Replacing My Roof – Part 2 – Getting Estimates

As I said in the previous post, I reached out to friends and social media to see who they recommended as a roofer. I also looked around online a bit, but after my experiences with Angie’s List being ridiculously spammy when I was a member a few years ago I decided not to bother with them at all. All of the contractors that were recommended were listed as Master Elite™ contractors on the GAF website.There’s a form where you put in your zip code and get a listing of factory-certified contractors in your area.

From what I was able to learn through my research on the Internet and from talking with the contractors who came out, only three percent of GAF’s factory-certified contractors qualify as Master Elite™, and with GAF being one of the top roofing companies in North America, I figured their top people would be a good place to source from. What I wasn’t prepared for was how drastically different my experiences would be from one company to the next.

I contacted five different contractors via their websites on the morning of July 26 saying that I wanted an estimate. I’ll be keeping them anonymized in this post and will refer to them in the order they came out to give me an estimate. This was a huge learning experience for me and if this helps anyone else in the future, that’s a good thing. No need to throw anyone under the bus during the process. Just because one company was the right fit for me may not make them the right fit for you.

Company A

Company A was recommended by a friend who is also looking to get her roof replaced and she said that she had heard good things about them. Things started off with a phone call from the owner within an hour of me submitting my form on the website on July 26. He was very personable and gave me a bit of his background, the background of the company and told me the name of the person who would be coming out to give the estimate. He explained what would happen and scheduled my quote for that very same afternoon.

The estimator called me to say he was in the area a bit earlier than expected and would it be all right to stop by earlier than my scheduled time. I said that was fine and a few minutes later a gorgeous new F-350 pulled up in front of my house with the contractor’s name on the side.

Even though it was the end of a warm day the estimator was very neat in appearance, polite, and after exchanging pleasantries and me giving him the information I knew about the roof (around 20 years old, leaking from the box vents, rot under the back porch) he asked if he could go inside the attic to see where I had noticed water coming in. He looked around a while and explained that they would recommend removing all of the box vents and power fan that are currently in place and use a ridge vent the entire length of the roof to have better ventilation. He also recommended that I close off the side venting in my attic to allow air to escape out the ridge vent. We then went outside where I showed him some water damage I noticed under the back porch roof and he noted that the wood would definitely be replaced there as well as anywhere the crew thought it was damaged on the main house roof.

After going up on the roof and measuring everything he went into his truck and came back with four different quotes depending on the types of materials I wanted to use. He explained all of the different types of underlayments, ice and water shields, different grades of shingles and ridge vents, and even the different kinds of pipe boots they offered. He even showed me examples of what different colored shingles would look like on my roof using an app on his tablet. While going over the proposals he also said that they would include installing a cricket at my chimney to promote drainage away from the chimney, something no other estimator would mention.

Seeing the final numbers ($7650 – 11,100 + $55/sheet of plywood that would need to be replaced) gave me some sticker shock, but by the time he left I felt smarter, more comfortable with what was involved and overall very confident in the contractor. In addition to the 50-year warranty on materials, they offered a 5-year warranty on workmanship. This is what a sales experience is supposed to be like.

After a visit of around an hour and a half, Company A left me with four printed out estimates, a folder full of literature about the different kinds of materials used and some background on the company’s processes, a list of nearby homes they have done work on, a copy of their state registration license, samples of the various types of underlayment, and the estimator’s business card.

Company B

Company B was referred to me by a friend who had them do the roof on his house and he was very happy with the work they did. Company B also called me on Tuesday, July 26th but I was on the phone at work so I had to call them back and after a bit of phone tag we scheduled an appointment for the following morning (July 27) to have one of their estimators come out.

Company B’s estimator was about 17 minutes late. He didn’t call to say he was running late, but he finally arrived in a late model Ford Transit Connect van and seemed flustered. Even though it was only a little after nine in the morning on a moderately warm day he was already drenched in sweat and really came off as in a hurry. I gave him the same information that I did the first estimator about the roof, figuring that it was only fair to give everyone the same playing field.

