Trusted roofing company
How do I find a trusted roofing company or a recommended roofer. I’ve been in the roofing trade now for over 30 years, my business is actually over 50 years old, and you don’t last that long by being bad at your job. But It’s no secret, there are some bad tradesmen out there and I’m going to give you my tips on how to try and avoid them. I will also tell you about some of the characters I know of, and the dirty tricks they use so you can spot and avoid them.
This article will give you some reasonable questions to ask and a common sense checklist that may highlight why some of the advice given on other well meaning websites may not be quite as brilliant as it first seems, especially when looked at through the eyes of a tradesman.
A trustworthy roofer by family or friends
The first and best place to start is to ask friends and family if they have personal experience of employing a roofer who has impressed them or done a good job. Preferably someone who is sensible. If you can do this, this method is hard to beat.
The one potential pitfall is this… Make sure that the tradesman is good at the particular job that you need doing, a prime example of this may be that they have done some tiling, re-pointing or chimney work for a friend and, they were fantastic, but you require new UPVC fascias and a top spec warm-roof fibreglass flat roof. There’s a lot of specialist knowledge in specific trades around the roofing industry alone, even a well meaning and honest roofer could be out of his depth, check he advertises for the type of work you require or ask him if he does much of that type of work.
We do everything L.T.D. – This is a mockup of genuine example. I’ve carefully photo shopped out all details so not to cause offence or get me sued. I’m sure he’s a lovely chap and he may well be brilliant at everything he touches, but I simply couldn’t say.
We don’t know a trustworthy roofer now what ?
Now lets assume you don’t know of anyone who fits the bill through friends or family and we are heading into lucky dip country. This could mean trawling through the Yellow pages or Yell.com or just Google-ling random phrases like ‘ trusted roofing company ‘ this isn’t very pleasant, and I’ve been here as well on occasion, for other trades obviously. There are however things you can do to minimise the risk of employing a chimpanzee with a hammer and overalls…
- A history of trading – A company with an established history normally gets there because customers value their work, it also means they don’t go out of business or change their name regularly to avoid honouring guarantees. New companies deserve a chance too though, so don’t dismiss new roofing firms, but definitely look for valid testimonials from recognised independent firms like the ones listed below.
- Valid testimonials – The company may have a website and be hosting their own glowing references, unless they are actual screen captures from known sources like Google reviews, Rated people, MyBuilder, Yell.com, Age UK etc. , otherwise they could easily be written by themselves or grandma and therefore worthless.
- Use an intermediary – Whilst I would prefer it not to be necessary for companies like Rated people to exist, their review system has helped many good roofing companies to gain work through real recommendations that are visible to the general public, and that is definitely their biggest strength. It’s one hell of a lot better that sticking a pin in a directory whilst blindfolded.
- Match the firm with your job – Look for jobs or reviews that person or company has taken on, or advertises through their website, or via one of the third party’s like Rated people or the other companies listed above. Next match up the size of your job with the firm your job. For example, don’t contact a large roofing company to change a leaking gutter joint, or roofer Jim the small one man band to re-roof your farm, outbuildings and supermarket.
- Insurance – Always make sure that anyone you employ is insured. One stray naked flame and your house could be up in smoke. A real problem if they’re not insured to work with heat. If a hammer is dropped on your head, or a pedestrians, this could have serious consequences if liability insurance isn’t carried, you could even end up in court too.
- A Roof inspection must take place – Make sure that any prospective roofing contractor inspects the roof at close range from a set of ladders. This may sound obvious but many is the time I’ve been told that the previous chap stood at ground level and looked at the job from there. If they can’t be bothered to erect ladders to look initially, what will their attitude be during any work, and what will have been missed, or misdiagnosed?
- Always get 2 or 3 quotes – I say this through gritted teeth as it’s not nice to be on the receiving end, but it’s good advice. The real reason is not to get the cheapest quote though, what you should concentrate on is your overall impression of the potential contractor and to compare any advice given between them. If the work is not visible to yourself ask for a photo on a camera phone, I’m always happy to do that sort of thing.
- Quotations – Make sure that you have a fixed price quote wherever possible and that the letterhead has a landline, full address and trading name. Unless it’s a larger job i.e. £2000 and upwards, I personally don’t think that any decent roofer should expect any sort of payment up front (unless you look dodgy), but if you do, written receipts should be detailed and available by the roofer. If the tradesmen is VAT registered check to make sure it’s included into the price, a 20% surprise addition to your bill is never going leave you chuckling.
Now let’s have a look at advice on some other websites given about employing tradesmen, it may be well meaning and indeed good general advice, but let me point some things out from the tradesperson’s perspective also.
