An easy guide to choose a roofing contractor for the householder. Written by John Mercer, Technical Roofing Consultant and expert witness with more than four decades of UK roofing industry experience.
I RECENTLY READ a list on the internet of the top ten most stressful things that can happen to you. These include getting married, getting divorced, losing a job, starting a new job, and financial problems.
But I will add an extra one: choosing the right roofing contractor!
In this article, I will give some advice on how to find and appoint a good, reputable roofing contractor.
But first, a few warnings on how to avoid ‘rogue traders’ and roofing scams.
How to avoid cowboy roofers
Obviously, spotting a cowboy roofer is not always that easy, but you can look for some
tell-tale signs. For example, a plain van with no signwriting can be an indication that the trader operates under several names and is uncontactable.
Even personal appearance can be a giveaway. Professional roofers dress in the right clothes, with proper work trousers and boots. They often wear jackets with the company logo on, rather than jeans and trainers.
Avoid anybody who does not have an online presence and check if there are any online reviews about them. An established roofer will have a website, most likely a social media presence and some reviews.
The most common roofing scams are being carried out by people knocking on homeowners’ doors unannounced saying they have spotted a problem with the roof. They will offer to carry out a free inspection and then tell you they can fix it there and then, with a discount for cash.
In some cases, they will start work, then tell you the problem is worse than they first thought and demand even more money.
Never appoint someone who appears uninvited and never pay ‘upfront’ for work. Even when they say it is for materials, do not pay upfront. And do not agree to a cash-without-VAT deal.
Choose the right roofing contractor
So, how can you be sure of finding the right roofing contractor?
There are plenty about, you just need to make a few simple checks first.
Start by doing some homework. If you know you need roofing work on your property then do some online research about the issue.
Do you have a roof leak, or weather damage? Do you simply know that your roof has come to the end of its useful life and needs replacing?
By researching the subject, you can better engage with a roofer. You can ask plenty of questions about how they plan to carry out the work,. Such as, materials, how long they think the job would take, and aftercare.
Safe Roof Access
As well as understanding the work itself, you need to know how a contractor plans to gain safe access to the roof. Work should not be carried out from a ladder.
Cowboy roofers often give the cheapest quotes because they do not plan to use scaffolding. Scaffolding is quite expensive and makes up a good portion of the total cost of roofing work. But scaffolding is needed to make sure your roofers are safe working at height.
If you are tempted to hire a roofer not using scaffolding then ask yourself a simple question. How would you feel if someone working on your roof fell off it and was injured for life, or even died?
When do you need a building certificate?
If you plan to have a complete re-roof your property, then go to the Planning Portal and do your research there. You will need the work to be passed by a building inspector. This also applies if you are replacing more than 25% of the existing roof, or adding an extension that is at least 25% of the size of the existing house.
You need to understand what materials are allowed. Also, exactly what the requirements are regarding the upgrading of your home insulation to comply with current Building Regulations’ thermal requirements. Remember that the homeowner is responsible for applying for any necessary building regulation approvals.
Choose a roofing contractor
The best way of ensuring contractor competence is to select one who is a member of a nationally recognised trade organisation. For example, the National Federation of Roofing Contractors (NFRC) website allows you to search for their member contractors in your area.
Just as importantly, try to find a roofer recommended by a friend, family member or neighbours who have previously used the contractor.
For major work, as detailed above, use a roofer who is a Competent Person Scheme member. This means that the roofer is qualified to self-certify the work for Building Regulation compliance. Building Control will be automatically notified, and a Building Regulations Compliance Certificate issued.
In addition, the homeowner will receive an insurance backed 10-year guarantee. This protects you if there was a fault with the roofing work and the contractor has ceased trading. You will need to pay nothing more if remedial works are carried out.
Insurance backed guarantees
Even if roofing work is not done under the Competent Person Scheme, it can be a good idea to ask for an insurance-backed guarantee. This will be an extra cost. However, it is independent of a contractor’s own guarantee, which would be worthless if that contractor went out of business.
Ask to see the guarantee in writing. Read it! Some guarantees are worth more than others. But a verbal one is worth nothing.
Always get quotes from at least three roofing contractors, but do not necessarily choose the cheapest. Obtain detailed written quotations and make your choice based on the quality of the advice and information given. And trust your instinct.
Before choosing, go online and look up any points you are not sure about, particularly the technical terms used.
Agree payment terms before work starts. Ideally, you should only pay in full after the work is finished. Try to negotiate a final payment, or retention. Only when you or someone you trust, has inspected the work should you make the final payment.
Note that sometimes, extra work could be required after the existing roof is removed. For example, to replace any rotten timbers. This is sometimes unavoidable, so allow for a contingency fund in your budgeting.
- Do your homework and research as much as possible about the roofing work you need done.
- Look for roofers who are a members of a recognised trade organisation, such as the NFRC.
- Ask family, friends, or neighbours for their recommendations, particularly ones who have had similar work done.
- Get at least three quotes and do not automatically go for the cheapest. Base your decision on the advice and information given and trust your instinct.
- For major works, such a complete re-roof, use a member of the Competent Person Scheme and get an insurance backed guarantee.