We walked around the house and I showed him the area where the back porch roof had wood rot. He then proceeded to get a ladder from his truck, get it snagged on the utility lines in front of my house, and then went up on the roof to measure, but the whole time it felt like he was in a hurry. He didn’t ask to go in the attic at all.

After measuring the roof he went out to his truck for a few minutes and came back with some brochures with pictures of different kinds of shingles. As we sat at my kitchen table he told me that it was a good company, the best in the area and that I should look up online to see. He told me how the owner of the company was very religious, that even name of the company was a reference to the owner’s religion and that their logo has subtle religious symbolism that he pointed out to me on his business card. He really made a point to drive home the religious nature of the owner. I’m not sure if this is supposed to make me feel better, but it didn’t. It was bizarre to the point of unsettling. If the owner is religious, that’s fine, but what does that have to do with the kind of work they’ll do on my house?

The estimator then told me that the job would be $9500. Nothing written down, not even an explanation of materials they would use. Just $9500. I asked him if I could get a written quote as I was having multiple companies come out and I’d like to have something to compare against. He said he’d email me a quote. That didn’t seem unreasonable, so I said ok and after around half an hour, the second estimator left me with two brochures of pictures of shingles and his business card.

What the heck had I gotten myself into? Was this a sign of how other companies were going to be?

The estimator from Company B sent me a text message two days later (Friday, July 29) apologizing for how long it took to get a quote and said that his price would be $9000, but if I needed financing it would be $9500. He then emailed me a picture of a handwritten quote on a form from his company for the $9000 + $70/sheet of decking for areas that would need replaing. In addition to the 50-year warranty on materials they offered a five year warranty on labor.

His pricing may have been in line with the first company to come out, but after that bizarre, unprofessional experience, there’s no way I would go with his company.

Company C

Company C was referred to me by my parents who chose to use them for getting their roof replaced. They’d already had multiple contractors come out and they felt this was the best fit for them. Company C emailed me the morning of July 26 to confirm that I actually did want a quote after filling in the form on the website and asked that I email or call them back to set up an appointment. I called the person who emailed me and during that conversation I told them that I was told about them by my parents who had chosen to use them. He told me that he’d like me to work with the same estimator my parents used, but that he was on vacation and would Monday, August 1 be a good time for him to come out. That was fine and we scheduled the appointment.

My parents had said good things about getting an estimate from Company C, but I had a few days to stew in the bad experience of Company B, so I was really ready for just about anything. The estimator for Company C came in a late model Toyota Tundra that while not new, was kept clean and seemed to be maintained well. I took this as a good sign, as after the sticker shock of my first quote, my neighbor said I should “get a quote from a guy with a shittier truck.” A well maintained, clean vehicle that isn’t brand new strikes me as professional and practical for someone in construction. Vehicles are overhead and the money to pay for them doesn’t come from nowhere.

It was the middle of the day and the estimator was neat in appearance, friendly and listened when I explained what I knew about the roof. We walked around the house, I showed him the rot on the back porch, and then he asked if it would be ok to go in the attic to look at where I saw water coming in. While in the attic he pointed out something that neither of the first two contractors did, that the back of my house has no soffit. He said that part of the ventilation problem was that without a soffit in the back there was no way for air to get into the attic to vent out. He also pointed out that even though the front of the house had a soffit, the insulation in my attic was blocking airfow and that he would recommend soffit baffles so air could travel properly. He also pointed out that the insulation in my attic should be at least 18″ deep to be up to code, and that if I wanted, that they could add some while they were doing the roofing work. After he explained that they would take out the box vents and replace it with a ridge vent, he then explained that for the back of the house he would recommend installing a SmartVent so I would have proper air flow.

He then went up on the roof and measured everything with a tape measure, and took quite a few pictures. Afterward he went into his truck for a little while and came back to the house to discuss the quote. He had a slide show on an iPad that discussed his company, what they did that made them great, how they installed things, and I really think it was so he didn’t forget to cover anything. It was professionally done and kept the conversation on track.

