Notice in the title of this article I did not say “how to get the best PRICE on roof installation”. Getting the best price is easy. Find three most illegal roofing companies in town and make them bid against each other 😀 … Finding posters on electric / telephone posts that say “10% off roofing and siding” has never been an issue.
My emphasis is on getting the best deal on roofing. While this includes getting a good / fair price, it also implies quality roof installation. After all, you are putting a roof on your house, so it does not leak.
I will insist that you should look beyond the price, and think what happens after the last shingle is nailed down and you hand the contractor their final payment. Here is where the quality of roof installation comes into play, because as a homeowner there is a great chance that you do not know much about roofing and whether this installation job is good or bad.
Here is a video that demonstrates one of the aspects of roof installation that you may have never considered, and there are MANY:
So, how do you get best deal on roofing – both good quality and good price?
Many homeowners are faced with a tough decision of choosing the roof, or the shingle / color, etc, etc. The first thing many people will do is ask their neighbor for a reference, who recently had their roof replaced. Another common possibility is to get an estimate from local roofing / construction companies, whose trucks you randomly see driving around town.
Although I am a roofer, I also had to do some home improvement work around the house and went through the same process a few times. Here is what I have learned, based on my experience of being a contractor and a homeowner, especially after recently doing my own metal roof and vinyl siding.
How to choose your roofer the RIGHT way?
First of all – when you get a roofing estimate, ask if your estimator is a roofer (preferably company owner of a small to medium size outfit). Find out if they use an in-house installer or if they sub work out. Usually, subcontractors will not do the best quality work. Also, if you speak to the company owner, ask if HE will be present on the job, managing the installation. While this is not critical, having the company owner on the job gives you a much better chance of getting the best roof for your money.
It’s simple – the owner cares the most that your roof is installed correctly, and does not leak, as he/she is responsible for it, while subs or even in-house roofers mainly care about going home at 3pm and getting as many roofing squares installed in a single day, as possible.
Here is an example of a BAD roof installation, that I hope you will avoid:
Do not buy roofing materials yourself!
Many homeowners try to save nickel and dime on their roof and other home improvement projects, and often go as far as buying the roofing shingles themselves, thinking they will save some money. The truth is – you will not save any money and will actually end up paying MORE! Here is why:
1) Roofers can get a much better price on roofing materials than homeowners, because they buy in volume.
2) If you buy the shingles and other roofing accessories, your installer will be careless with them, as they did not pay for it. If they will run out of shingles, you will need to run to the roofing supply to get more, slowing down the process, spending more money, and pissing off the roofers, as they cannot work while waiting for you.
3) When a roofer buys the materials, the owner of the company makes sure there is as little waste as possible. This way they can afford to give you a better overall price.
4) Don’t forget about your own time that you spend on getting materials, and delivery / gas costs associated with it.
Just choose the color and shingle thickness (30 / 40 / 50 years), and let your roofer get the materials of THEIR choice, and install it. I stress out “their choice”, because most shingles cost about the same, and roofers usually choose the ones that they think are better and last longer. There is of course the possibility that a roofer will buy “seconds” or outdated / damaged / discontinued / defective shingles at a discount, but the chance of this happening is very low, and these are usually odd colors / shingle styles.
This is a very important part of choosing the contractor for your roof, both for you and the contractor. Here are some things to consider:
I recommend to go with a price quote somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, and choosing a contractor you are most comfortable with. Low-ballers are usually not licensed/insured and will rush through your job like a hurricane. Roofers with VERY high quotes are usually just ripping you off by selling some “vapor benefits”, such as a brand name, 100 years in business, million years warranty, etc. Check out this vinyl siding prices guide which describes how big brands like Sears, overcharge on siding and roofing installation, while hiring subs, which can do the same work for you, for half the price.
Once you choose the roofer, you can negotiate on pricing, since most roofers build in a “discount buffer” into their price. However, this buffer is usually not more than 5-7% and if you get a bigger “discount”, you may expect lower quality of materials and/or labor.
Do your homework!
I recommend that you measure your roof to know exactly the size of installation, and read our roof estimating guide to figure out how much your roof SHOULD cost. Also, run your roof through our calculator to get an approximate price.
If your price quote is inline with your estimation – you can go ahead and start the project with a roofer you are most comfortable with. If it is way off, ask your roofer why it is so much, what is included in the job – both materials and labor, and show them your estimation.
Also ask your roofer how they are pricing your job – by the square or labor and materials (more on roof prices). If by the square – ask if they price based on roof size or number of squares installed (includes waste), as different contractors price their work differently.
Don’t ask or suggest “how much the roofer is making on the job”
Here is the thing – roofers are in the business of making money! If they don’t make money, there will be no one to uphold your warranty. Also, homeowners fail to account for expenses and overhead that roofing companies have – they simply take the total cost and subtract the materials, and think the rest is pure profit for the roofer. This is incorrect. It is also very offensive to the contractor if you start counting their money. If you don’t like the price – choose another company.
Treat your roofers as humans
While this is very important to expect proper installation, most homeowners forget that roofers are people too and not “drinking robots made for nailing down shingles until 3 PM”. Treat your contractors well – give them water or even a cold “Bud” at the end of the day – small favors go a long way! If your roofers like you, they will most likely do a better job, and not cut corners on things that you cannot see or don’t know to check.
Bottom line – installing a roof is an “equal exchange” of services for money, and costs are set by the market conditions. I recommend that you follow some or most of my recommendations, and hope you get the best roofing experience at a reasonable price! Best of luck.
Check out our Roofing Guide for Homeowners for more information.