You Get What You Pay For!
You know the saying, "If it seems too good to be true, it probably is." That applies to everything, including roofs. When shopping for any kind of home improvement contractor, you should get several estimates and take time to compare them. If one of your estimates is unusually low, this doesn't necessarily mean you're getting a good deal; in fact, it may mean just the opposite.
Home improvement material suppliers charge contractors roughly the same prices for the same materials. Of course like any company, contractors have to apply a markup, which is how the contractor makes money to pay expenses and stay in business.
If a roofing contractor gives you a very low quote to install your roof, there may be a couple of reasons:
- A legitimate contractor has many expenses, such as payroll, insurance, taxes, vehicle expenses, office expenses, etc. If a contractor can afford to install your roof "at cost" or slightly above cost, he probably has very few overhead costs. He most likely does not have an office and works out of his home or truck (not necessarily a bad thing, but it's easier for a contractor without an office to close up shop). Or he may be hiring very cheap, unqualified labor.
- A contractor who can afford a "low-ball" quote probably does not have the proper insurance to install roofs. General Liability and Workers Compensation insurance are expensive, but the most expensive insurance for roofing contractors is the Roofing Rider. If your contractor's insurance certificate does not specifically state that the contractor can install roofs, you the homeowner could be liable if a worker is injured on your roof, if any damage is caused to your home while the roof is being installed (for instance, a tool, material, or worker drops through your roof and damages the inside of your home including items inside the home such as furniture, electronics, collectibles, etc., or a storm comes through while your roof is being installed and causes water or wind damage).
- Another reason why a contractor may quote a very low price is "bait and switch". He may tell you you're getting a certain roof but then installs a different, lower quality roof. Or he may install roofing material that has been sitting in his garage for a few years. He may cut corners on other roofing materials that you can't see, such as underlayment, water and ice shield, etc. He may cut corners on installation, not nailing shingles down properly or roofing over rotted wood instead of replacing it.
- And of course there are scam artists who are unlicensed and/or uninsured. These frauds may have huge bundles of shingles that are stolen or that they acquired through some other shady means (these are generally the contractors that knock on your door saying they have "left over" material from another job). Or they may just be looking to make a quick buck and as soon as they get your money they disappear halfway through the job, or without even starting any work.
So make sure when it's time to get your roof replaced that you get several estimates. Do your homework, ask questions, and research each contractor (read our blog "How to Choose a Roofing Contractor
"). And be leery of going with the lowest estimate if it's much lower than the others. Because remember the other saying, "You Get What You Pay For"!