He showed me an example of a SmartVent, and how it would work, that it wouldn’t let water in, and that it would lift the edge of my roof around 3/4″. I told him that it didn’t bother me to have that, but he said that it was a concern for some people. He also told me that they use copper pipe boots that are custom soldered and crimped over my vent pipes. He said that while they are $75 each, that with the new 50-year warranties on roofing materials they felt this was a more durable solution than rubber pipe vents. Next he told me that for my back porch I should have ice and water shield over the entire porch since the slope of the roof wasn’t enough to have good runoff, and it would be an extra water barrier. He told me that by having all of the water from the house roof draining on to the back porch roof and then to the gutter that was causing some of the rot problems I had. He also said that they could extend the downspout from the top roof all the way down to the gutters for the back porch. That was quoted separately at $125. Since I had just purchased some new downspout for $10 for 10 feet at Home Depot a few weeks ago I told him I could handle that myself, that I didn’t need his crew to do it.

He then told me that my chimney was cracking at the top and really should have some attention in the near future. He said that his company did do chimney work, and that while it wasn’t required, it was something I should think about. I asked him if he could get me a separate quote for that after we were done talking about the roof.

When it came to the pricing on the roof itself his estimate came in at $7259 + $70/sheet of decking for anything that would need replacing. Considering that this included the SmartVent, copper pipe boots, soffit baffles, and ice and water shield over the entire back porch, the pricing sounded good, perhaps a bit too good to be true.

After we wrapped up discussion about the roof I asked the estimator to get me a quote on fixing my chimney and he made a call to their mason for pricing. Unfortunately the mason was busy so the estimator said he would email me pricing on the chimney. I got an email the next day with a quote of $1680 to re-crowning and re-pointing of my chimney. In addition to the 50-year warranty on materials, Company C also offered a 20-year warranty on workmanship.

After around a two hour visit, Company C left me with a printed out quote, a folder full of literature about the possible shingles I could pick from and information on the warranty on the materials.

Company D

Company D was referred to me via few people on social media saying they did good work and while they weren’t the cheapest quote, they were comparable and had done an excellent job. Company D called me on July 28, a few days after I’d reached out via their website and scheduled August 3 to come out to give me an estimate.

Company D’s estimator was a few minutes late, and arrived in a late model Ford Transit Connect van. One thing that struck me was that unlike the other companies, his van didn’t have a ladder on the roof. The estimator was very polite, and I explained to him what I knew about the roof situation, as I had with the other companies. He explained a little bit about his company and asked how I had heard about them, and how many other contractors I had coming out for quotes. The best word I can come up with for his demeanor was intimidated.

We walked around the house and I showed him the back porch area where he took some photos of the rot. He then asked to see the attic. As he came into the house he put slip covers over his boots. It wasn’t necessary as his shoes were clean, but he said it was their policy and the right thing to do. When we were in the attic he said that the attic was too hot compared to the outside air, and that some of the areas where he could see issues were likely partly caused by things not venting properly. He said that since the house had no soffits he recommended a SmartVent. I told him that the back doesn’t have a soffit, but the front does. He brushed that off the few times I said it, but explained that the SmartVent would allow air in to flow out through the new ridge vent they would install.

As we were getting down from the attic the estimator was very unsure of his footing on the ladder getting down and seemed to get a bit upset. After an awkward 30 seconds that I’m sure to him felt like hours, he came down from the attic and we sat at my kitchen table where he went through a booklet that explained his company and what made them good to work with, including how their processes ensured a long life for the roof. He asked if I had any questions and I said that I would let him get up on the roof to measure and he told me that roofers are now using “Eagle View” to get the roofing dimensions and he showed me a printout with the area of my roof already on it. To me this wasn’t a great sign because he wasn’t going to actually go on the roof to see what was going on with it, but I was going to let him do it how he does it. He then left me with a brochure with actual shingle samples in it, not just pictures, and went out to his truck to work on the estimate. As he was walking out the front door he said “Oh, I see your house does have a soffit on the front,” (like I told him more than once when we were in the attic) and that he’d only include the SmartVent on the back of the house since the front wouldn’t need it.

