Roof Replacement Estimate - How to Get a Low, Local Quote

A guide to finding a low roof replacement estimate from a trustworthy contractor

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Looking down from an airplane, a house is just a pile of stuff with a cover on it, as George Carlin once suggested in a famous comedy routine.

He may have been onto something. Take away the roof, and a house becomes an exposed pile of stuff--from the smallest touch-up on a countertop to the bed where you sleep at night--that incurs regular beatings from the elements, making the need for a roof replacement estimate from a quality contractor among the highest priorities in the realm of home remodeling.

Although a wide variety of roofing materials are available, each with its own pros and cons, most homeowners replace their roof with the same materials that have long protected their piles of stuff. With that in mind, the following focuses on how you should assess contractors when seeking a roof replacement estimate, rather than the pros and cons of different materials.


Most roofing contractors are hard-working people dedicated to their craft who strive to maintain a positive reputation in their area. Some aren’t. Here are a few questions to consider to help you get a low roof replacement estimate coupled with high quality work.

Does the roofing contractor have a permanent phone number, business location, and tax identification number?

This is the most obvious evidence of a quality, established contractor. Reject roofing estimates from roofers who lack a permanent place of business.

Can the roofing contractor show proof of insurance?

Roofers protected by liability insurance and worker’s compensation will have written proof. Reject roofing estimates from any contractors who do not. Responsibility for any injuries or other insurance-related issues falls on you, the homeowner, if a contractor is uninsured. Note that worker’s compensation laws vary by state. You may want to research local laws when checking a contractor’s insurance.

Will the roofing contractor give you contact information for other clients?

Quality contractors will usually collect a list of references from former clients and provide their contact information so you can speak to their former clients personally.

How will potential changes to the proposal be handled?

Contractors usually offer a roof replacement estimate in two advancing stages. The first, the estimate, is a general roof replacement estimate. If you accept the estimate, the contractor will often move onto a proposal. A proposal is a more in-depth version of the estimate that includes details such as brand names, product samples, designs, and a specific explanation of the project. The proposal’s predicted cost should be as close to the final price as possible. Ask your contractor for a written proposal that outlines all details of the project. Be wary of any verbal promises. Everything should be written. Check whether they considered aspects of the roof such as skylights, which can inflate your final bill. If a roofer neglected to include these details in the proposal, reject his or her bid and seek a new contractor. You don’t want to hire a roofer who will try to slip other additional costs in your final bill.

What kind of warranties and guarantees does the roofing contractor offer?

Be wary of any contractor who doesn’t offer roof installation guarantees, which show the roofer’s confidence in his or her work. Look for any odd provisions that will render the warranty void. Also check whether guarantees transfer to a new owner. This can inflate the home’s market value.

You’ll also want a right-to-rescind stipulation on the contract in case the contractor is not following through with their promises. Generally, you should be able to cancel the contract within three days of signing.

Is the roofing contractor a member of trade organizations?

Membership with trade organizations such as the National Roofing Contractors Assocation shows a contractor’s dedication to the craft, but lack of membership with trade organizations doesn’t necessarily mean the roofer is untrustworthy. Ask a contractor why they aren’t members. They may have a valid reason.

You may also want to check whether the contractor has any outstanding complaints with the Better Business Bureau. Some of the most reputable roofers get complaints filed against them, but they will usually resolve these issues as quickly as possible.

Will the roofing contractor finish your roof before taking on other work?

If a contractor tries to tackle too many projects at once, you may wind up with a half-finished roof that’s susceptible to the elements for a dangerously long stretch.

What’s the estimated timeline for roof replacement?

Roof replacement should take anywhere from one to four days--and sometimes longer--depending on size, weather, and material. Reject roofing estimates from contractors who give unreasonably lengthy timelines. The longer your roof is in-progress, the longer you risk allowing the elements into your home.

Ask your contractor how they plan to keep the roof watertight overnight. Weathermen can be wrong. Because they say it won’t rain doesn’t mean it won’t.

Note that roof replacement can be performed year-round, and skilled roofers are capable performing the task between breaks in the weather. Faster isn’t necessarily better. A quality, professionally installed roof is the highest priority.

Have you sought roofing estimates from several roofers?

The more roofing estimates you seek the better. However, it may be beneficial to not reveal to a contractor that you’ve received more than three estimates. Many contractors don’t want to waste time giving a roof replacement estimate if they know they have little chance of being chosen for your project.

Referrals from neighbors and internet-based services that match you with area contractors are some of the most reliable methods to find quality roofers. Estimates should always be free. Never pay for roofing estimates or services that charge you to gather local estimates.

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