Comparing contractor estimates is a daunting task if not outright confusing. First and foremost always ask for a detailed estimate in writing. Take some time before you review your written estimates to check in with previous customers and/or references of the companies your are considering. Always check with the Registrar of Contractors.

  • Price versus Value: Although the bottom line is important, resist the urge to make a decision on bottom line alone. As you review your estimate, here are some of the questions you should be asking yourself.

  • Materials: Price versus Quality:Look carefully at the type of material quoted and its price. If the estimate does not contain a detailed breakdown of materials and labor, call the contractor and ask for this information. Compromising on quality materials and workmanship rarely turns out to be a “great deal”. Make sure your estimates are “apples to apples”, or at least make an educated decision if it is not.

    Pay close attention to the type of insulation and sealants that are budgeted for your project. The cost difference between thinner insulation products and those with more layers may be nominal but the net results are significant. Better choices of insulation products will affect your costs after the roof is installed. With escalating energy costs-small investments today can pay off significantly in the future.

  • Check and re-check measurements: We are not suggesting you climb your roof and measure, however if you are looking at multiple estimates look for glaring differences in measurements. Measurements should follow industry standards and multiple estimates should be in a relative ballpark. Review the estimate to see who absorbs costs for miscalculations.

  • Labor and Incidental Costs: If the amount budgeted for labor and “pass-through” costs such as the transportation of materials seems despairingly high, dig deeper and determine where the cost or the savings come from. Are you paying more for employees versus sub-contractors? Understand why the differences exist.

  • Customer References: Weigh the responses you receive from the customer references carefully; understanding that these references may be handpicked. Ask the contractor if you are able to view their customer feedback responses. Ask for references from clients that had problems so as to determine how the company responded. Remember it is not the absence of problems that make a great contractor; it is how they handle them that make the difference.

  • Conclusion: Take detailed notes as you review each estimate, listing your questions and summarizing the overall bid and response from the customer references for each contractor. Once you finish a detailed review of each estimate, take your notes and compare the estimates. Only then will you be able to get a true comparison of what is being offered.


  • Can you provide a list of former customers as references? Contacting others who have worked with the contractor in the past is a good way to determine his reliability and to get an idea of what the roofing experience would be like with this contractor taking care of the job. However, realize that the roofer can legitimately refuse to give a long list–many customers may not want their names released.

  • What is your track record with customer complaints? Try to find out how your contractor handles problems when they do arise. Request a referral from a job that involved a complaint.

  • Is payment upon completion? Is there a deposit before the project begins, how much is the deposit?

  • Will you furnish me with a written contract including explicit payment instructions and total price?

  • Do you have bonding capabilities? Always look for a bonded contractor, assurance that he can perform the work and complete the project, giving you piece of mind that if a problem were to arise you would be protected. What is a bonded contractor?

  • Will you furnish me with a guarantee and manufacturer’s warranty?

  • How long has your roofing company been in business? Needless to say, longer is usually better than shorter. Less than three years may signal an unstable business. On the other hand, everybody has to start sometime. References will be helpful to double-check any business, and are especially important when dealing with a new business. A newer business may have a great future, but it is only reasonable to be more careful when considering its referrals.

  • Are you going to obtain the required re-roofing permits? Be leery of the roofer who asks you to obtain these permits!

  • In the event that your equipment damages my property, who is liable? It is a good idea to have your contractor provides both Certificates of Insurance for both liability and Worker’s Compensation before work begins on your home.

  • Will there be sub-contractors? If so, what are their names and license numbers? If your contractor does hire out a subcontractor, it is a good idea to go over all of the same questions with them. Of particular interest is insurance; be sure that the subcontractor holds all of the proper insurance so that you are not held liable for any accident that may occur on the job.

  • Will you submit a maintenance program for the new roof system? Sadly, most roofing contractors will not offer a maintenance program for your roof once it is installed. Regular inspection of the new roof will allow for potential problems to be caught early and remedied before they cause substantial damage.

  • Are you a current member of any local and national roofing associations, i.e. the NRCA? Membership in such organizations shows the contractor is taking the initiative to stay up to date on current roofing information and maintain the highest standard of education possible.

  • Is there any pending legal action against your company? Some major litigation could put a company out of business. If a lawsuit is pending, find out what the suit entails. This may include going to the local courthouse and looking at the court documents filed for the case to date.

  • Who will haul away the old roofing materials and/or project waste (e.g. extra materials, packaging, etc.)? Is there extra charge for this service?


Buying a new roof system is an important investment. Before you spend your money, spend some time learning how to evaluate the roofing contractor who may be doing the work. You should insist on working with a professional roofing contractor. The National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) wants to assist you in getting the kind of results you expect—a quality roof system at a fair price.

All roofing contractors are not alike, and NRCA recommends that you prequalify roofing contractors to get the job done right the first time. The following guidelines will help in your decision:

  • Check for a permanent place of business, telephone number, tax I. D. number, and where required, a business license.

  • Insist on seeing copies of the contractor’s liability insurance coverage and workers’ compensation certificates. Make sure the coverages are in effect through the duration of the job. (Note: U.S. workers’ compensation laws vary by state. Consult your state’s laws to determine workers’ compensation insurance requirements.)

  • Look for a company with a proven track record that readily offers client references and a list of completed projects. Call these clients to find out whether they were satisfied.

  • Check to see whether the contractor is properly licensed or bonded. Call your state’s licensing board for your state’s specific requirements (where applicable).

  • Insist on a written proposal and examine it for complete descriptions of the work and specifications, including approximate starting and completion dates and payment procedures.

  • Check to see if the contractor is a member of any regional or national industry associations, such as NRCA.

  • Call your local Better Business Bureau to check for any complaints that have been filed.

  • Have the contractor explain his project supervision and quality control procedures. Request the name of the person who will be in charge, how many workers will be required and the estimated time of completion.

  • Carefully read and understand any roofing warranty offered and watch for provisions that would void it. Keep a healthy skepticism about the lowest bid. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Remember, price is only one criterion for selecting a roofing contractor. Professionalism and quality workmanship also should weigh heavily on your decision.