If you go looking for roofers in a big area like Chicagoland, you’re going to pull up a lot of results. Start comparing estimates from each of them, and now you have even more information to consider.
But how do you know which one will give you the best experience? Aside from the quality of installation, you also want to make sure you’re entrusting the quality of your home to the right people.
A roofing project isn’t just a maintenance expense — it’s an investment that will provide tangible value to your home. But that can only happen if your roofer completes the job with exceptional quality.
Part of that includes the quality of the experience and the continued support you’ll receive after they complete the job. Ask yourself: Can they back up their guarantee? What kind of financing options do they offer? And the most important question — can you trust them?
In order to get the most value from a roofing project, you need to know what type of roofer you’re dealing with. Generally, there are three kinds:
Let’s look at how you can distinguish between each one and which one is most likely to offer you the best value.
In the roofing and home improvement industry, cheap independent contractors are jokingly referred to as a “Chuck in a Truck.”
Why? Because that’s exactly what they look like a lot of the time. They often show up to your home in a plain white pickup truck (or van) in jeans and a dirty t-shirt. They usually work independently or with one or two other contractors. While many people choose Chuck for the price, it isn’t always the best idea.
Usually, Chuck won’t have a brick and mortar office or storefront. Instead, he will probably operate out of his home or vehicle. Because of this, Chuck often shows up to the job site with a disorganized truck full of tools that may or may not be in good condition to work with.
Finding an established work record for Chuck can be difficult (if he has one at all). He probably doesn’t have a website or Google Maps listing and may only do business by word of mouth. However, he might have a cheap business card, bright-colored yard signs, or a branded T-shirt.
To be clear, none of this is illegal or even unethical. But someone who puts so little effort into being professional may be unmotivated in other areas as well.
Most of the time, people choose to work with a small contractor like this because of the price. While a low price is certainly a compelling factor, it’s important to think about why they’re so cheap compared to others on your list. If a small contractor is trying to win your business by offering the lowest price, they are likely cutting costs in other ways.
Aside from that, you may feel more comfortable working with an independent contractor if you know them on a personal level. Otherwise, you may be doing them a favor because you have a mutual friend. But what do you know about this person’s workmanship? If you decide to hire them and they don’t do good work, how much is that favor going to cost your home in potential value?
Simply put, working with a “Chuck in a Truck” roofing contractor is a big risk. While they may appear legitimate at first, consider that 95% of roofing contractors go out of business in just five years. Why? Because so many of them do poor quality work and don’t provide a good customer experience. Let’s look at a few problems you might encounter with Chuck:
Many cheap contractors try to save money by using low-quality materials or hiring cheap, inexperienced workers to do the job. Besides building a low-quality roof, a cheap laborer may not install your roof correctly because they don’t actually know what they’re doing.
Even if a roofer sends you a quote with high-quality materials, it won’t matter if they aren’t installed correctly. Poor workmanship will cause even the best quality materials to fall apart in just a few years. In this case, the saying is true: Buy cheap, buy twice.
Small-time roofing contractors are usually a one-man-show. Instead of having a secretary to handle billing, invoicing, or scheduling for roofing jobs, they are doing it all themselves.
In reality, it’s incredibly difficult to serve a moderately sized client base in a timely manner with just one person on staff. If you need help with financing, billing, warranties, or if you just have a problem with a completed project, you could be waiting a long time for a response. This often leads to a negative customer experience, which you may see reflected in the reviews.
Small-time contractors often don’t obtain proper building permits, licensing or bonding to complete their projects. While this may not seem like a huge problem, consider what will happen if you have an issue with your roofing project. If the city did not formally authorize the project (or the contractor) in the first place, there is no third party to hold the contractor accountable against poor work. Having the right permit, license, and bonding for a roofing project offers you leverage against a poor or incomplete job. You can then use this to take action against the contractor if necessary.
Many contractors also try to work around insurance requirements by using ghost policies (among other tricks). Ghost policies fill the state-specific legal requirement for a contractor to have insurance while excluding the “business owner” from coverage. But if you’re working with an independent contractor who operates as a one-man-show, they are the business owner. This means the person on your roof isn’t insured against accidents and the coverage is effectively worthless. If that person falls off your roof or damages your property, you could end up paying for their medical bills and other expenses — not to mention the cost to replace your own damaged property.
