By Rob Hicken, Better Business Bureau
The National Weather Service reported wind speeds of around 50 mph in the Boise area and Mountain Home on March 17. In Magic Valley, they topped 60 mph. Those high winds caused widespread power outages, knocked down trees, toppled semitrailers, closed area ski lifts, and ripped on roofs. Hail, as large as quarters, blasted roofs in the Eagle, Meridian and Boise area.
Unfortunately, crises also bring out persons who choose to take advantage of the victims. Common “after-disaster” scams involve damage done to roofs.
Whether your roof got hit hard by the high winds or just needs to be replaced due to time, you need to take certain precautions when it comes to hiring a roofing contractor. In 2013, inquiries from consumers looking to find a roofer they could trust – was the top inquired industry in the BBB system.
Here are tips for homeowners:
Do your research. Check with your insurance company about policy coverage and specific filing requirements. Save all receipts if temporary roofing repairs are necessary.
Stay calm. Although you may be anxious to get things back to normal, avoid letting your emotions get the better of you. Don’t be pressured into making an immediate decision with a long-term impact. Be pro-active in selecting a company and not re-active to sales solicitations.
Shop around. For major repairs, take time to shop around and get 3-4 estimates based on the same specifications and materials. Check out references that are at least one-year-old, and verify that the contractor is required to be licensed and/or registered to do work in your area. Also, check with your local building inspector to see if a building permit is required.
Avoid high-pressure sales tactics. Be wary of door-to-door workers who claim to have leftover materials from a job “down the street” or who do not have a permanent place of business. If sales people go door-to-door, check to see if your community requires them to have solicitation permits.
Trust your gut. Be leery if a worker shows up on your doorstep to announce that your home is unsafe. If you are concerned about possible structural damage in your home, have an engineer, architect or building official inspect it. While most roofing contractors abide by the law, be careful allowing someone you do not know to inspect your roof. An unethical contractor may actually create damage to get work.
Get everything in writing. Require a written contract agreement with anyone you hire. Be sure their name, address, license number and phone number are included in the contract. Read and understand the contract in its entirety, don’t sign a blank contract, and make sure you get a copy of the signed contract at the time of signature.
Clearly written proposals that are detailed and broken down into separate line items are a good sign that the contractor is being thorough and has prepared an accurate estimate. The following is a partial list of items your estimate or proposal should include:
• The type of roof covering, manufacturer and color • Materials to be included in the work, e.g., underlayment, ice dam protection membrane
• Scope of work to be done
– Removal or replacement of existing roof
– Flashing work, e.g., existing flashings to be replaced or re-used, adding new flashing, flashing metal type
– Ventilation work, e.g., adding new vents
• Who is responsible for repairing/replacing exterior landscape or interior finishes that are damaged during the course of the work? Make sure that it contains language addressing who is responsible for any damage that occurs as a result of the work. All items of concern and work to be done should be included in the contract.
• Installation method
• Approximate starting and completion dates
• Payment procedures
• Length of warranty and what is covered, e.g., workmanship, water leakage
• Who will haul away the old roofing materials and/or project waste (e.g. extra materials, packaging, etc.)? Is there extra charge for this service?
If one estimate seems much lower than the others and it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Many fly-by-night contractors’ below-cost bids seem attractive, but these contractors often are uninsured and perform substandard work or use substandard materials. Make sure to read the fine print.
Some contracts use a clause where substantial cancellation fees or liquidation damages are required if the homeowner decides not to use the contractor after insurance approval of the claim. In some instances you may be required to pay the full-agreed price if the homeowner cancels after the 3-day cancellation period. If an estimate or contract is confusing, ask the contractor to break it down into items/terms you can understand.