Potential weather pattern leaves roofing contractors with their plates full
Most of the scientific community is predicting a strong El Niño this year. This might not be breaking news, but what we haven’t heard or read about is the effect it is having on the roofing industry. With Californians gearing up for what could potentially be a very wet winter season, homeowners are flooding roofing contractors with requests for inspections, repairs and roof replacements. We spoke to over 20 roofing contractors when researching this story, and all of them said their appointment books are close to full and they are having a hard time taking on new customers.
“We are booked solid through December and that’s if there are no rain delays”, said Steve Hubbard, a BBB Accredited roofer since 1985. “If you’re not in an emergency situation, you might be better off waiting until spring to get work done.”
On average, a roofer might expect to get 15 to 20 phone calls per week. However, according to many we spoke to, in the last few months that number has risen to around 50. Mostly these calls are requests for inspections. Contractors are doing their best to keep up with the demand. Some have hired additional employees to handle the increased workload, while others are simply working longer hours.
There are things you can do yourself to check if you need repairs. According to the roofers we spoke to, look out for:
- missing or broken shingles;
- shingles that are curling or buckled;
- rust stains or cracked caulk on flashing;
- cracked rubber boots around vent pipes;
- patches of moss or vegetation (may indicate roof decay).
Signs that you may have a leak include: dark areas on ceilings, damp spots around fireplaces, water stains on vent pipes or peeling paint on the underside of eaves.
“The best preventative measure you can take is to make sure your gutters and drains are clear of debris”, said David Dissmeyer, a BBB Accredited roofing contractor since 1986. “However, if you think you need to have work done before El Niño hits, act as soon as possible because the industry is extremely busy.”
To find a trustworthy roofing contractor, BBB advises homeowners take the following precautions:
- If you don’t already have a trusted contractor, obtain bids from several firms, making sure that the specifications of each bid are identical. Ask the contractor to quote you weight per square for composition shingles. This enables homeowners to judge the quality of the materials - the heavier the weight per square, the higher the quality.
- Ask for a business card and the home headquarters location of the roofing company.
- Obtain a BBB Business Review on the firm by calling 510-844-2000 or look them up at www.bbb.org. You can search by company name, phone number or address. To get an entire list, search by business classification and use “Roofer”.
- In addition, make sure the company has a contractor license with the Contractor State License Board (CSLB). You can contact them at (800) 321-CSLB (2752) or www.cslb.ca.gov. If a building permit is required, make sure that it is included in the contract.
- Make sure the contractor carries worker’s compensation insurance and general liability insurance in case of accidents on the job. Ask to have copies of these policies for your job file.
- If possible, ask for and check references. Try to talk to previous customers, and if possible, look at a similar job that has been completed recently.
- Beware of fly-by-night repair businesses soliciting work in unmarked trucks and requiring advance payment, and do not succumb to high pressure techniques such as the price is "good only for today."
- When the materials arrive at the work site, physically check the wrappers in the shingles and make sure what is quoted in the contract is what has arrived at your home.
- And lastly, never pay for the entire job in advance. The deposit should be no more than $1,000 or 10%, whichever is less. Always pay by credit card or check. Make the check out to the company not the person. Don't pay cash to a contractor or a salesperson.
BBB cautions that all contracts for home repairs should include:
- Name, full physical address and phone number of the contractor.
- A written description of all the work to be done, including the quality of materials to be used. If the salesman is promising work to be done and it’s not on the written estimate, include it on the contract. Both parties initial any changes.
- A written statement reiterating any oral promises made by the contractor or sales representative, including any warranties on material or labor and statements regarding hand nailing of shingles, removal of old roof and disposal, clean up of nails and scrap materials.
- A bid based on the job, not by the unit (hour, gallon, board, etc.).
- A price breakdown for both labor and materials.
- When payment is due for the job. Beware of paying money in advance. Payment based on the progress of the job is acceptable; however, withhold final payment until you are satisfied with the job. If a building permit was required, make sure the job has passed the City Building Inspector’s final inspection.
- Start up and completion dates.
Mechanic’s Liens: (from CSLB website)
You should protect yourself from mechanic’s liens against your home in the event the contractor does not pay subcontractors or material suppliers. You may be able to protect yourself by having a “release of lien” clause in your contract. A “release of lien” clause requires the contractor, subcontractors and suppliers to furnish a Certificate of Waiver of Lien. If you are financing your project, the bank or lending institution may require that the contractor, subcontractors and suppliers verify that they have been paid, before releasing funds for subsequent phases of the project.