5 Pre-contract Questions to Ask Your Roofing Contractor

Installing, repairing or replacing a roof on a commercial building located in a storm-prone area is challenging at best and can be financially ruinous at worst. High winds from tornadoes and hurricanes, batterings from hail storms, massive snowfall and frequent heavy rain deluges can all wreak havoc on the roof of any building – residential or commercial. However financial liabilities are much greater from roof damage to those building used for business and industry.

Because of these liabilities, it is extremely important for commercial property managers and building owners to carefully consider all of the ramifications of hiring a commercial roofing contractor. While it is tempting to hire the lowest bidder after making a cursory review of a roofing contractor’s estimate, this is a serious mistake. Shoddy work, water and mold damage to the building, expensive repairs and even lawsuits can result.

Before signing a contract with any commercial roofing contractor, there are at least five questions to ask. The answers to these questions will help to inform the building owners/managers on proper hiring procedure and prevent, or at least greatly reduce, the likelihood of a failed roof.

#1 Ask About the Basics

In a time when almost every business has an online trail, it is surprising that many building owners and managers fail to undertake the necessary due diligence when installing a new or replacing a commercial roof.

Dustin K.Haney, president and CEO of DK Haney Roofing, notes, “Every professional roofing contractor should be able to answer these basic questions affirmatively:

  • Are they licensed and bonded?
  • Can they show a federal tax identification number?
  • Do they have a permanent address?
  • Do they have an insurance certificate, and is their coverage for liability and worker’s comp current?

“Recently, the National Association of Roofing Contractors completed a study on roof failure. They found that the number one cause for this failure lies in the installation of the roof. We have worked hard to increase the professionalism of our team. We are more than just ‘roofers.’ We are skilled, qualified specialists in roofing installation. We have project managers on the job site to ensure that the crew is doing work correctly to the specifications of the products. Finally, we have an extensive post-installation inspection process. There’s a huge difference between our approach and having a group of untrained laborers putting a roof on!”

#2 What Materials Will be Used on the Job?

Storm prone areas present a special challenge for roofing materials. In many cases, a building owner will assume that his or her job is being completed with the appropriate roofing materials, when, in fact, it is not. When this happens, the roof and entire building are vulnerable. It is a case of the proverbial “accident waiting to happen.”

Without well-tested, quality roofing materials designed to withstand hail, high winds, rain and snow, no amount of good intentions or construction craftsmanship can overcome poor quality membranes and other materials. Quality roofing materials will also have extensive, detailed warranties that a building owner should ask to review before the contract is signed.

“We use the Duro-Last, single ply, PVC (Poly-vinyl chloride) roofing membrane,” said Haney. “It is ideal for any flat or low-sloped application. With an under-laminate material, such as one-inch IsoBoard or a one-half-inch HD (high-density) board or a DensDeck board, the roof will hold up against hail and rain better than any other roofing material.”

#3 What is the Safety Record of the Roofing Contractor?

According to the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety IBHS,  job site safety is among the most important aspects of selecting a reputable roofing contractor. The organization notes that contractors should have:

  • Verification of a designated qualified safety representative who is charged with the responsibility of safety management for the project and will be on site throughout the project.
  • Written safety plans for the work to be conducted, including compliance with all Occupational Safety & Health Administration OSHA requirements for roof work and fall protection.

“The on-the-job safety of our employees is paramount to us because they are our family,” Haney said. “We want them to come home every night. There are also legal ramifications for both the contractor and the building owner.

“Worker safety is also driving the trend in most states where all employees must be covered by the contractor’s worker’s comp policy. This is aggressively ‘policed’ by state and federal authorities. In some states (Texas is not included) if an employee is found to be uncovered, the owner of the roofing contractor can be arrested.

“Many commercial building owners are unaware that if a worker is injured on a job and the roofing contractor does not have a current worker’s comp policy, the contractor AND the building’s owner can be sued for damages to the worker.”

#4 Ask for a Statement of Work

A reputable commercial roofing contractor will insist on offering a detailed statement of work for every job undertaken. This protects both the building owner and the contractor. It also demonstrates that the contractor has a clear understanding of the purpose, services, scope and objectives of the roofing project. This article offers several important elements of this agreement:

  • Statement of Work, Legal Terms and Conditions
  • Project schedule to show the duration of major activities, critical elements and milestones necessary to complete the work.
  • Detailed manufacturer specifications of the roof cover system to be installed, including testing information or nationally-recognized approvals that the system may have received, such as from Miami-Dade, Florida Product Approvals, Texas Department of Insurance, UL and FM Approvals.
  • Site utilization diagram showing construction activities being contained within the property.
  • A plan for addressing quality control, methodology for coordination of materials delivery, temporary storage and installation.
  • A plan for bad weather that may alter the project schedule, along with an emergency plan for locations subject to severe weather during the installation period. This should include securing or removal of any loose materials on the site.

#5 Ask for and Review at Least Three References for Previous Roofing Jobs

Often, evaluation of business references can be tricky. For example, it is assumed that if a contractor offers the names and contacts of previous commercial roofing jobs, he is confident that the customers will offer positive comments about the work completed. There could be many reasons for this positive review of the previous work – some legitimate and some not.

While there is no harm in a building owner following up with the references offered by the roofing contractor, having some different, more probing questions might clarify the business relationship. For example:

  1. Were there any challenges on your job and, if so, what were they and how did the roofing contractor handle them?
  2. Was the work completed on schedule and on budget? If not, what were the reasons for this?
  3. Would you use this company for another roofing project? If not, why?

It is also a good idea to ask the roofing contractor to give you the addresses of four or five projects that they have completed in the area. After these are offered, follow up phone calls to the building management office with questions about the roofing job are appropriate.

Before the Storm Hits

“We are highly focused on prolonging the life cycle of a roof,” Haney said. “When this is done, the annual costs of maintaining a commercial roof can be lowered. As for managing the roof asset prior to a storm, it is important for a building owner to be proactive. They should never wait for a weather forecast to announce an impending storm before taking action.

“Long before the storm hits, there should have been a full inspection of the roof, with any minor maintenance completed – fasteners secured, caulking tight. When a storm is imminent, our customers are confident that they have done everything possible to have it secure and this work is documented on our web-based software.

“Even if there are major damages, we can pull up their warranty information, video of their roof showing its condition and EVERY detail about the history of that roof. This process expedites the repairs from any storm damage.”