After A Hurricane, Ask Five Critical Questions To Your Roofer

After A Hurricane, Ask Five Critical Questions To Your Roofer

By Casey Crowther / Published January 2019

Photo by iStockphoto.com/BrianAJackson

In 2018, it was Hurricane Michael.

In 2017, it was Hurricane Irma.

In 2016, it was Hurricanes Matthew and Hermine.

Tropical storms and hurricanes have been slamming Florida for centuries—flooding homes, shredding landscaping, and damaging something many of us take for granted: a roof over our heads.

     Florida has strict laws prohibiting price gouging and unscrupulous laborers, but after every disaster, criminal contractors swoop into vulnerable communities in hopes of making a quick buck. Oftentimes, they’ll require hefty deposits, but might skip town before completing the job. Or they might hire unskilled day laborers whose work is substandard.

     Property owners, property managers, and boards of directors for private communities and condominiums must take initiative immediately after a storm passes to inspect structures for damage. Residents or tenants may have evacuated, and time is of the essence.

     Your first step is a DIY inspection. Certain types of damage are obvious—broken tiles, missing shingles, branches protruding over the roof, or toppled trees crunching the decking. To find not-so-obvious damages, grab a ladder tall enough to visibly inspect the roof and move around the building to examine each section to look for bumps, ripples, or other imperfections. Do not climb onto the roof, though, because any compromised sections might not be safe.

     Then, if you have access to the attic, grab a flashlight and peek into the space. If a roof structure was damaged, water intrusion could be visible. Look for tell-tale signs of water permeation like moisture or streaks.

     Many community associations forge business relationships with landscaping, pest control, and pressure washing companies, but roofers aren’t always on their Rolodex of vendors. That means after a storm, they could be frantically Googling commercial roofers in hopes that someone—anyone—is available ASAP. That’s not good business practice.

     Hiring a roofing company to repair hurricane damage is a critical decision that shouldn’t be based on a catchy sales pitch, flashy website, or availability, and certainly not on offering the lowest price. There are five critical questions you should answer before proceeding with a roofing company:

  1. Are they licensed? Licensing protects you against fly-by-night contractors who might disappear with your down payment or provide shoddy work. In Florida, it’s easy to find out whether a contractor is licensed. Just visit MyFloridaLicense.com to search the state database.
  2. Are they insured? Insurance is critical because you could be personally liable if an unlicensed contractor gets hurt on the job. It also offers some degree of financial protection if your roof repair or replacement goes awry.
  3. Are they local? After a hurricane, so-called “storm chasers” will appear in disaster-stricken communities. Be careful, though. They might be friendly or even skilled craftsmen, but out-of-town contractors don’t always apply for a Florida license. Also, check the phone number to see if it has a local area code, and see if they have a local mailing address.
  4. Are they honest? Roofers make a living by selling new roofs and roofing services. An honest roofer, however, will tell you if your roof is perfectly fine the way it is or if a repair, rather than a total replacement, is your best option.
  5. Are they reputable? The Better Business Bureau offers insight into a company’s integrity and performance. Just search BBB.org to see a roofer’s official rating and read complaints filed by previous customers. Consumer review websites like Angie’s List and Yelp also offer helpful (often negative) information, and many roofing companies provide client testimonials (often positive) on their websites. Florida’s Attorney General also has information on file and encourages consumers to call 866-9NO-SCAM to check for complaints.

     A reputable roofing company will offer free estimates for any large-scale projects like condominiums, residential complexes, gated communities, shopping plazas, and big box stores.

     The company you ultimately select isn’t just your roofer; it should be your partner in resolving your needs. Make sure your roofer is willing to take these four actions on your behalf:

  1. Eliminate water intrusion: It will rain again, and that’s bad news for roofs with a leak or structural deficiency. Your roofer should be willing to work with your insurance company to provide emergency repairs with no out-of-pocket cost to you.
  2. Navigate the insurance claim:Your insurance company will dispatch an adjuster to inspect your roof damage and determine a payout. Unfortunately, that might not be the same amount it will take to repair or replace the roof. Your roofer should be a willing participant in the conversation between you and your insurance company as all parties break down the necessary repairs and projected costs.
  3. Maximize value by verifying your claim: Most insurance companies create an “Xactimate” to estimate your roof damage and repair costs. The lowest bid, however, might not include a complete list of materials and recommended services. Only an experienced roofer can tell you if the insurance company’s estimate is accurate or lowballing the policyholder.
  4. Schedule date for completion: Reputable roofers who understand how to navigate the insurance process will add your roofing project to their schedule before an insurance company cuts a final reimbursement check. Otherwise, you could wait weeks or months just to get your roofing project in the pipeline, and even more time before roofers actually arrive at your business or home. 

Casey Crowther

President, Target Roofing & Sheet Metal

Casey Crowther is president of Target Roofing & Sheet Metal, a licensed and insured commercial roofing specialist that provides new roofs, reroofs, repairs, and maintenance plans. The company is headquartered in Fort Myers. For more information, please visit TargetRoofing.com, call (239) 332-5707, or email email hidden; JavaScript is required.