One of the best ways to ensure siding or roofing contractors give you a square deal is to know what to look for when they give you an estimate. It’s like checking the weather before a picnic.
When it comes to siding and roofing estimates, there are general rules, specific must-have items, and “nice to have” items.
1. General rules.
Roofing and siding estimates should observe four general rules:
Specific. The estimate should include specific, reasonably detailed information.
Complete. The estimate should address not only materials and labor but also incidentals like waste removal and dumpster/container costs for construction debris.
Clear. While some details might require clarification (because after all, roofing and siding materials aren’t a day-to-day topic of conversation for most people), you shouldn’t need a lawyer to understand anything in your estimate. It should be in plain English.
Contingencies. Contingencies that might result in cost overruns or delays should be clearly stated.
2. Must-have items.
Any omission could theoretically be innocent, especially when the proposal is for an urgent repair. But there are a few things that should be included in every estimate, every time. If any of these elements is lacking, you should be concerned. If the contractor can’t promptly furnish the information upon request, don’t hire him.
Here they are:
Contractor’s contact information, including email, phone, and a physical address
Proof of licensure (a license number is sufficient in most localities and can be verified easily with licensing boards)
Payment timeline and due dates
Specific information (including descriptions, type/material, brand, and quantities) about the materials that will be used. Depending on the type of work, these may include:
Shingles (asphalt, clay or other)
Window and door trim
Gutters and gutter screens
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A line item (sometimes more than one) for labor costs
A line item for construction debris removal costs, dumpster/container fees, and any other incidental fees
Warranty information including a guarantee on workmanship and material defects
3. Nice-to-have items.
The absence of any of the following items shouldn’t be seen as a red flag, but at least some of them should be included in your estimate. Most contractors won’t provide all of this information up-front, and one reason is an honest consideration of your time.
That said, this is generally useful information that will help you assess a contractor’s credibility, avoid cost overruns, and consider opportunities you might not have thought of.
This is an example of a warrant overview. Be sure to review any contingencies that might result in warranties being nullified.
A specific project timeline, and contingencies (such as inclement weather) that might result in legitimate delays
Information about filing an insurance claim
Any information about membership in trade organizations. For instance, we’re a member of the Home Improvement Contractors Association.
Information about workers’ compensation and liability insurance, lien releases, or other liability-related issues.
The amount of the down payment
Additional options you might value, such as materials upgrades and financing
The basic rationale for the type of work, such as a decision to repair, rather than replace, a roof. (Things like this can involve judgment calls that won’t always be obvious to the homeowner.)
To an honest contractor, these are all reasonable discussion points.
You deserve transparency, clear expectations, simplicity, and security.
Ideally, an intelligent 15-year-old should be able to grasp a siding or roofing estimate. It should be specific, it should be in plain English, and it shouldn’t omit anything.
The presence of the above elements in a siding or roofing estimate will provide reasonable assurance that you get a square deal and a happy outcome.