order enough to account for the custom features of your home.  Make the contractor show you exactly how your roof was measured and ask them what logic they use to estimate the amount of extra material they will need to order.

Are there any additional costs not included in this quote? 
In addition to the cost of labor and roofing material, you need to make sure that there will not be any “surprises” at the end of the project.  Additional costs may include added labor to remove existing layers of shingles, labor and plywood costs to replace rotted understructure, replacing skylights, custom trim and/or flashing work and removal of debris.  If there are some items that the contractor cannot determine beforehand, make sure you know what the prices will be.  For example, if they determine that you will need additional plywood under the shingles only after the existing shingles are removed, make sure you know the labor and material cost per sheet BEFORE you sign a contract.

Are you going to pull a permit? 
There are numerous reasons why the contractor needs to pull a permit for your new roof BEFORE they start.  First of all, it is generally ILLEGAL in most municipalities to install a new roof without pulling a permit.  If it isn’t done, guess who is responsible? That’s right – you, the homeowner; not the contractor.  Only the shadiest of contractors will offer to install your roof without pulling a permit.  If they do not want to pull a permit – RUN, DO NOT WALK away from any agreement.

If my roof leaks after you’re done (even a few years from now), what are you going to do about it?
It happens.  Even with the best roofers and best products.  Make sure the contractor CLEARLY spells out how these issues are handled, what is warranted and for how long.  If you roof leaks 1 day, 1 month, 1 year or 5 years after it was installed, who do you call and what type of response can you expect to receive? This should be spelled out in any agreement along with all product guarantees.  You also need to understand what is NOT covered and why.  For this reason, it is always important to select a contractor that has been in business for at least 5 years – you want to make sure they will be there when you need a problem solved.

What is being done to prevent ice dams?
Ice dams can be a major reason for roofing damage and catastrophic leaks that will ruin not only your existing roof, but may cause leaking and mold problems once spring arrives.  Ice dams can be minimized through proper attic ventilation and insulation, ice and water shields for a minimum of 6 feet, properly attached gutters and downspouts and more.  Many roofing contractors also offer service during the winter to help clear the snow off of your roof to reduce the ice damming problem.  If they offer such a service, it may very well be worth a small investment.

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