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5 Mistakes to Avoid when Hiring an Atlanta Roofing Contractor...and Some Solutions

Aug 17, 2007
No matter what stage you're in (preventative, repair, replacement, etc), you need to be working with an honest, reliable partner. Because roofing work can be an infrequent occurrence, a lot of folks use a roofer one year, then forget about them and pick up with someone else down the road.

Unfortunately, the state of Georgia doesn't have any regulations or minimum licensing requirements in the roofing industry so many unscrupulous "roofers" benefit. And there are lots of them. The truth of the matter is that if you have a hammer, a nail and some shingles you can call yourself a roofer. While there are quality roofing contractors out there, the bad apples outnumber the good ones and it's easy to be stung.

It's for this reason that I offer some thoughts on hiring a quality roofing partner here in metro Atlanta. This is taken from my 25+ years in this industry. Learn from the many that have traveled this path before you. Avoid these mistakes and you'll save yourself plenty of time, money and headaches-

1. Hiring a roofer that has poor/limited qualifications and experience.

Sadly, I see this all the time. And the state doesn't make it any easier.

Still, I'm amazed at the way people make decisions on roofers: friends, family, a guy with a truck and a business card; making a decision based on "instinct" then that "instinct" turning out to be a little "off". The problem is that in a lot of cases, these roofers are also part-time electricians or weekend handymen. That's nothing against them but they just can't be committed to your best interests if they're engaging in other lines of work. You need to find a roofing contractor who is knowledgeable.

To be a quality roofer, you need experience and focus in this area. As in other industries, there's a lot of news and information (products, techniques, etc) that needs to be followed. If you're not "in the business", then the work inevitably suffers at some point--whether it be immediate with the roof application or down the line when inattention to details make early repairs necessary. Businesses pay for a $7k roof, it rains and the roof leaks, then when the contractor is found doing plumbing work. Believe it, it happens.

So what's the solution? The first thing is that you need to check some references. If they don't have any, then this should be a big red flag. For the ones they have, ask the references some probing questions rather than going with a guided phone call. Sometimes they'll turn out to be more candid than their roofer might have wanted.

The second thing is to ask a lot of questions of the roofing contractor to determine the extent of their knowledge. You don't have to know a lot about roofing to ask good questions. In fact, ask the same types of questions you might ask your mechanic. Here are some--

-How long have you been in the roofing business?
-Is this your sole profession?
-What is the condition of the roof?
-What work, if any, needs to be done?
-How soon?
-Have you done this work before? Can you give some examples?
-Are there any options?
-What materials do you suggest using and why?

2. Hire based on price.

Do you remember the old Fram filter television commercial? A mechanic shows the grunge and grime inside an engine when the oil is not clean. He goes back into the filling station office, slams a cash register door shut and matter-of-factly says, "you can pay me now or pay me later".

Well, that couldn't be more true than in the roofing business. Poor roofers will ask for less money and use inferior materials, shortchange surface preparation, and spend less time on the job which results in a problem for you down the road. Sometimes the problem of managing the contractor is more immediate. They sometimes work for so little they can barely support their family. And they can bring baggage to your project that you will not want.

We all fall into the trap of looking for bargains and there's nothing wrong with that. But do a little research on materials, its pricing, and some fair price ranges on the scope of work. In the end, find a roofer that's fair in their workmanship and price and you'll find a roofer for life.

3. Accept a verbal proposal.

This is a source of a lot of problems in this industry. A roofer promises this or that, then over time something else is produced. It all comes back to the importance of a written commitment in the beginning of the relationship. You don't want to hear a month into the project that "we didn't say we would do the flanges at that price".

I've seen and heard enough of these stories to strongly encourage you to get something in writing with enough detail to mean something. An agreement/contract/ signed proposal needs to have a scope of work, schedule, project cost, materials to be used, payment terms, estimated project completion date, a non-disclosure agreement and a cancellation policy. You might also want to ask the roofer to explain and document the project process that might include the cleanup process.

4. Unrealistic expectations.

Ok, now I just suggested that you get something in writing to set the expectations up front. And that's important. But the truth of the matter is that contracts don't prevent all problems. They help, but unreasonable people (on either side) can ignore them. This is why it's important to find a reasonable roofer contractor (see #1 above).

But realize too that there are some things that are out of the control of even high-quality roofers. Weather delays, mechanical problems, Atlanta traffic gridlocks, and even employees that quit. Try as they might, contractors cannot be perfect. Problems happen. It's how the contractor responds to it that tells the tale--it's not okay if the contractor can't work out the issues to your satisfaction.

Most roofers (I know we do) try to keep our work areas clean. But believe it or not, it's sometimes efficient to leave things laying where they'll next be used. Give some leeway on this for the limited period of the job. The project will be more efficient and you'll be free of stress.

5. Plan as much as you can.

I know...planning. I probably should have listed this first. The problem is that oftentimes owners and managers don't know if they even have a problem...much less a need to plan anything for!

That's understandable. But when you do realize a need for a roofing project or roofing partner, like anything else, planning is most important. Once the problem or need is identified, determine what you want done with some specifics. If you can sketch out a project scope on your own, more power to you. I suggest an initial sketch, then finding someone you can trust to finish the vision.
About the Author
Duane Righter is the owner of KnightRighter Enterprises, a commercial and residential roofing company out of Marietta, GA. His company is an exclusive dealer of Sarnafil and Duradek in the Atlanta area.

Learn more about KnightRighter and its roofing solutions here at
http://www.knightrighter.net
.
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