Safety and equipment
Choosing the right roofer
Reading time: 7 minutes
When choosing the right roofing specialist, there are some key issues you need to think about. In this article, we’ll take you through them step by step.
- Choose someone with lots of specific experience
- Choose someone who inspects the area thoroughly
- Get a detailed quote from each tradesman you’re considering
- Find out whether a tradesman uses safety equipment properly
- Make sure each tradesman is upfront about equipment hire costs
- Never pay in full upfront!
- Check whether each tradesman is a CompetentRoofer member
- Make sure the work is completed to standard
- Let’s look at each of these in a bit more depth.
Choose someone with lots of specific experience
What sort of a roof do you have? Thatching, slate tiling and flat roof repair work all require very different sets of skills, so look out for a tradesman who has specific experience of doing similar jobs to yours.
Glen Batt of Glen Batt Roofing Ltd has been a roofer for 11 years, and has 200 positive reviews on MyBuilder. He explains:
Make sure the tradesman you hire is really experienced in doing your sort of job, particularly if it’s a big project – like a whole new roof.
Most roofers will be experienced in working with tiles and slates – but lots of flat roof projects include the use of fibreglass and other, more modern materials that some roofers won’t have much experience of working with. So make sure you hire someone who’s used those materials several times before – and preferably ask to see photos of their recent work.
For big roofing jobs, in particular, try to speak to a previous customer of theirs in person. Steven Cope of Scope Roofing has been working in the roofing trade since the late 1990s, and has been a member of MyBuilder since 2009. As he explains, a good roofing specialist should be happy to introduce you to previous clients:
Normally we’d show a potential customer our portfolio – for example on an iPad. And if there’s a job that’s similar to the one the customer wants done, we’d offer to put them in touch with the person who had that job down, so they can go round there, chat to them and inspect the work.
Choose someone who inspects the area thoroughly
Roofing jobs can be particularly mysterious from a homeowner’s perspective, because they are often unable to view the problem or project for themselves. As Glen points out, that makes it really important you choose a tradesman who examines the site thoroughly, and take photos.
Make sure each roofing specialist who comes to quote actually examines the site of the job. If you have a leak on the roof, you’re not going to be able to see it from the ground! So each tradesman should be up the roof working out exactly what the problem is. If a tradesman gives you a quote from the ground, I’d be wary.
Once a tradesman has inspected the work involved, they should explain to you, in detail, what the problem is and show you detailed photos. This is particularly important with roofing issues, because due to safety and accessibility issues, the homeowner is unlikely to have been able to assess the affected area themselves.
If you can see photos and ask detailed questions about them, you’re much less likely to be caught out by someone pretending something is a bigger (and more expensive) job than it actually is.
Get a detailed quote from each tradesman you’re considering
Every tradesman should provide you with a clear and detailed written quote which gives a breakdown of all possible costs. These could include:
- Labour – including the hire of any sub-contractors
- VAT and any other taxes
- Parking charges
- Waste disposal costs
- The hire of extra tools or equipment
- Site security or facilities – like fencing or a portable toilet
Every quote should also explain the tradesman’s charging structure (is it per hour, per day or a flat rate for the entire job?) and highlight when any payments would need to be made. For example – would you be expected to pay for any materials upfront? Or is the tradesman happy to take payment for the whole project once it’s been completed?
Finally, each quote should include a step-by-step description of the process the tradesman plans to go through to complete your job.
Make sure you get the same information from all the tradesmen you’re considering – so you can compare like-with-like. And if you think the quote is missing any detail, don’t be afraid to ask.
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Find out whether a tradesman uses safety equipment properly
There are various Work at Height regulations which every tradesman should adhere to. The Health and Safety Executive has produced a brief guide to what the regulations and guidelines mean in practice.
The use of scaffolding (as opposed to a ladder or cherry picker) isn’t always essential when roofing specialists are working at height; it depends on size and scale of the individual job. However, a roofer should be happy to explain to you how he plans to use his equipment safely, and in a manner compliant with the law.
Make sure each tradesman is upfront about equipment hire costs
The hire of certain equipment is likely to incur significant costs – so it’s important the tradesman you choose is upfront about any extra charges. Glen explains:
In terms of the equipment a tradesman uses, it’s really just a matter of preference. For example, I never use scaffolding – if a job requires scaffolding I actually won’t take it on.
There’s nothing wrong with hiring a roofer who does use scaffolding, but the homeowner should be aware that it’s expensive to hire, so the tradesman should be warning you in advance, before you commit to hiring them, about those added costs.
Ideally they should include the cost of the scaffolding in their quote, separate from the cost of labour and any materials.
Never pay in full upfront!
Some roofing specialists will be happy to wait until after work has been completed before receiving any payment.
Others may request a deposit first, especially for bigger projects. However, you shouldn’t have to pay more than 25% before the work begins; and never hire a tradesman who wants the full amount upfront.
According to Steven, you could even ask to delay payment further. He explains:
Don’t be afraid to ask a roofer whether you can delay payment until it rains! That way you’ll be properly testing the repair. A good tradesman who is confident in his craft should have no problems with this.
Check whether each tradesman is a CompetentRoofer member
CompetentRoofer is the Competent Person Scheme – licenced by the government – that allows roofing contractors to self-certify that their work complies with Building Regulations within England and Wales.
It’s not essential that the roofer you choose is a CompetentRoofer member. However, if 50% or more of your roof needs to be replaced, and they are not a member, you will need to get a surveyor from the local authority to inspect the work before it can be signed off.
Make sure the work is completed to the standard
Once you’ve chosen your tradesman and the work has been completed, Steven explains that you should get more photos before you pay up:
Make sure the tradesman takes plenty of photos of the completed job and gives them to you. That way you can pick him up on anything that’s not quite right – like cracked tiles or the over-use of silicone – before you pay him.
We actually send drones up to take pictures – particularly after big jobs. That way customers get an aerial shot of the house, and plenty of high-quality, detailed pictures of the work done, which they can easily zoom in on.
If something goes wrong after the job is done, don’t be afraid to get another company in to inspect the work before you get the original company back out.
That means you already have an expert, independent second opinion, if the original company tries to quibble over what needs doing. It’s just a bit of extra ammunition to have in your back pocket in case you need it.