- Can you provide me with a track record or previous customer testimonial’s ? – Assuming the company is successful and established they are possibly busy, this has placed some hoops for them to jump through and they are already spoilt for choice, the question is will they be bothered? This is especially true if it’s a small job and you wish to speak to their previous customers on the phone, this is a breach of confidentiality and privacy with established customers. I have done this in the past but only for the potential customers I liked or thought were normal, there is such a thing as a rogue customer, and this can start alarm bells ringing. Look for genuine online reviews from reputable sources first, especially if it is a relatively small job, If it’s a large job tradesmen will be more inclined to play along.
- How much will it be for labour and how much for materials ? – In other words how much do you earn. Imagine if a roofer asked you what your annual salary was and wanted to root through your shopping bills. Depending on the type and cost of the job he may not want to tell you, this may account for the silly face he pulls for that split second after you ask that question.
- What if I’m not happy with the work ? – Alarm bells are ringing again here, I’ve not even started yet and you’re already planning for the courtroom? Much better to ask some questions about what the job entails, the materials used. If you have specific standards that need to be met spell them out and make yourself clear right off the bat, neither party is a mind reader. If it’s larger job keep an eye on the work as it progresses, if you’re not happy with details talk it through before the work is completed.
- Do you have insurance backed guarantees ? – This is always a tricky one, a lot of the time materials only are guaranteed by manufacturers, or guarantees of workmanship are issued via third parties. The problem here is that no-none likes to part with money, this is also true of insurance companies who look for ‘ wriggle room ‘ in other words an excuse not to pay anyone, anything, ever. I’m not dismissing or rubbishing anyone’s guarantees but don’t assume it’s triple brandy’s all round the minute you spot a guarantee, I could light a large and dangerous fire with the guarantee papers of the companies I’ve seen go conveniently out of business over the years.
- Make sure the roofing contractor belongs to a trade association – You know the type of thing we are talking about here, hopefully without me spelling it out and getting myself sued. Basically the roofing contractor parts with £300 or more to have a nice looking badge type sticker of the back of his van, or in his advertising telling the world he’s awesome. Some are better than others and may or may not offer insurance backed guarantees, these in turn may or may not be worth the paper they are written on. Yes, I think that about covers it.
Final thoughts and stereotyping
Having said all of this advice, the vast majority of roofers are absolutely fine and very professional, but let’s have a little fun, well I will anyway. Let me tell you about some of the tactics and types of roofer I know, or know of, where I’m based in the midlands, but this could easily be any reasonably large city.
The price jacker – This type of roofer starts off with a very low quote to get his foot in the door, once on your roof however the job becomes more complicated and expensive than he first thought due to unforeseen circumstances. This may be genuine but more likely a persistent tactic they use again and again.
The roving eye – This roofer gets on with the work quoted for at a sensible price but soon starts ‘noticing’ other work while he’s on the roof that he hadn’t seen before. You’d better lubricate the hinges on your purse or make sure there’s plenty of sheets left in the check book for this character if you keep saying yes.
The door knocker – He was probably just working down/up/over the road when he noticed some broken tiles, loose mortar… or he’s fitting some dry verge or fascias etc. He can do it now or tomorrow while he’s in the area at a reduced price (how lucky is that ?). He probably also belongs in the categories above and possibly below, sometimes he’ll show you how weak your guttering is by snapping a section off or breaking a gutter joint in front of your eyes. Cash is normally king with this one.
The boozer – This chap normally just over estimates the price, normally by 100% or 200% more than the job is really worth, this is because he hits hard and goes home, with the home sometimes being the pub or the bookies… or both. He works on percentages, and gets knocked back 70 or 80% of the time, but lands some fast money when it all goes right netting him a 2 or 3 day working week.
The scoundrel – I’ve saved the worst until last. This character can incorporate all the bad tactics of the ones above. He’s normally seen in a unmarked van, or a van that belongs on the worlds most pimped and sign written van list, with the common feature being a lack of a landline number or address. They work in one’s, two’s or three’s and are normally from out of town. If you’re really unlucky his accomplice will knock on the door to inform you about some ‘ loose tiles ‘ , with the twist being his chum is already on your roof holding them in his hands to show you, the fact he’s just chiselled them off himself two minutes earlier will not get mentioned.
Do not underestimate the danger here, unless you show them the door straight away and threaten to phone the police, you risk a series of very clever psychological leverage techniques that will make the CIA terrorism squad look like a tea and cake evening. I have known people both young but mostly the elderly, caught by these scumbags, and grown men reduced to tears. If it wasn’t irresponsible I could write an article of the techniques used, and you would be shocked at how clever they are at effortlessly ratcheting up the pressure from zero, to eventually ending up at implied physical violence, psychological terrorism and open threats.
Do not think that you wouldn’t be a victim, it could cost you thousands of pounds, and your dignity. Show them the door straight the way, otherwise you could be marched to your local bank to make big withdrawals.
The above examples are not meant to scare you, but by exposing some of the shady techniques used by a very very small minority of so called roofers I hope to help someone, and trying to be useful is the whole ethos of this website.
- Recommended fascia company – What to look, how to compare and what questions to ask