Common Questions to Ask a Commercial Roofing Contractor

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Installing a new roof is one of the most expensive investments for a business owner. Just one square foot of new roof can cost up to several hundred dollars, so it is critical you don't just pick a roofing contractor at random — it must be one that is experienced and reputable. To vet a potential contractor properly, there are several essential questions you need to ask every contractor before choosing one to perform this critical service. Read our useful guide to learn what the most important questions to ask your contractor are and, based on the information you gather, how to make a final decision.

What Is a Commercial Roofing Project?

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A commercial roofing project is any kind of roof work on a business-owned building. Common examples include:

  • Hotels

  • Resorts

  • Park buildings

  • Historic buildings

  • Government buildings

Questions You Should Ask Before Starting a Commercial Roofing Project

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When speaking with potential roofing contractors for a commercial project, you will need to ask them several important questions, including ones related to roofing materials, costs, project supervision and licensing.

1. What types of materials are most suitable for my budget, needs and the surrounding environment?

It is vital to consider your local environment when choosing commercial roofing materials. If you live in an area with frequent wildfires, for instance, keep in mind metal roofs are more resistant to ignition than any other type of material. If you live in a colder region and have a smaller budget, it may be best to go with asphalt shingles, as they are durable in cold weather and are relatively economical.

2. How long will the project take? Will my business be able to continue operating during the installation?

While many other types of construction projects require you to shut down your business, this is most likely not the case with roofing projects. However, you should still ask your contractor roughly how long the project will last and share that information with your customers.

You must also ask when the project will start. For example, if a potential vendor is booked for the next 14 months, you may want to search for another company — especially if your current roof is leaky or falling apart.

3. Who will be supervising my installation?

If your contractor is reputable, it is likely they have multiple projects going on on any given day. So if the owner of the company won't be around during the installation, who will be there to make sure the project goes as planned?

Don't worry — many larger companies hire project managers to ensure your roof installation is complying with both manufacturer guidelines and local regulations.

Make sure to ask your contractor who will be overseeing your project. They should tell you one of the following:

  • The site manager

  • the business owner

  • A trained project manager

If the company doesn't respond to your satisfaction, look for a different contractor. If the contractor replies the workers "don't need supervision because they have lots of experience," do not accept this answer. Although experience is essential for your roofing crew, they can only install a roof efficiently if there is an industry expert onsite to supervise.

Roofing is a complex task, and if there is no one there to supervise, a minor issue can quickly escalate into a significant problem.

4. Could my new roof, which will be stronger and watertight, lower my insurance rates?

Yes. The condition of your roof will affect your policy. Newly or recently installed roofs will generally result in lowered premiums, whereas buildings that have older roofs will see higher rates. When getting your roof repaired or replaced, confirm with your insurance agent that you are covered and will benefit from the savings the improvement provides.

5. Does the federal government or my state offer incentives for these sorts of projects? If so, what are they?

It is entirely possible you can get a tax break for a new roof installation — particularly if it has good insulation.

6. What does this project entail?

Make sure to ask your contractor for an estimate in writing that covers the following items:

  • Labor

  • Shingles or other roofing materials

  • Cost of replacement plywood, which may or may not be necessary

  • Anything else needed for your particular project

7. Is the contracting company I am hoping to hire licensed, bonded and appropriately insured?

Make sure your contractor is all three of these. If not, look for another contractor. The reasons are important:

  • The license provides proof that the roofing company possesses the technical skills to perform the installation properly.

  • The insurance protects you, as the property owner, from any injury to the workers or damage to the property.

  • The bond protects your financial investment in your building.

If your area requires it, ask your contractor to provide you with a copy of their insurance certificate and state roofing license. If you want to verify a license, you can do so with this handy tool. To confirm their coverage, contact their insurance company directly.

8. Does the installation come with a warranty?

If you don't have a warranty, you're on your own if something goes wrong with your roof. Make sure to ask about a warranty and closely read your contract to make sure it delineates the warranty you agreed upon.

9. Where will the company put the dumpster to dispose of the old materials they'll be removing?

Dumpsters can do permanent damage to driveways and sidewalks. Make sure your dumpster is on a surface that won't crack under the weight of roofing materials.

10. How experienced is the contractor?

When it comes to commercial roofing, the experience is of the utmost importance. One good way to gauge the quality of their work is by how many years they've been in business. Although a new company may have hired many employees with vast experience, it still may not be financially solvent and may not have developed the processes that guarantee customer satisfaction. If a roofing company installs your roof and goes out of business a year later, maintenance contracts and warranties become meaningless.

It is smart to pick a roofer with at least 10 years of experience and confirm their business has operated under the same name throughout that period.

It is also a good idea to select a roofer who has experience installing roofs similar to yours. For instance, a roofing contractor who primarily installs roofs on suburban, single-story retail buildings would not be an ideal choice to hire for a large commercial roof on an urban high-rise. Look carefully at the roofer's portfolio and make sure they have plenty of experience working on roofs like yours.

