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How to hire guide: Roofers

A solid, watertight roof is an essential part of every home. But roofs don't come cheap, so follow our tips to ensure you hire a reputable roofer to install, maintain or repair it.

Finding a good roofer

It's always a good idea to start by asking your neighbours for recommendations when looking for a roofer, as you're likely to share the same style of roof. Most roofers will be happy to install either slates or tiles, but check their experience if you have a flat roof or other more unusual structure. Find out whether previous customers praise all aspects of a roofer's work, such as the quality and cost of the work, the time it took to complete and what they were like to deal with.

It's worth finding out whether your roofer or roofing contractor is a member of The National Federation of Roofing Contractors (NFRC), which is well-regarded in the industry. NFRC contractors undergo rigorous vetting before joining and are subject to checks every three years. They must hold appropriate public, employers’ and third party insurance, comply with health and safety legislation and operate in accordance with the NFRC Code of Practice as well as British and European Standards.

If you need tiles, a fascia or slates replacing, then you can search for a roofer with Which? Trusted Traders. All the traders on our scheme have been vetted by trading standards qualified assessors to ensure they have all the correct procedures in place and operate according to current regulations. You can check the reviews left by other customers on each roofer's profile page to get a feel for their business. In the unlikely event of anything going wrong, you have access to an alternative dispute resolution scheme if you are unable to resolve any problems directly with your trader.

Getting roofing quotes

Contact at least three roofers for quotes, irrespective of the nature of the job to give you a range of prices. A roofing company will usually want to come and inspect your property, even before quoting for a simple job such as replacing broken or missing tiles and cleaning gutters, as it's tricky for them to price a job without seeing the general state of the roof they will be working with.

Roofing is a trade where you might reasonably be issued with estimates instead of quotes. This is because the roofing contractor may not be able to see what condition the roof’s sub-structure is in until the slates or tiles have been removed.

Always ask for estimates or quotes in writing and make sure they include the cost of materials, scaffolding and so on. Be wary of roofing contractors that offer cash or VAT-free deals.

Bear in mind, cheapest is not always best. It's a good idea to revisit online reviews or customer references before making a decision, and take into account the quality of the survey, advice given and how confident you feel about the company. The availability of the roofing business may also come into play, depending on how quickly you want the work completed. It is often the case that the most popular businesses will be booked some time in advance, so it's worth getting quotes in, in good time.

If there is anything on the quote you don't fully understand or why one contractor recommends/ details something that another contractor hasn't, talk to them and ask them to explain. Any decent trader will be happy to talk you through the options.

Hiring a roofer

Once you've decided which roofing contractor best meets your needs, you need to discuss and agree with them:

  • what will happen in the event of unforeseen extra charges
  • whether or not there will be any penalties if the work is finished later than anticipated
  • what would happen in the event of prolonged adverse weather
  • what hours the trader will work during the week, or at weekends if necessary
  • what materials will be used, who will supply these, and if they come with a guarantee or not 
  • whether or not outsourced labour will be used
  • how rubbish will be disposed of and whether that is included in the overall cost
  • whether or not scaffolding will be needed and if it is included in the overall cost
  • what will happen in the event of any work not meeting a satisfactory standard.

It's always a good idea to set this down in a written contract - it doesn't need to be complicated, just record what you agree and both sign it. Then you have a record of how you expect the work to proceed, which should protect both you and the trader. This should be standard on all larger jobs, but is recommended even for smaller repairs. Most reputable builders will issue a contract as standard before starting work in any case.

You, as the customer, should establish whether planning permission will be required, although your roofer may well be able to advise you. You should also be aware that significant work to a roof must either be completed by a contractor who is a member of CompetentRoofer (a competent person scheme for roofing), or you will need to notify your local authority’s building control department before work begins.

Before your roofer starts work, you should ask to see evidence of appropriate insurance, including public liability and working at heights. If your job involves a new roof, or a major refurbishment of an existing roof, you should ask for a guarantee. 

Paying a roofer

You should agree a schedule for payments in advance of work starting. It’s not unusual to be asked for an instalment upfront, especially for larger refurbishments or installing a new roof.

The final instalment should only be paid when you are satisfied with the work and have received all necessary paperwork relating to it.

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