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Your Essential Checklist When Hiring a Roofing Contractor

roofing contractor

As a seasoned roofing contractor in Southwest Michigan, I can tell you that maintaining the health of your home’s crown – your roof – isn’t a job for amateurs. I’ve seen everything from minor leaks to major roof collapses, and I’ve found that a competent roofing contractor can make all the difference. Here’s a checklist to help you navigate the process of hiring one.

Understand Your Roofing Needs

Assess Your Current Roof Condition

Before you call a contractor, get an idea of your roof’s current state. Look for signs of damage such as missing shingles, water stains on your ceiling, or moss and algae growth. Not everyone is comfortable climbing up on their roof – I remember a job back in 2018 when the homeowner, Mr. lets say X, insisted on climbing up to take a look and almost fell off, it was one of the scariest moments of my life. If you’re unsure, don’t hesitate to call a professional we have the tools and experience to safely complete this process.

Identify Your Roofing Requirements

Ask yourself, do you need a complete replacement, or can you get by with a few repairs? Is energy efficiency a priority, or are aesthetics more important?  Are there other factors that will go into your decision about hiring a roofing contractor such as do you also need gutters, maybe want a custom skylight installed that didn’t exist before, etc.  These items are very important so that you can find a company that performs the scope of work you need done and not just what they want to sell you.

Roofing Options for Southwest Michigan

Our Southwest Michigan climate can be rough on roofs. One time, I had to repair a roof ravaged by a hail storm – the poor thing was barely hanging on. Consider materials like asphalt shingles, rubber shingles, and metal roofing, which hold up well against our local weather.  There are Class ratings on roofing materials which help identify which line is more protective than another based on its Class 1-4 rating.  A metal roof or rubber shingles like GAF’s ArmorShield II are a Class 4 roof resistant to impact from hail over 1” where as a standard dimensional shingle is often a Class 3 impact resistance and a 1” hail stone could do some serious damage depending on age and the angle of impact.

Finding Potential Roofing Contractors

Importance of Local Roofing Contractors

I can’t stress enough the importance of hiring local. A local contractor understands the specific needs and codes for Southwest Michigan. Plus, in case something goes wrong, you’ll know where to find us.  This is literally a selling point for our team as we remind customers we can’t go sell our services somewhere else we need to stay local and keep local customers happy and referring our company to others.  This is true with any reputable roofing company they understand this and want to make sure your project goes well.

Searching for Local Contractors

Start your search online, look for “residential roofing contractors near me,” check the local directory or the local hardware store’s bulletin board.  Compare the names you see and do research to find out if they are similar or offer different services so you get a broad range of ideas and scopes of work that may be beneficial to your project.

Gather Recommendations

Word of mouth is golden in this business. I recall Mr. Orley who was so thrilled with our work on his roof that he referred his entire neighborhood to us.  This is why we do what we do, we ended up working together with tons of houses that were damaged after a hail storm all in 2 close neighborhoods off Sprinkle Road near Richland because of his referral.  Working hard to provide customers with a well run project is always our goal, and even if challenges arise,  we lead with responsibility and make sure that things get right back on track quickly and efficiently.

Checking the Contractor’s Qualifications

Essential Credentials

Ensure your contractor has the necessary license, insurance, and certifications applicable. I’ve heard horror stories of homeowners being held liable for accidents on their property because the contractor wasn’t insured. Or others where a lien was placed by a material supplier because of failure for a contactor to finish a job and make payment on supplies purchased.


Make sure they have a proven track record in residential roofing, especially in Southwest Michigan.  This means photos of previous projects, reviews of local projects, check out their time in business and specifically with the work being done.  A roofing contractor is not always an expert with all roof types and materials, be sure that the contractor is familiar with or understands the specifics to manufacturer requirements on installation.  This will ensure a smooth installation as well as maintain manufacturer warranties and product guidelines.

Reviews and Ratings

Look for reviews and ratings from past clients. Remember, everyone has off days (even yours truly), but a pattern of negative reviews is a red flag.  Look on multiple review sites and don’t be afraid to ask what happens if “x”, what happens if my plants are damaged, what happens if my gutters get clogged with tear off debris, what if the dumpster is stuck here over the weekend?  These are valid questions many people wonder about and your roofing contractor should have answers or photos on how they maintain their reputation and good ratings.

The Initial Meeting and Inspection

Preparing for the Visit

Ensure the area is safe and accessible for the contractor’s visit. You don’t want your contractor tripping over Fluffy’s toys.  They will more than likely want to access the roof so plan for a good area for them to gain access.  Let’s discuss more about what to expect and what you need to do to get the most out of your roofing contractors estimate or inspection visit.

During the Inspection

A good contractor will take the time to inspect your roof and discuss your options. Our company and most others roofing contractors will take photos or video to help highlight the issues identified or possible concerns to think about for an upcoming roof replacement or roof repair.  What should you ask and what do you need to know?

Questions to Ask

Don’t shy away from asking questions. If the contractor brushes you off, consider it a red flag.  Do you pull permits for your projects and is a permit needed for this project? Do you provide insurance verification when requested?  Are you manufacturer certified and if so by whom and what does that mean compared to another roofing contractor that does not have that manufacturer certification?  Where will the dumpster for the debris sit?  How many people are on the roofing crew?  Do they have bathroom facilities?  Are they subcontractors?  How many roofing projects do they do a month or have they done for this company?  Do they take breaks?  Do they need access to electricity or water?  What types of debris or trash control processes do you provide?  Can you explain the basics of your installation process?  Will you remove and re-install my gutters and or my gutter guards?  Will they protect my yard and plants?  Do we need to be home?  How long will it take?  How will we know when you are complete?  When do we need to pay the final bill?

