Getting started on a residential or commercial roofing project requires more than just a handshake. You need a contract–whether you’re repairing, replacing, or installing a roof. Your contract has serious implications, so it’s important to get it right. How? By asking the right questions to set expectations, know your responsibilities, and protect yourself against future problems.
Some contractual items seem straightforward, such as how much the job costs, how long it will take, and the start date. However, even seemingly simple issues may require fine-tuning.
Here is a primer on 10 critical questions a roofer must ask before signing a contract.
1. Will I have permission to walk the premises inside and outside?
Make sure you can go inside to thoroughly assess the roof’s condition and identify any signs of water leaks and damage. Walking around the building interior and exterior will help you identify risk areas, items that need to be protected, storage areas, and more. Issues like these may affect timing, costs, and other contractual issues such as interior tarping and protection, smell and/or noise control as well as sensitivities such as the use of open flames.
2. Will I have permission to perform a core test of the existing roof assembly?
Performing a core test cut helps determine the overall composition of the roofing system, such as materials, components, and thickness—which is especially useful if there is no service history. The results can help determine costs related to materials, labour, disposal fees, insulation, and other contractual items. Sometimes, for example, we find that there is more than one roof layer to be removed.
3. What payment terms can we negotiate?
To avoid disputes later on, nail down the total payment, payment schedule, deposit amount – if any, and any extended payment terms. Consider potential problems, such as what will happen if the owner is financing the project, and bank advances aren’t made on time. Payment upon receipt of payment clauses are a serious red flag for any contractor.
4. Is a payment certifier in place?
Property owners may need to hire a payment certifier—usually an architect or engineer—to negotiate and administer the contract, including certifying funds monthly based upon achieving project milestones. See if you can take care of items such as project reviews, required statutory declarations and payment certificates on a timely manner to shorten lag time for payment processing.
5. Who will make decisions if the site has damage to the roof substrate or other unseen extra costs
Before signing the contract, insist on being allowed to investigate for water exposure and accumulated water vapor that can cause damage to the building. Your contract should stipulate that you are not responsible if your recommended changes are not approved, causing further damage during the project or after completion. Also, make sure that there is a proper decision maker in place to decide on any unplanned items that may require attention such as deck substrate repairs or other items.
6. What is the schedule for starting?
Your project start date should consider weather conditions, how long preparation will take, when materials will arrive, when crews are available, when subcontractors will be available, and other related factors.
7. What happens if material or labour prices fluctuate between the award date and the start date?
Roofers have been hit by pandemic-related price increases, material shortages, and labour issues. Provide for fluctuation by including clauses such as shortening the pricing locked-in time or arrangements to change specifications to available materials.
8. Who is the prime contractor or constructor for OSHA Compliance?
The prime contractor is responsible for OSHA (Occupational Health and Safety Act) compliance for the overall project. If the work others do isn’t in compliance, the “constructor” may be responsible. Find out how the prime contractor handles this role to avoid having another contractor’s non-compliance issues create a risk for you.
9. What is the allocated working area?
It is really important to understand where the staging area will be located on the property. Many inner city properties have limited areas for placing disposal bins and materials on the ground. Will materials be hoisted directly to the roof? Is there sufficient room for a boom truck or crane to get close access to the footprint of the building? Where can a hoist be set up to raise and lower materials, equipment and debris to/from the roof?
10. What other trades are working on the property at the same time?
Find out what other work is being planned. Is there any restoration, HVAC, paving or work being done? Scheduling is critical to ensure that the project runs smoothly. There is likely a good, better, best workflow for the various trades that needs to be mapped out for efficiency, effectiveness and safety of all workers and building occupants.
Ask the Right Questions before Signing
You can avoid a range of problems by asking the right questions before signing a contract. You can avoid disputes about the scope of work, pricing and payment, scheduling, and decision-making. Also important, you’ll find out if you’ll be working with other reputable, trustworthy professionals and tradespeople. For a high-quality roofer you can trust with your commercial roofing project, contact Elite Roofing in Toronto, Ontario and surrounding areas.