The ten most dangerous lies that roofers tell almost every Homeowner
And how to tell the bad guys from the good guys.
Henry Staggs, RRO
October 10th, 2020
After three decades in the roofing industry. From ground clean up to contractor and now roof consultant. I have learned a few things about roofers, the things they do and why they do them. Regrettably one of the things roofers do too well is lie! They won't call it lying, they may not even realize or understand they are lying. How can that be? Well the fact is that in businesspeople seem to have two sets of moral values. Their personal ones and their business ones. According to some business values fluffing up the truth is not "really" lying. No, they are "ice breakers" or "sales techniques". In the real world, if you say something knowing that it is not true. That is called a lie.
Here are some of the most common and most damaging lies that roofers tell. Keep in mind that roofing contractors have very little industry training. Most of the sales training roofers get. Comes from manufacturers who offer it free of charge. Most of what I am about to reveal can be found on their blogs and tips for roofing contractors. The rest is what we all have been teaching each other over the decades. Most of them mean no ill will toward you, some might though. Always do your homework for signing any contract.
OK here we go
"We do FREE Roof Inspections" Yeah .... no, they don't. The old FREE INSPECTION marketing game is one of the first ones that I learned. It's simple really. The roofer advertises "FREE Roof Inspection. People like FREE things. They call, and the roofer sends a sales rep out. They get paid on a commission basis. And are pressed to find as many problems as they can. Don't be fooled, the only reason they are there is to sale you a new roof. If not that, then enough repairs to get some commission out of the visit. If you are in a situation where you have very little time. For example, you are selling a house and the close date is days away. The roofer knows they got you on the hook. How can you say no?
When you do need a roof inspection. Hire an independent third-party roof inspector or consultant. You get what you pay for and considering the cost of real estate. Getting a set of expert eyes on your roof is a good idea.
"We are doing your neighbors roof down the street and ... " This ice breaker line is used in two ways. Some contractors will "six-pack" every job they do. They send out the sales rep to visit the people on either side of the house. And the three houses across the street. They may say something like "Here's my card, if the workers get bothersome please call me". Or “we're working on your neighbor's house and noticed your roof is aging too:". The second way this line is used is when the sales rep wants an excuse to knock on the door. They may not actually be doing any work in the neighborhood at all.
My advice is not to hire any roofing contractor who cold knocks on your door. Be careful.
"We book up fast, better sign up now". The moment that those words come out of the sale reps’ mouth. Show them the door. Seems harsh? They may be busy, but chances are they aren't as busy as they say. That line and several others are used to create a sense of urgency. So, that you'll act immediately, as if not doing so would cause you to suffer. Don't fall for it. If they are too booked it might be months before they show up to do the work. And if they are not as busy as they say, there is a reason for that too.
Tell the contractor that they will work on your time and on your schedule. If that does not work for that contractor. There are THOUSANDS more.
"We hire only the most skilled roofers." The fact is that in 2020 (when I wrote this) the skilled labor market is in a bad place. There are fewer and fewer skilled workers showing up in the roofing world. The other point is a repeat of an earlier point. Most of the training roofers get is free stuff offered by manufacturers. There are some paid training options. But the cost can be tough for most installers. And to top it all off, most contractors send their salespeople for training. It makes them look good, and they can flash all those cards at you.
There are a few things in motion (October 2020) that will change the face of the roofing labor market. But for now, be aware that what they called skilled and training, may not be what you imagine. Hire a third-party roofing expert to come out and check on the job for you.
"We never subcontract our jobs." This particular lie, really gets under my skin. I have heard this line so many times and more than half the time they are lying. Most roofing contractors do in fact use subcontracted labor. And some of those subs turn around and sub that to yet another contractor. This kind of layered deal exposes you the owner to all kinds of liability. When things go wrong, and they probably will. The finger pointing game begins and nothing gets resolved.
If you are OK with your roofing contractor using subs. Make sure they are licensed, insured and bonded before letting them on your roof. Oh! And by the way. There is no such thing as "they work under our license." In Arizona as I understand the way the law works (I am not a lawyer). You are either a contractor or an employee. Every contractor is required to be licensed and bonded in Arizona. Working without a license as a contractor in Arizona is a crime. Don't be an accomplice to a crime. Ask for proof, and the moment you learn they lied to you. Stop the work and call the ROC (Registrar of Contractors).
"In all our years in business we have never had a leak." If that is true that means they have never roofed a house. Remember the roofing industry is still working on how to best train everyone. In the meantime, 99% of the training is by trial and error. Any roofer who says they have never had a leak is lying through their teeth. It may be true that they have had very few leaks. Or even just one. But none, with years in the field. No, that's too suspicious.
Most roof leaks are due to poor workmanship and installation errors. Covered up by the phrase "we've always done it this way." As if saying that suddenly makes bad work OK? A job done poorly will fail, and no matter how many years a particular roofer has been doing poor work. It never miraculously becomes good work. Hire a third party to help you draft a solid "request for proposal" and look over the work for you.
"We are always OSHA compliant." This might be the biggest and most dangerous lie roofing contractors tell. The roofing industry has held the top spot for deaths due to falls for a long time. Which to me is disgusting, since roofers of all people should know how to not fall. The fact is that if you take a drive around and find roofers in the neighborhood. They will not be wearing fall protection and the site is probably messy. Try it.
Fall protection is the law, and has been for several decades. It is illegal for a contractor to allow their roofers to work without fall protection. This horrible and irresponsible practice. Exposes you to liability and the workers to injury or death. If your roofing contractor won't make the roofers wear fall protection for any reason. FIRE THEM! And call the Arizona Department of Safety and Health (ADOSH).
"We've never had any complaints with the ROC." They might be telling the truth, and they might even show their clean ROC (Registrar of Contractors). profile. Here is a little tip for you. Before you accept that that contractor has never had a complaint. Call the ROC and ask. You will get more information about a contractor over the phone than you will on their profile. You might also want to check a few other sources while you are at it. At my company we use the ROC, the OSHA establishment search, and we search the contractor's court records. The way I see it, if the contractor wants your money. They won’t mind if you do your homework. If they do mind, they might not be the right contractor for you.
"We've never been sued." A contractor once told me a story about his partner and him accidentally burning down a house. They were using a torch on the roof and did not have a fire extinguisher. He told me that to avoid any legal actions that might be taken against their company. They filed bankruptcy and opened in a new name. That is why it is so important to investigate the contractor carefully and thoughtfully.
Most of the roofing contractors out there are great people. They are hardworking and caring people who want to do a good job every time. But like any industry, we get some bad players here and there. The more you know what to look for, the better your roofing experience will be. I hope this article helps you identify the bad players, and more importantly. That you end up hiring a great contractor and get your money's worth.
Henry Staggs, RRO
Roof Consultant and Roofing Industry Advocate