Most materials come with a standard manufacturer warranty. However, they usually only cover issues with the manufacturing of the material itself. If you hire a cheap contractor who installs your roof incorrectly, your warranty on the materials is void. In other cases, an unprofessional contractor may not register the product with the manufacturer or may use outdated materials that are no longer covered by the warranty. Beyond that, if they go out of business within five years, they won’t be able to help you handle the warranty claim at all.
Some “contractors” roll into town only after a major storm or natural disaster. But instead of doing good work for people in need of an urgent roofing solution, they’re looking to take advantage of them. In the roofing industry, we call them storm chasers.
These scam artists look just like regular independent contractors. If you hire them, they will probably do very poor quality work after taking a down payment. Otherwise, they may just run away with your money without doing the job at all. While this isn’t always the case, it’s worth digging deeper into a contractor’s history and credentials to make sure they’re legitimate — especially if you’ve never heard of them before.
Local established roofing companies are available in nearly every city. Most times, they are a good option for homeowners who want high-quality work with a personal touch.
Once you start searching for roofers in your area, you should come up with a few results for local roofing companies. While you may find a number of local companies with brick-and-mortar offices near you, it’s most important to choose one that has a well-established reputation. If they show up on Google Maps, this is a good sign that the company is a little more established than a small-time contractor.
An established company will typically invest in solid branding and good equipment. Look for a clean, well-branded website design and a unique logo that appears on shirts and vehicles. You may also see their signs in yards, on billboards, or near the office location. This often means they’re investing in their business and local reputation — not in themselves. That said, generic branding that appears almost everywhere you look may indicate a corporation with a big marketing budget.
A legitimate roofing company will also be licensed, bonded, and insured. You can verify this by looking on the website, calling the company, or double-checking with your local municipality. From there, you want to check for an established service record on multiple local channels. Aside from the company’s own website, look for high ratings and positive testimonials on Google Maps and Yelp. If they have over five years of experience, that means they’ve passed the threshold for most roofing contractors to go out of business. Most of the time, this means they are serving their customers well.
Beyond that, a local established company will have a distinct local personality. You may see them around town at stores or restaurants or hear about their involvement in the local community. When you call them, you will probably talk to a live person in the office — someone you can build a relationship with as you set up the project.
Local roofing companies are bigger and more advanced than small contractors, but their customer base is more focused than a big box store. Because they usually serve a single state or local region, local roofing companies offer a great balance between quality service and professionalism.
With a local established roofing company, you have the personalization of a contractor with the quality standards of a big box store. They may have served your neighbors in the past, and they’re probably familiar with popular roofing styles in your area.
Since they have a larger, more experienced team than a contractor, local companies tend to produce better work. When doing a project with an established local company, you won’t have to worry as much about whether the work meets building codes. These companies have intense quality standards for materials, equipment, and installation.
Because local roofing companies have a smaller customer base than a big box store, they can fully dedicate themselves to individual jobs. Instead of completing thousands of jobs and aiming to make most of them happy, a local established roofing company can focus their efforts on satisfying a small community of people. When working with a big box store, a poor job on your home is likely just another number in a “margin of error” report. Local companies have more of a personal stake in making each job count.
Since local roofing companies are smaller and not run by corporate policies, they have options and flexibility to work with you to meet your needs. While they tend to charge more than a small contractor in order to do the job well, it is well worth it, because they have a solid infrastructure, including financing options to pay for your roofing project over the course of a few months or years. Overall, the buying process is more relational than transactional. It’s like having a conversation instead of pushing a “buy” button.
With a local roofing company, you aren’t dealing with a call center full of customer service reps or some guy in his truck taking calls on his lunch break. You’re talking to a professional company that also takes the time to be friendly (and hire a secretary).
Once you choose to do business with them, a local roofing company has more of a personal obligation to do the job well since you are part of a smaller circle of customers. This shows not only in their quality of work but also in how they choose to communicate with you. Any company that cares about its customers will have high ratings in customer service, responding to questions, and requests in a timely manner.