After around half an hour he came back with two printed estimates ($9369 – 10,463 + $100/sheet for decking that would need to be replaced) and a folder full of literature and samples of roofing underlayments. The quotes also included adding a coat of DryLok to the chimney. He seemed to feel that this was a big deal. The lower quote offered a 2-year premium craftsmen guarantee, and the higher quote offered a 10-year premium craftsmen guarantee. This seemed to be in line with the other contractors, but why only a two year guarantee on labor if I use cheaper materials? Another thing that was unique with this contractor was the the quote included installing a small metal version of their company seal on the roof. I asked why they did that and he said that they didn’t have to do that but it generally made homeowners feel good.

After the hour and a half visit, Company D left me with the shingle samples, a folder full of literature and underlayment samples, and two printed quotes.

Company E

Company E was recommended highly by quite a few people on social media. They had a secretary contact me via email on July 26 to confirm that I waned an estimate. I was told that my information would be passed on to an estimator to set an appointment. As of August 5, I did not hear back from Company E.

Choosing Which Company

Company E was out. I wasn’t even worth setting an appointment with. Either that or they forgot about me. I’m not going to hound someone to give them my business.

Company B was also out. Between being late, the estimator being rushed, that weird pushing of religiosity, and then taking days to get me a photograph of a hand written quote in an email, there’s no way I would choose them.

Company D was thorough, even if the estimator didn’t want to go on the roof. He was a bit nervous, but overall he was friendly and explained things well. That said, his lower end quote offered bare bones materials for what others were charging much less for, and the whole “we put our logo on your roof” thing was weird.

Company A set the bar high. Their estimator was professional, drove a sweet pickup, and explained everything extremely well in a non-condescending way. He didn’t say anything about the lack of a soffit, or about plumbing the water all the way down to the first set of gutters, or about my chimney needing repair, but based on the experience I had with him giving me an estimate, I would definitely feel comfortable using his company for work on my house.

Company C offered more in the way of services than any other contractor that came out, but their price was low. Really low. I compared their materials to what competitors had and the only thing that was different was that they quoted me for 30-pound felt underlayment instead of TigerPaw synthetic. When the estimator was here he mentioned that they sell the synthetic, but it was a bit more expensive and he wasn’t trying to sell me something I didn’t need. (When you’re offering $75 copper pipe boots because of durability, if you don’t feel better underlayment is a necessity, I’m going to take you seriously.) I’ve never been someone to make a purchasing decision based on price alone, but cheaper usually means “cheaper” not “less expensive”, I figured there had to be a reason. I thought back to the very reasonable truck the estimator used and if that is the kind of practical way the company was run, they likely had less overhead and could pass those savings on to customers.

I was 90% in the Company C camp, but I wasn’t certain, and with something that’s thousands of dollars, I don’t want to make a bad choice. Luckily for me, my parents, who chose Company C, and were originally scheduled to have the work done on August 11 were contacted by Company C and asked if they wouldn’t mind having the work done on August 4, since there was an opening in the schedule. To me, this was perfect timing. I could see how Company C did on my parents’ house before I made my choice. Was the low price too good to be true?

It turned out, I don’t think the low price was out of line at all. My parents said that the crew did a great job, was done in one day (and my parents’ house is bigger than mine), cleaned up after themselves and that my parents were really pleased with the work. After hearing that, it sealed the deal.

I called the estimator from Company C and told him I wanted to work with them to get my roof replaced, but since every other company recommended the synthetic underlayment, and that it was water resistant, and since my motivation for replacing the roof was water damage, what would the price difference be? $111. For $111, I told him I’d like the better underlayment, and I’d like them to do the chimney repair. We have an appointment set for Friday, August 12 to sign the paperwork.

Now that I’d chosen the roofer I wanted to work with, I felt it was only right to let the other companies know I wouldn’t be working with them. I knew I would have to choose someone, but I still felt ill as I sent them all an email saying I chose to work with another company. I also contacted Company E to let them know that no one ever got in touch with me for an appointment and that I was working with someone else.

Afterhoughts

Was I biased in my decision to go with Company C? I’m sure there was some, considering that it was who my parents chose, but I reached out to five different highly rated companies, (all GAF Master Elite™), got quotes from four, and in the end, Company C just offered more, for a much better price.