Is there such a thing as a reputable roofing contractor? In an industry with a terrible reputation, you would be forgiven for thinking not. So, just how do you go about finding a contractor who is a good fit for the work you intend to carry out? In a world where vast amounts of information are at our fingertips, it should be relatively easy. But not all the information you come across is trustworthy, and these guidelines are aimed at making you think before you make your final decision. This, in turn, should help minimise the risk of hiring someone you might later wish you had never clapped eyes on!
So many people underestimate the importance of choosing a reputable roofing contractor. Focusing on price as the first priority and giving little thought to other important aspects of the work, let alone the things that can and do go wrong! However, when choosing a contractor, it really pays to take your time and consider your choice very carefully.
Employing a good contractor in terms of knowledge, reliability, and workmanship will greatly reduce the potential for problems in the future and should there be any, it will be a whole lot easier to get these rectified.
But before we begin, something worth considering upfront…
Oh yes — we all like something for free! And most of us expect to receive a quotation free of charge. Indeed, most contractors offer this service at no cost to the consumer. And of course, so they should!
As a consumer, we wouldn’t expect to pay for a quotation for work to be carried out on our property. But should we? Whilst a quotation may have been ‘free’ for you to obtain from a contractor it is worth remembering that it wasn’t ‘free’ for them to produce this for you. So please bear in mind the time and effort your very often ‘technologically challenged’ roofing contractor has put in in order to produce this for you. Still think you are entitled to this service free of charge? Then add up in hours the time he/she has spent talking to you, travelling to see you, giving you their very knowledgeable advice whilst at your property, travelling back to their place of work, gathering costs, producing the quotation (very often with two fingers on an iPad as working a computer is not their strongest point)!
So please — when they call you to discuss the quotation with you afterwards … we’re sure you know where we’re coming from, and we are also sure you are not one of those people who rudely can’t get them off the phone fast enough — or worse, doesn’t answer the phone or return their calls at all!
Some honest feedback is all they are asking for. In exchange for the time spent producing your quotation, it really isn’t a lot to ask for, is it?
If you`re purchasing a property and something has come to light in the survey, many contractors will charge for their advice. This is largely down to the fact there is little chance of them winning any work, with any quotation provided simply being used as leverage to reduce the sale price of the property in question. Many contractors, therefore, reserve the right to charge for this service, but some may offer you your fee back should you go ahead and contract them to carry out the work at a later date. So, anyone with genuine intentions shouldn’t be afraid to ask this question.
In today’s modern world it’s not hard to find the good, the bad and the ugly about any company courtesy of good old Google (other search engines are available)!
Start by taking an objective look at their website. Don’t be taken in by a pretty, nicely designed site with no substance. Be equally wary of those that don’t seem to care much about how they appear to the general public. Good contractors will be proud of their work and will feature their own (sometimes not very professionally taken) photographs of their work, along with case studies of projects they have carried out. Sites that make continual use of ‘stock photography’ clearly don’t have much to say about their own work.
If a contractor you are interested in claims to be a member of certain associations such as the National Federation of Roofing Contractors (NFRC) or Which? Trusted Traders, then check for yourself that this is the case. It is not unheard of for unscrupulous traders to feature logos they have simply pulled off the Internet. Any reputable organisation such as the NFRC have their members listed online.
Check out what previous customers are saying about them. Take a look at genuine review sites such as Which? Trusted Traders. Where you cannot expect every single reviewer to be a ‘RAVING FAN’ you will get a good feel for what previous customers think of them, their staff and their work ethic. Such sites are not easy to put bogus reviews on whilst the reviews on Google and Facebook may be peppered with comments from disgruntled ex-employees.
Pay particular attention to how the company or contractor in question has dealt with negative reviews and comments. Have they just ignored them or worse, been overly aggressive in their response? If so, this is likely how they will behave should you too have an issue!
Most of us have friends, family or neighbours or ‘friends’ on social media sites. Ask around and see if anyone has had any work done recently or knows of anyone who has had any good or bad experiences.