The Roofing Estimate and Contract

Understanding Estimates

A detailed estimate should include the cost of materials, labor, and any additional services.  Roofing contractors should provide a detailed list of materials and labor that are specific to the scope of work you have agreed to, not a generic sheet with some boxes ticked off.  Be sure you can understand any differences between estimates and are prepared to ask about those differences and how they relate to the total cost.  Most roofing companies provide a tiered estimate so that a customer has options on where they would like to focus on their roofing repair or replacement.  These differences can range dramatically at times so don’t be surprised until you know what is included in these estimates.

The Contract

Essential Elements in the Contract

Your roofing project is a significant investment, and you don’t want anything to fall through the cracks. This is where the contract comes in. It should clearly articulate all the details of the job, leaving no room for misunderstanding. Here are the essential elements that should be included in the contract:

  • Job Description: This should outline what exactly the job entails. Is it a complete roof replacement, or a repair? Are there any specific sections that need more attention?
  • Materials: The contract should list out the materials to be used, including the type of shingles, underlayment, and flashing. This helps ensure that the contractor doesn’t use low-quality materials that won’t withstand the Michigan weather.
  • Cost: The contract should itemize the total cost of the job, including labor and materials. This not only helps you understand what you’re paying for but also protects you from surprise charges.
  • Timeline: It should provide a schedule for the project, including the start and end date. This helps you plan your life around the construction and holds the contractor accountable.
  • Payment Terms: The contract must clearly state the payment structure. This could be a deposit followed by installments, or a lump sum after the job is completed.
  • Warranty: The warranty for both the materials and workmanship should be clearly spelled out in the contract. It should specify what is covered, for how long, and the process for filing a claim.
  • Cleanup: The contract should specify who is responsible for clean-up after the project is completed.

Beware of Handshake Deals

two people shaking hands
Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com

Handshake deals might seem convenient, but they can leave you unprotected. I’ve seen cases where homeowners were left high and dry because a verbal agreement was not honored, and they had no legal recourse. Remember, if it isn’t written down, it doesn’t exist in the eyes of the law.

Therefore, insist on a written contract, and ensure all the points discussed are included. If something seems unclear, don’t hesitate to ask the contractor for clarification. After all, this contract is the legal safeguard for your home’s crown – your roof.

In conclusion, don’t just skim through your roofing contract – read it thoroughly. And remember, no handshake deals, please!

Red Flags

In the roofing business, as with any industry, there are certain warning signs that you should look out for. These “red flags” often suggest that a contractor may not be as trustworthy or reliable as they initially seem.

Pressure Tactics

Be wary of contractors who use high-pressure sales tactics. These may include limited-time offers that pressure you to sign a contract quickly, without giving you ample time to consider the terms and conditions or to compare bids from other contractors. Remember, a professional contractor understands that replacing a roof is a significant investment and won’t rush your decision.

Extremely Low Bids

Another red flag is a bid that’s significantly lower than others you’ve received. While it might be tempting to go for the lowest price, it could be a sign that the contractor is cutting corners, using sub-par materials, or not properly paying or insuring their team.

Full Payment Upfront

Lastly, be cautious of contractors who demand full payment upfront. It’s normal for a contractor to request a deposit, but demanding full payment before the work has started can be a sign of financial instability or even a scam. Always agree to a payment schedule that reflects the progress of the work and keeps a reasonable amount withheld until complete satisfaction.

In the end, remember that the aim is to hire a reputable, trustworthy roofing contractor. If something doesn’t feel right, trust your gut and reconsider your options.

Confirming Work Management and Clean-Up Plans

Project Timeline

Your contractor should provide a start and completion date while weather and other factors may come into play you should have a set estimated timeline on your project.

Worker Supervision and Safety

Ask about how workers are supervised and what safety measures are in place.

Clean-Up Procedure

Your contractor should leave your property as clean as they found it. I once returned a lost earring to a homeowner after a cleanup – she was pretty happily surprised!

After the Project: Warranty and Follow-up Services

Roof Warranty

Ensure you understand the terms of your roof’s warranty and what is included.

Follow-up Services

A good contractor will offer follow-up maintenance and repair services.

Keep a Good Relationship

Maintaining a good relationship with your contractor can be invaluable down the line.

Roofing isn’t just a job for us – it’s a commitment to ensuring your home is safe and secure. So, when you hire a roofing contractor, don’t forget to use this checklist. Your roof will thank you!


Q1: Is it necessary to hire a local roofing contractor?

A1: Yes, a local contractor will have a good understanding of the local climate, building codes, and sourcing materials.

Q2: How can I verify a contractor’s qualifications?

A2: You can ask them to provide their license, insurance, and certifications. Also, check their online reviews and ratings.

Q3: What should be included in the roofing estimate?

A3: The estimate should clearly list the cost of materials, labor, and any additional services.

Q4: What kind of warranty should I expect for my new roof?

A4: Warranties vary depending on the materials used and the contractor’s policies, but it should cover both materials and workmanship.

Q5: Is it normal for contractors to ask for full payment upfront?

A5: No, typically, contractors ask for a deposit, with the balance payable after work completion. Be wary of demands for full payment upfront.

Stay safe and remember – your roof is the crown of your home, so treat it with the care it deserves! If you have any more questions, don’t hesitate to reach out. Do everything with Character.

Read more: Worry Free Installation With Local Experts to Protect Your Home

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