9 questions to ask a roofer and the answers they should give you

Image source: A Home Pro

Jack Wisniewski

By Jack Wisniewski

January 28, 2021, updated August 13, 2021

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With typical roof replacement costs in the thousands, we wouldn't blame you for expecting a roofing contractor to get the job done right – no questions asked.

Unfortunately, incorrect or incomplete installations and even full-blown scams are not uncommon in the roofing industry. The Better Business Bureau received over 10,000 complaints and 49 scam reports across the United States involving roofing contractors in 2020 alone.

Knowing that homeowners face the potential time-consuming, financial, and mental burden of employing the wrong roofer, we set out to help you hire the right one.

A significant phase of the vetting process entails asking the important questions and gauging their responses.

As your luck may have it, we listed 9 simple questions to ask prospective roofers.

By comparing real responses with the ideal answers we provide, you can quickly root out the unfavorable options to work with preferred contractors.

On this page

1. What is your legal business name, address, and phone number?

Ideal answer: A straightforward answer with a local address and a working phone number.

Example: "Our legal business name is Roofing Experts LLC. We're located at 123 Cedar Street, Springfield, Illinois. Our phone number is 417-123-4567."

This three-pronged question aims to tell you whether they're a legitimate contractor that operates locally.

Why do we recommend hiring local? Local businesses have a vested interest in delivering quality service to their clientele – all of whom are local. After all, their ability to acquire new business heavily depends on maintaining a positive reputation.

Strictly hiring local also protects you from fly-by-night roofers. These opportunistic "contractors" tend to frequent storm-ravaged areas, where demand for roofing services is reliably high. Fly-by-night roofers tend to fleece homeowners and skip town, potentially without performing any work.

By asking for their legal name and physical address, you can easily verify their local presence by searching for them in your state's business entity database. A working phone number further substantiates their legitimacy.

Beware of contractors who sound hesitant or provide a PO box. If they can't provide an address, we recommend looking elsewhere.

Find a reputable contractor near you.

2. Are you licensed?

Ideal answer: Yes (in most states.)

Most states and some cities require roofing contractors to maintain licenses.

Qualifications to earn a license vary by jurisdiction. Usually, roofers must prove their experience or demonstrate knowledge in procedures and codes – crucial assets of a quality contractor.

Some licenses require general liability and workers' compensation insurance (more on that in the next question).

A licensed roofer should have no issue showing you their documentation, so don't be afraid to ask for proof when in doubt. In states that host public licensing databases for contractors, you can verify their credentials.

3. How much workers’ compensation and general liability insurance coverage do you have?

Ideal answer: Two dollar amounts, one for workers' compensation and one for general liability insurance, that equal or exceed state requirements.

The primary risk of hiring a contractor without insurance involves your state holding you liable for any injuries or damages that occur on the job.

As unlikely as we think they may be, mistakes happen. Mistakes cost money and potentially lives when it comes to roofing, the fourth most fatal profession in the United States.

Contractors with workers' compensation and general liability insurance protect you from bearing the brunt of these costs.

Workers' compensation, also called workman's compensation and workman's comp, covers the medical bills of injured employees on the job.

General liability insurance covers any damages incurred to property during the job. This includes both damages to your property and others.

In states that don't require insurance, contractors may forgo the expense to reduce overhead.

Uninsured contractors can offer more affordable prices for customers. However, they increase homeowner risk drastically just for a run-of-the-mill roofing job.

Why ask how much insurance they carry? It takes no effort to reply, "yes, we have insurance." Therefore, we suggest asking for a particular number amount, which requires more thought off the cuff.

Hesitant answers or amounts that don't match state requirements point towards a red flag. If they have insurance, we recommend getting their policy in writing to ensure it meets state standards.

4. What is your workmanship warranty?

Ideal answer: A specific length of time.

You expect any new purchase to last for its prescribed lifetime, but premature roof failure isn't unheard of.