If this proves fruitless then contact relevant trade associations and ask if they know of reputable roofing contractors in your area who have experience in the type of work you are after. But remember that not all associations are reputable. Look for those with strict joining criteria, codes of conduct and ones which carry out strict vetting procedures. There are lots of sites online which mascaraed as ‘associations’ and try to entice you to register with them in exchange for them organising several ‘FREE QUOTES’ on your behalf. But very few check out the contractors that are affiliated to them and it is certainly worth remembering that most will register anyone as long as they are willing to cough up the required fee!
Any reputable roofing contractor will be proud of the work they have carried out and will certainly have customers who are ‘ambassadors’ of the business they can put you in touch with for genuine feedback. Ask them about similar work they may have carried out that you can view. Check out any references you are given and make sure that it was your contractor who actually carried out the work. We wouldn’t like to think that a contractor would pass off other people’s work as their own but unfortunately, it does happen.
Whilst most contractors will offer a guarantee of some description, not all guarantees are there same! Most will offer a 12-month guarantee on minor works and this will most likely be with the contractor themselves. Whilst this is perfectly adequate, it is still worth considering an established contractor, preferably with premises you can visit. If things do go wrong, you should then be able to easily contact them. Remember — mobile telephone numbers are easily changed leaving you with no way to contact them should you not know where they reside.
For larger substantial works you should certainly be looking for a 10-year, insurance backed guarantee. Contractors can, and do, go out of business on a regular basis and their own guarantee then becomes absolutely worthless. Having an insurance backed guarantee will ensure you have peace of mind and someone to approach should you have a problem in the future and find yourself unable to contact the contractor that originally carried out your work. They will then ensure that any issue you may have is addressed.
Where it is highly advisable to obtain a few quotations, it can sometimes be difficult to compare ‘like for like’.
Always obtain a proposal in writing detailing the works and safety procedures to be used (such as scaffolding) and base your choice of contractor on the quality of advice given and your confidence in them.
Check that they are working to the correct standards (e.g. BS5534 for roofing).
Check the quotations carefully, try to compare like for like (check out our blog post here on comparing ‘Apples with Apples’) and examine what the contractor is providing for in the price. Never assume that ‘cheapest is best’. This is never the case. Good contractors who refuse to cut corners will seldom be able to compete with those that do! Contractors offering cash / VAT free / BUY NOW! deals are not easily tracked down if things go wrong. Reputable roofing contractors will rarely offer this type of ‘incentive’ to win your business.
It might sound obvious but ensure you know before accepting a quotation just what your contractor expects of you where payment is concerned.
Contractors will undoubtedly want stage payments whilst work is progressing so ensure you are fully aware of their expectations in advance.
Trust is a two-way street and not abiding by their terms of payment will undoubtedly cause bad feelings. Relationships can turn sour pretty quickly once you find yourself in this situation.
Never make large upfront payments unless covered by an insurance backed deposit protection scheme and never, ever speak to a contractor about paying them in cash! Letting people know you have cash lying around leaves you vulnerable to unscrupulous individuals.
Remember that you, as the homeowner, are responsible for any planning permission required for works on your property — not your contractor! Whilst contractors will usually be very willing to give advice if you are thinking about carrying out any work it is up to you to ensure you have the relevant permissions to do the work.
Any new roof needs to comply with Part L of the Building Regulations and any contractor you approach should tell you this and explain how they are going to deal with this for you. Or indeed, ‘if’ they are going to deal with this for you.
Although Part L of the building regulations has been around for some time, few homeowners are aware of how they must comply. The regulation covers the conservation of fuel and power and exists to enforce minimum standards of energy efficiency in roofs.
Homeowners should ensure that any re-roof / new roof complies with Part L. Many contractors are able to ‘self-certify’ this element of the work and will register your project with your local council. Others may leave it to you to inform your local authority that you intend to carry out re-roofing works. Others might just turn a blind eye, providing a cheaper quotation on works that do not comply, in order to win your business.
This can be confusing for homeowners and if not dealt with correctly, could lead to problems with the Local Authority Building Control during the work or at a later date when you come to sell your home in years to come.
Whichever contractor you invite into your home, ensure that they are aware of the correct British Standards they should be working to. Don’t be fobbed off by them telling you that they DO work to British Standards if they are not prepared to state the standard they work to!
Remember that any work which is not carried out to the correct British Standards will not be guaranteed and if your contractor is providing you with an insurance backed guarantee, but not working to British Standards, it probably isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.