Especially in a larger metropolitan area, a general search for local roofing companies will yield a lot of results, but not all of them are good choices. While medium-sized roofing companies offer many advantages, simply being local doesn’t automatically mean they will provide your home with the best value. You’ll still need to filter through your search results to find a local company with an established reputation for high-quality work and great customer service.
Occasionally, people choose large roofing companies because they think the sheer size and notoriety of the brand will guarantee quality. But if you’ve ever bought something from a dollar store, you know that the size of a store chain doesn’t always mean its products are high quality. While a big box store may seem like a safe bet, there are a few things to consider when comparing this type of estimate to the rest of your list.
The most obvious trait of a big box roofing company is the generic branding. Because they are marketing to the masses, their branding isn’t usually tailored to a local community. It also isn’t very bold. Instead, they will typically build their website with neutral colors and safe designs that are neither eye-catching nor interesting. This is a calculated marketing decision aimed at pleasing as many people as possible.
Most of the time, these corporations have offices all over the country and beyond. This means they probably have at least one office (if not more) in your area.
It also means they are working with huge teams with big call centers full of sales reps and customer service agents. When you call them, you will likely be greeted by an automated message that directs you through a series of prompts before you ever get to speak with sales. From there, you will be funneled through a formalized buying process and contract signing.
If nothing else, you can almost guarantee that a large roofing corporation will be 100% legitimate in terms of local licensing, bonding, and insurance. Without proper documentation, they wouldn’t be able to maintain such a large structure in multiple states without getting in trouble. Beyond that, they probably have high quality standards since they only hire professionals to do their jobs.
If you don’t have prior experience working with a big box store, it may seem like a good idea to hire them at first. But the assurance promised by the brand name may only go as far as the visual design. Here are a few hazards of working with a corporation like this:
Even though high volume sales can drive the price down on some items, large corporations still charge a lot for roofing projects. In many cases, they may be the most expensive estimate on your list. While cost can indicate some level of quality, many big box stores cross that line and charge way too much. After all, they have a bigger team and more offices to fund than a smaller company.
Big businesses often have massive sales teams with quotas to fill each month. If you’re hoping to negotiate a price or carefully consider your options, a big box store won’t wait for you to do either. If you don’t immediately show interest, there are probably people on hold that are more likely to buy right away. This means that sales reps won’t take time to build a relationship with you. You either buy or you don’t — the sales rep has to move on.
Many large roofing companies make their money on high-profile commercial projects. If you’re asking for a small residential project, you aren’t part of their main customer base. That means they don’t have the same incentive to serve you to the best of their ability. Instead, your house is just a drop in the bucket for their overall sales figures. If you have a problem or a question about your project, you may have to go through multiple tiers of management to get what you need.
If they charge you extra money by mistake or mess up the invoice, you may have to go through a tedious complaint process that takes a long time to resolve. Other times, these companies are simply too big to challenge and too big to care. When dealing with just a small handful of bad reviews, big corporations don’t always have to be accountable for their mistakes.
If your car breaks down, you wouldn’t just take it to be repaired by some guy working in his backyard. Why? Because he’s probably not licensed and may not know what he’s doing.
So what do you do? Do you take it to the dealership and let them charge you a thousand dollars for a new key fob battery? No way.
Instead, you call the local mechanic shop. They’re well-established with a good reputation for quality work, and they won’t empty your bank account to finish the job.
It’s the same with roofing. When comparing three different types of roofing contractors, the decision is clear — local established roofing companies tend to offer the best value.
That’s exactly who we are at Baltic Roofing. Our team has been serving Chicago and its surrounding areas since 2004. That means we have a legitimate track record for high-quality roofing, and we’ve probably worked on some of your neighbors’ houses. See what local customers have said about our work.
To achieve these kinds of results, we practice in our own office and not on your home. We put every roof through a strict quality control process, and each project is backed by our No Leak Guarantee. After we’re done working, we walk around the property with you to ensure you’re happy with the quality as well.
Why do we do all of this? In short, because we care. Roofing is not just a trade for us. It is a responsibility we take seriously and a job we love doing. We’re proud to serve Chicagoland and surrounding communities, and we aim to continue building roofing systems you can trust and admire for years to come.
Contact us today and talk to a real person about your roofing project.
Learn why roof decking (or roof sheathing) is a key part of your home, the difference between plywood and OSB, and how to inspect your roof for signs of damage.