A warranty covers your costs in such an event. Unfortunately, roof warranties are often less than straightforward. They consist of two independent components: manufacturer warranties and workmanship warranties.

Your contractor comes into play with the workmanship warranty, which they may offer to cover faulty installation – the main reason roofs fail.

In some cases, manufacturers will throw in a workmanship warranty when hiring contractors certified in installing their products. A contractor with exceptional experience and competence with installing a particular shingle, on the other hand, may provide a generous workmanship warranty of their own to gain your business.

At the end of the day, there is no standard workmanship warranty, which is why you should ask for details in writing beforehand and compare between candidates.

5. Who will be at the job site during the roof installation?

Contractor speaking to a couple about their home

Image source: Freedom Mentor

Ideal answer: The owner or a trained project manager.

A contractor may simply answer that their talented crew will take care of the job.

While an experienced team inspires confidence, this should only comprise part of their response.

Roofers should have a qualified manager preside over the project to ensure the installation meets legal and manufacturer standards.

From decking to underlayment to drip edge to flashing to shingles, roofing is complicated. One minor misstep can result in a dysfunctional roof and more costly problems down the road.

6. Will you remove my old roof?

Contractor removing old shingles off a roof

Image source: Koala T Exteriors

Ideal answer: Yes.

While you can install new shingles over the old in what roofers call a "layover" job, it is almost always preferred to opt for a full roof replacement.

You can never know what lurks underneath your shingles, where your underlayment and decking may show signs of damage that demand prompt repair.

Some contractors like layovers because they eliminate the removal, dumping, and repair phases of a re-roofing job.

Given the risks inherent in layovers, however, we suggest staying away from contractors recommending them without assessing the condition of your roof.

7. How will you dump my old roofing material?

Contractor removing an old roof and tossing it into a dumpster

Image source: Equipter

Ideal answer: We provide a waste container.

Roofing contractors should provide a dumpster for waste created on the job. Avoid contractors that leave this essential logistic aspect to you.

If applicable, you may also want to ensure your contractor takes precautions to prevent driveway damage.

Leaving the dumpster in the roadway, or adding plywood boards beneath the container, for instance, help distribute the weight more evenly over the surface to prevent asphalt or masonry from cracking.

8. How will you protect my property from damage?

Ideal answer: Specific steps they will take to protect your property.

Although the action happens on your roof, the house surroundings remain at risk for damage during the job.

Leaning a ladder along the side of the house, for example, can damage gutters. Tossing refuse off the roof can mangle delicate landscaping. Parking a truck or other heavy equipment on the driveway can leave a lasting impression, and not the good kind.

Old roof shingles thrown onto a blue tarp

Image source: IKO

Even if they carry the insurance to cover damage, you still expect contractors to exercise care when working around your home. This includes using ladder stabilizers or standoffs, covering adjacent landscaping, and positioning heavy equipment on solid ground.

How long have you been in business?

Ideal answer: 10+ years.

You should team up with a well-established business for two reasons.

First, a veteran contractor has likely seen everything, which should equip them to handle whatever your roofing project entails.

Second, a 10-year-plus track record suggests they run a successful business, ideally by performing exceptional, lasting work.

That's not to say past outcomes dictate the future or that you should exclude newcomers, especially those with impressive qualifications.

However, time in the game arguably amounts to a solid metric for judging roofers.

Protect yourself by asking roofing contractors these 9 straightforward questions

New roof on a residential home

Image source: Spokane Roofing Company

These questions don't put up much of a challenge, yet their answers help paint a clear picture of potential roofing contractors.

Bear in mind that our list doesn't include other critical elements you could ask about like costs for plywood decking and whether they employ subcontractors. However, we believe a roofer who provides ideal responses for these 9 questions likely shows the professionalism, competence, and ethics to deliver quality service.

Once you screen at least three companies that meet your expectations, feel free to verify their reputation with our company reviews.

Get an estimate for a new roof in minutes with our roofing calculator.

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