A Consumer Alert
With the regular hailstorms we get here and the resultant feeding frenzy of professional “storm chasers” and little roofing companies that spring up and go in and out of business with every storm, it’s wise to be a little skeptical.About half the roofing companies listed in the Qwest Yellow Pages go out of business every 5 years! If your prospective roofer isn’t even listed in the Yellow Pages, that’s a big red flag! Typically as many as 2 out of 3 of the roofs are done by “storm chasers” and little “here today, gone tomorrow” roofers. (See our section on workmanship warranty.)Every major hailstorm I receive many calls from frustrated homeowners trying to get service for roof repairs. If the homeowner has a small project or leak repair, most roofing contractors are just too busy to even return calls. Under these conditions, how is the homeowner to know if they’ve received a professional bid from a reputable company? As a Colorado native and long-time roofing contractor, I would like to offer some inside information and suggest some strategies for the homeowner to get good service under these extreme market conditions.First, if your roof isn’t leaking or you don’t have another urgent need, just put off even getting bids until at least late winter. Watch the neighbors’ roofs. How long did their job take? What was the crew like? Were there any problems? Were the problems taken care of? The “storm chasers” that come in from out of state (and the poor quality local companies) will usually tarnish their referral base in a few months.Ask, and most insurance companies will extend the time allowed to have your roof completed another 180 days. Besides, by late winter, the contractor has had a little time off, and could be running low on scheduled jobs. In a slow year, roofers could be competing over your project!If you have a small, partial or urgent job, call several ads from your small area phone book, look for addresses or phone prefixes close by. It is smart to keep an old phone book around to see who’s been in business more than a few years. The turnover in roofing companies along the Front Range is amazing, and “storm chasers” just get slicker. Some have local phone numbers that call forward to an out-of-state location or they may come in and buy a small company. They’ll import transient workers and aggressive salesmen, and can do your roof right away. I would actually be very suspicious of a company that could do your roof right away. Most local, reputable, well-established roofing companies book up pretty quickly.The Better Business Bureau can tell you if a contractor is flagrantly bad, but can’t always tell you that someone is good. There are several well-known roofers that may have problems, but still manage to satisfy those who do actually complain to the BBB and so keep the appearance of a quality company. However, it’s still important to check your prospective roofer’s reliability report with the Better Business Bureau’s free automated service line (303-758-2100) or access their website (www.denver.bbb.org) 24 hours a day. Call your local building department and ask if a contractor is licensed and in good standing. Listen carefully, they have to be very tactful and diplomatic, but talk with them a while, and you should get some good information.Unless you’ve done your homework up-front, get two or three bids to compare with your insurance evaluation. (Sometimes insurance companies make mistakes.) If there is a consensus as to what needs to be done, and prices are essentially in line, you know you’ve found the market. If not, get three more bids until you do. Frankly, because of the regular hail we get here, insurance companies quite naturally “standardize” pricing. Every roofing contractor that knows what they’re doing, knows what insurance companies allow. We measure your roof by the square (10’x10’), plug in a unit and pricing formula and should all arrive at a similar price. The big differences are quality of materials and quality of workmanship.Unless you’re qualified to evaluate roofing work, just because a roofer has a lot of yard signs around the neighborhood doesn’t mean they do good work! As a matter of fact, some of these roofers won’t even be in business a year later! It’s just advertising.Insist on references and actually call or spot check some; it’s reassuring, but not necessarily enough that you just have a reference list. Every roofer has a dozen friends and relatives that will give them a glowing referral. Just because a roofer advertises they’ve been in business 20 some years, don’t necessarily believe them. They should certainly be listed in a 5-year-old phone book, or have many old, local references, don’t you think? 20 years experience may sound reassuring, but it’s nowhere near the same as 20 years as the same business!Make sure you purchase a quality shingle that’s manufactured for our colder climate. Many of my competitors’ bids simply state “install asphalt fiberglass shingles . . . but which brand? The one on sale? Factory seconds? One manufactured in another climate that has up to an 80-degree thermal-sealing requirement? If that shingle is installed in the winter here in Colorado, if there’s a little wind during installation, and dust gets under that self-seal strip, the roof may never be right; years of constant wind damage.In summary, be patient; watch neighbors’ roofs being done; insist on a truly local, well established, professional roofing contractor; buy a quality product, manufactured for our climate, and you’ll solve the biggest potential problems regarding roofing in Colorado.