Why You Need Licensed, Certified Roofers, Not General Contractors

by Becky BlantonJune 24, 2016

When Bill needed a new roof he wanted three things: someone affordable, someone good, and someone fast. Bill hired a crew he’d seen working on some of the other homes in the area. He assumed his neighbors, who were cautious homeowners, had checked out the company, so he didn’t bother to find out about whom the crews were until it was too late. What he soon learned was that the crews were general construction laborers who were in between jobs.

They were not professional roofers. A hammer is a hammer and a nail is a nail, he thought — until the first major rain of the year began to seep through his new roof, and down his living room wall. By then he was out of luck. The crews were gone. He’d approved the job, and his check had already cleared the bank. He had no recourse.
Image of brown roof tile packs at house construction site.
“There’s no more important moisture barrier for a home than the roof,” said Doug Hoffman. Hoffman is the executive director for the National Organization of Remediators and Mold Inspectors (NORMI). He is also a Class A certified General Contractor, a Certified Master Roofing, and Plumbing Contractor, and the originator of the Mold-Free Process of Construction.

Many of us assume water drains off of our roofs after a storm, but it doesn’t. Even on a properly installed roof rain can puddle or run to a low-lying area and sit for days.

“One badly or improperly installed lap joint or an unsealed flashing can allow water to seep into the attic, onto the ceiling, and along the walls — starting the growth of mold,” Hoffman said.

So what should a homeowner look for when selecting a roofing contractor?

“Certification and licensing to install roofs,” Hoffman said. “Many states allow licensed general contractors to install roof systems, which means they can hire construction workers or anyone else to install your roof. They don’t have to hire roofing professionals.”

So, if you need a new roof or repairs to an existing or leaking roof, hire a licensed, certified roofing contractor and ask to see their credentials. Check their references. Try to hire a company with a local history, not a work crew moving through the area after a storm or natural disaster. They’re less likely to be professional roofers, more likely to do a quick, cheap, and poor job.

“What most homeowners don’t know is there’s a difference among carpenters, general contractors and laborers, and professional roofers.”

“Roofers are a special breed,” Hoffman said. “Basically, a carpenter is not a roofer, a laborer is not a roofer, and even a General Contractor is not a roofer. Years ago carpenters did ‘do-it-all,’ but that was before new building codes and state certification. Roofing codes are rewritten every year just so the industry can keep up with the developments in the industry. How many general contractors do you think really keep up with all that? Not many.”

“Many general contractors will try to convince you they can do the job. They’ll tell you they’ve ‘done it all,’ and that ‘It’s just a roof,’” Hoffman said. “That’s why questioning them about the roofing system and details is important. General contractors are creatures of habit. They also tend to install all roofs the same way — regardless of whether the manufacturer says to put the felt on a certain way, or to lap it or start it a different way. They do it the way they’ve always done it because it’s faster, easier and they know that system. Many times they won’t even read the manufacturer’s instructions,” he said.
Image of roofer installing bear laths on the truss system of home

Picking the Best Roofing Contractor

When it’s time to find the best contractor, Hoffman suggests homeowners put a little effort into finding the best company they can. Not only will the job be done right, and finished properly, you’ll have a roof that you can trust won’t leak.

Step One:
Decide on the kind of roofing system you want. This may involve going to some home shows, or spending time online researching roofing systems and costs. Read as much as you can about the system, including the pros and cons.

Step Two:
Contact the manufacturer of the system and ask questions about the roofing system, the materials, and the installation process. If you can get samples of the tile or other components, do so. Get a set of specifications and a copy of the installation process in writing. This is often available in PDF format online, or from the manufacturer.

Step Three:
Contact at least three general contractors and ask them about the roofing system you’ve selected. Ask specific questions and see if they know the answer. It won’t take long to convince you that you need a licensed roofing contractor to install or repair your roof.

Step Four:
Contact at least three licensed, certified roofing contractors and ask them about the roofing system you’ve selected. Ask them how many roofs they’ve installed using this system. In the end, you’ll pay more for their expertise, but you’ll pay less than you would if someone installed the system wrong and you got leaks and water damage or mold.

Step Five:
Once you’ve found a qualified roofing contractor who can answer your questions, ask about the crew who will be installing the roof. Their boss is the one who knows the system because he’s the one getting the certification. Make sure whoever is installing the system also knows what they’re doing.

It’s time-consuming and expensive to find, hire and pay a licensed, certified roofing contractor, Hoffman said, “But in the end, you’ll be glad you did.” For more information about selecting the proper roofing contractor download the free PDF from the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA).


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About The Author
Becky Blanton
Becky Blanton is a full-time ghostwriter and writing coach for Fortune 500 companies, CEOs, and business speakers. In 2009 she spoke at TED Global at Oxford University, her first ever public speaking gig. When she's not writing, she's kayaking in the Chesapeake Bay. Her dream home is to live aboard a sailing or houseboat.

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