January 31, 2019

Bad Roofing Contractors & How to Spot Red Flags

A bad roofing contractor for your job can leave you out in the rain, literally. Learn how to spot red flags and find the best contractors.

Time to read:
4 Minutes
Written by
Nicholas Capobianco

It’s common to feel apprehensive when looking for contractors to perform any kind of work. Many people find themselves in a position where they need to put faith in a stranger. This is difficult—even with those who come highly recommended! And considering roof replacements aren’t a regular thing, you probably don’t have a “roof person,” unless you’re a real estate mogul and own several properties.

roofing red flags measuring wood

Hiring bad contractors can lead to a myriad of issues, so proper vetting is an absolute necessity for such a job. We’re going to look at risks associated with hiring the wrong people for the job as well as identify red flags that will tell you when to look elsewhere.

What’s the real risk of bad contractors?

Hiring a good contractor is critical in receiving the best quality work for your home. Sure, you need proper wiring to run devices and doors for privacy, but a roof is what truly makes a place a shelter.

One of the most important elements of a good contractor is that they have verifiable credentials—for example, valid insurance is one area in which the decision is black and white. If there’s accidental damage to your home or an employee is injured, the matter can become ugly without insurance.

roofing red flags banana peel

Another issue is with the matter of bonding, which many conflate with insurance. Bonding is a kind of insurance that falls outside of liability —it ensures the contractor meets obligations and completes the work. It functions as a kind of escrow that’s held by a surety company which allows you to recoup costs in case of shoddy work, per the terms of the contract.

Ultimately, the biggest issue with hiring bad contractors is that it could result in a financial disaster. Even though you pay more for quality home repair work, it’s worth every penny. A great deal isn’t always a great deal in the long run!

Roofing horror stories

A poorly executed roof install or repair can be anywhere from unsightly to dangerous—an incomplete job can render a home unlivable. This is where some detective work will pay off in the long run.

contractor red flags shingles

It’s not uncommon to hear about the horrors of a job gone wrong as plenty of people are more than willing to discuss their roofing tragedies. Some people have experienced total failure, like the story of the missing roof right before a storm, or severe mold problems from bad work.

There are times when dishonest contractors will upsell horrible materials, costing you more, and pocketing the rest. Finances aside, it’s not exactly fun to replace something that you JUST paid for. A poorly done job without the right safety nets can result in unfinished work, or work that’s so terrible it needs to be redone.

Trying to cut costs can mean cutting corners; this ends up being more expensive in the long run. A professional roofing contractor can save you from having to pick up the pieces (literally and figuratively) after a run-in with an unqualified individual.

A few Reddit users offer wisdom about hiring a contractor who’s inexpensive and unskilled, stating that poor quality means more costs in the future. Sometimes the cheapest price tag may be the worst deal.

Members of the professional roofing community have a saying that sums this scenario up perfectly:

“If you think it’s expensive to hire a good roofing contractor, try hiring a bad one.”

Contractor red flags: what to look for and what to do about it.

Doing your homework before picking out a contractor can save you money and prevent the trauma that comes along with a roofing horror story. There are some specific things you should look at when choosing a contractor.

First, look through the company’s portfolio or online presence. If they don’t have a website, social media, or somewhere you can see examples of their finished projects, this can be a problem. It could simply be that they’ve avoided joining the online community. Or, it could be because they lack pride in their work, or they lack the experience, both of which are telltale signs of a bad contractor. If you can’t find any online evidence of past jobs, ask for references from previous customers. I you run into a barrier here, look elsewhere.

You won’t always see quality issues in a company portfolio, but if you do, this indicates that their main concern is cashing checks. Pictures containing misaligned or damaged portions of a roof that were recently installed and clearly visible from a photo should be a major deterrent.

roofing red flags rooftop man shadow

Testimonials and reviews from previous customers should be considered as you attempt to validate the quality of the contractor’s work. Some companies will pay for fake reviews or social media engagement—keep this in mind when you see a company always receiving “5 out of 5 stars” from every customer. Sometimes a bad review can be the result of an accident, so try to see if the contractor made an effort to correct the problem.

When you begin the communication process, some behavioral signs are often indicative of a bad contractor. Follow-ups throughout a quote process are standard, but beware of high-pressure situations. There are times when companies genuinely want to help you, but it’s always a good idea to do your homework before committing too quickly.

When you’ve located a prospect, make sure to verify their insurance and bond information. In certain areas, they’ll also need to have a valid roofing license and be registered as a business with the state or local government. It’s also a good idea to check for ethical practices, including safety compensation and workers’ compensation. A company that protects its employees will likely show the same deference to their customers. We can’t stress enough that companies lacking in most or all off these pose a substantial risk. Make sure that the proper precautions and licenses are in place before you move forward.

A good roofer will stay in touch. Understand that there are unforeseeable circumstances that can delay the process, such as an underlying issue that wasn’t apparent until the old roof is moved, so delays themselves are not necessarily a red flag. Bad communication is. A reputable contractor will communicate with you throughout the ordeal, especially when obstacles present themselves.

If time starts to exceed the promised delivery time or you see shoddy quality, try to open up the communication channel yourself. If this fails, prepare yourself to reach out to the bonding agency.

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