Here's what homeowners need to know to avoid roofing scams and shoddy work.
Problems with roofers plague consumers across the country. Over the years, Angie's List has written a number of articles about crooked roofing contractors and seen the same pattern of fraud, poor workmanship, and storm chasing behavior that leaves homeowners high and dry, with unfinished roofs and water-damaged homes.
News reports and attorneys general continuously warn consumers to be wary of roofing fraud and scam artists. Despite these warnings, homeowners continue to face roofing scams and rip-offs.
One in three Angie's List members who took an online poll for this story and had roofing work done said they had an issue with their roofer or developed a roofing problem down the line. Of those who detailed their complaints, 68 percent mentioned shoddy roofing work as a problem. Others cited trouble with roofing contractors who overcharged them, lacked a license, or took their money and ran.
Why proper roof construction is important
Lining up a good contractor to properly install a roof reduces the need for future repairs. Charles Nance, owner of CHN inspections, says improper ventilation can cause roofing shingles to become brittle and curl.
"You can cut the roof life expectancy by 20 or 30 percent with a poorly ventilated attic space," he says.
Incorrectly installed shingles can also cost you. When Kath Mullholand was preparing to sell her Greenland, New Hampshire, home six years after installing a new roof, she was surprised to find that the shingles weren't layered per the manufacturer's instructions.
"Once you knew what to look for, it was obvious they weren't applied correctly," says Mullholand, who ended up eating the cost of a new $13,000 roof. "He's a crook — he should be behind bars," Sunderland says of her roofer.
Roofers must correctly install all parts of the roof, from fascia and soffit to gutters, or it won't last long.
Tips to prevent bad roofing work
There are many things you can do to prevent a roofing contractor catastrophe. As with any project, it's wise to get multiple bids.
"Everybody gets the shingles for the same cost and the labor is about the same cost, so if somebody is real low, they're probably risky."
Asking for references from suppliers or running a credit check can also help determine whether a roofing company is solvent.
Bill Good, executive vice president of the National Roofing Contractors Association, says you should ask contractors for proof of workers' compensation and liability insurance.
"They should have certificates to prove it and should be happy that homeowners asked, because a lot of fly-by-night contractors don't," he says. "If a contractor doesn't have insurance, the homeowner is taking some of the liability if a worker becomes injured on the job site."
Protect yourself from roofing fraud
Nance says there are many ways you can protect yourself from fraud or unfair charges. "If you don't have paid material receipts and lien waivers, you're going to end up paying for your roof twice," he says.
It's important to get a detailed contract in advance that includes any provisions for extras or changes.
Be wary of storm chasers, or contractors who flock to an area that's been hit by bad weather. After storms pummeled northeastern Ohio, Chris Kamis, co-owner of Absolute Roofing and Construction in Cleveland, says he was approached by several out-of-town contractors who wanted to work under his company's name, including one who offered $100,000 plus $4 for every 100 square feet of roof installed.
"I've been in business for 24 years and there's no way I'm going to put my name on the line like that," says Kamis, whose company would've been responsible for covering the warranties. He says other area roofing contractors did sign contracts with the storm chasers.
"What they are doing is completely misrepresenting themselves," Kamis says.
Some legitimate out-of-town companies and workers will visit an area hit by storms, but be cautious and make sure they're operating under appropriate local licensing and permitting laws. If you prefer a local contractor, but demand is high, many roofers will perform provisional repairs to tide you over.