11. What is the roofer's safety rating?

It's impossible to overstate the importance of keeping the workers and all those nearby safe, so make sure to ask about the contractor's safety record. The company should keep this information on file, and be willing to include this information as part of the presentation of their bid. How well the contractor manages this aspect of the project may be a good indicator of how well they will manage the project overall.

Commercial Job Roof Types

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Business owners today have many options for materials when installing their new roof. Below are some of the most popular ones.

Ornamental Metal

This durable and stylish material provides the following benefits:

  • It lasts. A metal roof, installed by capable roofers, has a longer lifespan than more conventional materials. While asphalt roofs last an average of 10 to 20 years, metal roofs can go 50 years or more before needing replacement.

  • It is light. Metal roofs don't weigh much, so the installation won't compromise your building's structural integrity.

  • It can reflect. Metal roofs, painted using certain pigments, can reflect solar energy, making it easy to keep the temperature stable inside. That, in turn, will reduce your consumption of energy and your heating bills.

  • It's safe. Metal roofs can prevent the spread of forest fires when hot embers come in contact with them, and they are also highly resistant to high winds.

  • It's recyclable. Ninety-five percent of this roofing material comes from recycled materials.

Copper

Copper is a common roofing material for government offices, luxury hotels and various other high-end buildings. It is a distinguishing feature of many of the world's most famous structures.

This material is distinctive and allows for the creation of ornate design elements. Some other advantages of copper include:

  • It's durable. Like ornamental metal, copper can last more than 50 years. If can also withstand fire, hailstorms, mildew and mold.

  • It's lightweight. Despite its strength, copper is quite light, which makes the installaiton faster.

  • It's energy-efficient. Copper, just like any ornamental metal, reflects sunlight, which helps minimize thermal heating inside your building and keeps temperatures inside more stable throughout the year.

Wood

Wood roofs were common early in America's history because they were easy for people to build themselves, and they remain popular today due to their use in various revival styles. They typically come in the form of either shakes or shingles. Shakes are traditionally split by hand, leading to a rougher finish, whereas shingles are traditionally sawn from a single wood block, which leads to a smoother appearance.

They are most commonly cedar and have a lifespan of 20 to 40 years, which depends on how well the owner cares for them. Some of the best-known benefits of cedar roofing include:

  • It's durable. Cedar roofing has a strong resistance to heavy rains, hurricanes, hail storms and other forms of severe weather.

  • It's energy-efficient. Cedar can have up to twice the insulation capacity of asphalt shingles, which leads to lower energy bills.

Slate

Slate is a crystalline rock that metamorphosed from bedded clay, silt and various mineral deposits. Known to be one of the highest-quality roofing materials around, slate is beautiful and exceptionally durable. Its popularity is due to its many benefits:

  • It's attractive. Slate's distinctive appearance is impossible to replicate with a synthetic material.

  • It comes in many varieties. Slate is available in many thicknesses, sizes and colors.

  • It lasts a long time. Slate can last for more than 100 years, often outlasting the building. This lifespan more than compensates for its higher installation cost.

  • It is highly fire-resistant. This characteristic makes it a great choice for hotter, drier regions of the country where forest fires occur frequently.

  • It's environmentally friendly. Slate only needs replacing every 100 years or so, it's 100 percent natural and its manufacture does not involve any chemical treatments, so it is an environmentally friendly material.

Historic Preservation and Repairing

If your business' building has historical, cultural or architectural significance, you should find a contractor that is not only experienced in installing the material of your roof, but also one that has experience with historical buildings. The team you choose should be able to restore your roof so it is as attractive and strong as the original and remains faithful to its design principles. At the same time, the company should also be able to prolong the lifespan of the roof by using the most modern methods and roofing materials.

How Should I Choose a Commercial Roofing Contractor?

When considering multiple bids with the same price, safety record and experience, the deciding factor should be quality.

To determine the quality of a contractor for a business roof replacement, look over their portfolio and request references. Companies that are reputable can usually provide references for projects similar to yours. If you manage to get through to those references, inquire about their satisfaction regarding the following factors.

  • Communication: Was the contractor communicative and honest with them throughout the entire process?

  • Materials: Did the company use good-quality materials?

  • Workmanship: Was the customer satisfied with the finished product?

  • Safety: Did all workers adhere to safety precautions?

  • Contracts: Did the contractor honor all contracts, warranties, etc.?

  • Current performance of the roof: Is the roof still holding up well?

Choose Huber & Associates for Commercial Roofing Projects

If your business owns a historic building in need of roof restoration or commercial roof replacement, consider hiring Huber & Associates, a company internationally renowned for expertise in historical restoration roofing. We have more than 40 years of experience with a variety of roofing materials, including copper, clay tile, wood and slate, and have a proven track record of beautiful, long-lasting historical roof restorations. We are also well-versed in many roofing styles, having performed roof installations on churches, plantations, universities, museums and courthouses around the country.

We provide our services throughout the Southeastern U.S., although we are also willing to travel anywhere in the country and internationally. If you'd like to learn more about our services, feel free to reach us at 828-275-7678 or by filling out our online contact form, and we would be glad to assist you.