If you have ever lived through a large hailstorm or hurricane, you will understand that a secondary storm occurs after the weather related one. A flood of roofing contractors shows up at your door, all promising to be the best local company there is. Unfortunately, scammers show up as well, ready to take advantage in a stressful situation.

How do you know that the roofing contractor you are considering using is legitimate?

If you are dealing with a hail or hurricane claim, there is a significant amount of money being invested in restoring you home to pre-storm condition. You need to know that you can trust the contractor you are hiring to complete these repairs. It is important to spend time vetting the roofing companies before you have any work done.

There are easy ways to vet a roofing company online. A great way to start the search is to look them up on the Better Business Bureau. This independent third-party organization rates each company and keeps records of all complaints and posted client reviews on companies, whether they are members or not. Details of any complaint and whether it was resolved are available online.  It cost money for a company to join the BBB. Each local area has their own charter.

If a company has invested in a BBB membership it shows that they are agreeing to be held to a high standard. When a company has maintained very high standards, the BBB allows them to become an Accredited Business. This does cost additional money for the company, but not all companies are allowed to obtain this status. It is a very good sign if they are an Accredited Business with the local BBB.  It is important to check the date the company joined the local BBB.

Out of town storm chasers can join immediately after a storm and give the impression they have been local for a long time because they are members of the local BBB. This is available on their company profile. You can find out a great deal about how a company does business on the BBB.org website.

Reading what their clients have to say on online reviews are helpful.

Google reviews are a main source of reviews.

Read through the reviews carefully, paying attention to the responses of the company to the clients’ comments. If they have five stars on only one review, the rating is not as reliable. If they have hundreds of reviews, then you will see a pattern of client satisfaction. If all the reviews were posted in the last month, they are not likely to be organic. Look for longevity of reviews.  

Consumers are quick to post about negative experiences, so having a lot of positive reviews makes a very strong statement! There is usually more information with photos of the company included in the Google online profile that will give additional information that the company shares about itself. In order to post a google review, one must have a google email.

Google is the main place to find reviews, but there many are others. Google the company’s name and you will see many other sites where reviews are left.  A personal observation about using Yelp to find out more about a company–Yelp tends to highlight more of the negative than positive reviews. If you are looking on Yelp, be sure to read the “Unrecommended” reviews. These may be left by yelpers who have less than ten reviews, but this is also where many of the positive reviews are stashed away. You will get a better view of the company if you read the Unrecommended reviews as well.

A less obvious, but also less subjective place to research your prospective roofing contractors is on the local building department website. It has a list of all contractors that are licensed to work in your area. You can see which license they have, if their contractor license is up to date, and sometimes it shows when it was granted initially. There will be information about if they have workers comp insurance and general liability or if they signed a waiver declining to get it. Expired permits from previous jobs will be available in some cases.  This will show you how responsible they are to the governing building division.

If you are in a large metropolitan area like Denver, there are over thirty licenses that can be held, so some companies may choose to reactivate after a storm instead of paying for annual licenses in that smaller area. In this case, check to see if they are previously licensed and if any issues arose that would have caused them to lose their license. Knowing the local building codes is critical and this will eliminate the complications of hiring a unlicensed roofer who illegally builds without a permit or fails to follow local codes resulting in a failed inspection that is unresolved.

The Roofing Company’s Office

While the internet has made it easy to find information conveniently, it will not replace the gut feeling you get by visiting the roofing company’s office. A brick and mortar local company will have a real place for you to visit to get the feel of their company. Find out when their business hours are and show up unannounced. This will give you a true feeling of their culture and the value they place on customer service.

A few years ago I had a visit from an elderly gentleman who came in to our office wanting our help. He had hired a company that pretended to be local, even had a good rating from the local BBB. The address they used was very close to his house. When he went to discuss an issue after the roof was built, he found the address they used was an empty parking lot. They used a PO Box for mail but had no real physical office. They were from Oklahoma and unwilling to take care of the issues he was having with his roof. He was hoping we could help him sort out a payment dispute on an un-permitted roof that was leaking. They had left town and left him with a bad situation. A site visit would have prevented this horrible situation.

What about Home Advisor or Porch or the other sites that provide names of contractors to you?

These are not as reliable of sources for a true picture of who a company is. They are paid lead services. The contractor pays the site for each lead. No significant vetting takes place. It is a way for contractors to get easy leads without advertising.  A lot of contractors use this starting out until they are established. This may not be the best source for finding a quality roofing contractor.

What about using a contractor on the insurance company’s preferred list?

These are contractors that indirectly work for the insurance company. They agree to complete the work for whatever the insurance suggests on its initial offer in exchange for volume of work. Many do this to avoid having to find their own jobs. If an initial claim summary omits components, the contractor is obligate to do the work per the insurance claim or at least the initial insurance pricing. This is not always in your best interest. It can streamline the process but does not encourage quality work on the part of the contractor.

Hiring a roofing contractor after a storm can be scary, stressful even overwhelming in some cases. Take time to do a little research and pay a site visit. You will find the process is less daunting that it initially seems. You can feel confident that you are hiring the contractor that will provide quality service with a positive experience.