Red Flags to Avoid When Buying a Roof

Martin County courthouse: Walkway Finished Modified

At AFU, we are proud to be part of the roofing industry. We find great satisfaction in providing a needed product with the level of service and integrity we want to receive ourselves. Unfortunately, there are roofing contractors who take a very short term view of their transactions with customers.

We want you to become an informed buyer because we believe that informed buyers are the most satisfied buyers. Unfortunately, part of that educations process include the misleading claims or activities that must be recognized and avoided. Below are activities that should create red flags of concern when talking with a roofing contractor.

Red-Flag-Icon-PSD1) Over promising about misleading Warranties

When a roofing contractor offers a warranty, study the details of the warranty to make sure you are getting coverage you think you are. Here is an all-too-frequent scenario for many roofing customers. A roofing contractor says that the roof has a 20 year NDL warranty (which means ________). The customer thinks, “I’m spending a lot of money for a new roof now, but with this 20 year warranty, I will not have to worry about my roof again for another 20 years, because the warranty will cover any roofing issue that comes up.”

Maybe… but is that what an NDL warranty promises? If you look at the fine print, you may discover that while the manufacturer’s warranty on the roofing materials is good for 20 years… the roofing contractor’s warranty for his labor for just the first two years! What does that mean to the customer? Let’s fast forward five years. The customer’s roof begins leaking in several areas. The customer calls the roofing contractor and says, “Hey, my roof is leaking. Come on over and fix my roof per my 20 year warranty.”

The roofing contractor says, “The manufacturer of your roofing materials offers the 20 year warranty. Call them up.”

So the customer calls the manufacturer and they send out a representative to inspect the customer’s roof. “I’m sorry,” the manufacturer’s rep says, “Our product is holding up just fine. The reason your roof is leaking is because of the workmanship of your roofing contractor.” The rep shows the customer the source of the leaks on the roof and explains how the work of the roofing contractor no longer keeps moisture out of the building.

Now the customer is fired up and calls the roofing contractor again. “Hey, the manufacturer’s rep just showed me where your workmanship on the joints and seems and flashing of your roof are failing. It’s only been five years since you put on this roof. You need to come back over and redo those leaking areas.”

The roofing contractor speaks with a sympathetic tone. “I’m sorry. If you read the NDL warranty, you will see that the warranty for my labor was only for two years. My responsibility for my labor ended three years ago.” Then in a more cheerful tone, he adds, “but since you are a valued customer, I will charge you a reduced rate to send my team over to fix your leaks!”

Don’t be fooled by warranties that seem to offer more than they do. You get what you pay for, both with your roof and your roof warranty. Carefully read the warranty and ask questions until you understand each clause of the written warranty. Questions to ask include:

– How long will the roofing contractor standing behind his labor?
– When the roofing contractor is released from the responsibilities of his labor and he is out of the picture, what will the manufacturer do for you the remainder of the warranty?
– Is it only a product warranty, or is it a system warranty that covers both materials and labor for a longer period of time?

You have a choice in the types of warranties available for your new roof. There are big differences in cost and long-term coverage or protection. As an informed buyer, you will have the knowledge to make the choice that best fits your situation.

Our recommendation is that when spending your hard-earned funds on a new roof, make sure you have a labor and material full system warranty. With this type of warranty, the roofing contractor is usually on the hook for 50% of the warranty period. For example, with a 10 year manufacturer’s warranty, the roofing contractor warranties his work for 5 years. With a 20 year manufacturer’s warranty, the roofing contract warranties his labor for 10 years. That is five times longer than frequently offered on an NDL warranty on a Built Up Roof. Even your car comes with 3 year/36,000 miles warranty. So get what you need to protect your investment on your building.

Red-Flag-Icon-PSD2) Falsely claiming Energy incentives to manipulate the price

The second most common red flag you will encounter with roofing contractors is false claims about energy incentives or rebates. Power companies around the state offer rebate incentives for customers who qualify. As an approved contractor for many of the local power provider incentives, we want you to beware of some of the false, unfounded promises made by non-approved contractors.

The qualification for energy incentives is a two way street. Not only must the customer’s building qualify, but the roofing contractor must also qualify. Abuse occurs in both areas. A roofing contractor who is not an approved roofing contractor with a local power company may claim his roofing company is. Then he may claim the customer’s building qualifies for incentives when it does not.

How you can you protect yourself deceptive practices in this area? First, contact the power company directly and confirm that the roofing contractor is actually an approved vendor. Many power companies list on their websites the names of approved vendors.

Second, ask the roofing contractor to show you the paper trail from the power company documenting the approved incentives. If a roofing contractor promises you $____ in rebate from the power company, but cannot show you the paperwork from the power company with the calculations, then verify with the power company that the roofing contractor is an approved provider and your building has been approved for an incentive! If the roofing contractor is not approved, then he is falsely using claims of energy rebates to lower the price of your work as needed to get your business. This frequently occurs with with condominiums requiring 3 bids. Beware of the roofing contractor who doesn’t leave a definite paper path to the power company incentives. These are lucrative, one-time incentives you do not want to waste.

What is the advantage of an approved roofing contractor? In most cases, the power company requires:
a) the roofing contractor to meet or exceed the power company’s specs of quality
b) the power company representative to inspect the finished roof before any rebate is paid.
c) the roofing inspector to regularly inspect the roof and report the results to the power company in the years to follow. Using an approved roofing contractor is to your advantage because the power company specs and inspections help insure the quality of materials and labor on your roof!

Typically, the process for receiving an energy rebate from a company goes like this:

a) First and foremost, the approved contractor can tell you within several hundred dollars what incentive you may qualify for. He can pre-qualify you also. His contract can tell you with some degree of certainty, about how much you can expect. However, on commercial projects, most incentive providers do a pre and post inspection, checking all conditioned space.
b) The roofing company carefully surveys your roof and makes calculations about what % of your roof qualifies for an energy rebate. Qualifications may include whether the roofed area is air conditioned or if there are catwalks underneath.
c) The roofing contractor submits the paperwork to the power company for approval.
d) If… the power company accepts the calculations of the roofing company, then the roofing contractor can show you the exact amount of the incentive approved by the power company. They email a form stating the incentive amount allowed for your review and signature.
e) When approved, make sure power company incentive comes off original contract price. Then, do not let roofing contractor switch materials after project signature, unless approved by an independent engineer, who is looking out for your interests.
f) Then the power company pays the rebate incentive directly to the roofing contractor. They may have to wait 30-45 days to receive it, but with an approved paper trail, it eventually comes.
You receive this incentive one time in the roof cycle. Do not waste it. Remember, no roof is forever, but some systems can provide watertight effectiveness with only minor maintenance. Today’s high performance foams and high solid silicones can do just that for your facilities. Used either together or in part these systems can provide energy efficiency and watertight integrity for your roof system.

Red-Flag-Icon-PSD3) Buyers lured by low price into buying a low quality roof

Avoid being lured by a low price into buying low quality roof that will only last a few years. When entertaining a roofing project, get 3 bids. Be sure to get the full story on all three bids. Price is always important, but what you receive over the roof of the job is much, much more important: a worry free, moisture sealed roof that requires little expense or maintenance for the next several decades.

How can you get an idea of the longevity of a roof? Get references of recent customers of your roofing contractor. But also get references of some customers in the distant past. Can the contractor refer you to customers that received a roof ten or more years ago? Are those customers still happy with their work? In the articles section on this website, you will read about one of our customers who received a spray foam roof over 20 years ago.