In the past 20 years I have had the opportunity to discuss with hundreds of building owners, both large and small, what they want from a roofing contractor. I have posed this question directly to them in an effort to select bidding contractors for their projects and I have made observations in litigation after something has gone wrong. All owners cite reasonable price as a consideration in contractor selection. Some owners expect less than reasonable-they want work done cheap. However, all owners from the most frugal to the most elaborate expect-and demand-a high level of performance once the project starts. In other words, the low price may have won you the project but effective service is required to win the owner's satisfaction.

Based on my experience, there are generally five best practices that an owner requires from a roofing contractor during the course of the project. Consistency in performing these elements will help your company obtain repeat business.


Roofing contractors have been stereotyped as the most unresponsive of all the building trades. An old cartoon depicted a wife looking at a chart entitled "The Roofers Timeline" and the caption had the wife informing her husband that "The roofer said he would be here tomorrow, which according to the chart means he will be here next month." The industry has evolved in recent times and pride and competition have made most contractors more responsive to the needs of building owners.

Response has also increased because more building owners demand it. Some owners will actually begin gauging a contractor's response time during the bidding process. Points of observation include how long it took for the contractor to respond to the bid request, if they performed the site inspection when they said they would and if the bid was delivered on time.

Once the contract is signed response time is even more critical. The owner expects prompt attention at every phase of the project. After all, they are making a considerable investment in your company and in most cases it is the largest capital building expense that they will incur. Contractors can be successful in this area if they can effectively control the project schedule. One of the most critical errors contractors make is in setting a schedule they cannot adhere too. The desire to please often backfires when the schedule is not met and it turns the owner against the contractor.

The best practice in this scenario is to provide the owner with a schedule that takes into account your company's backlog of work; material delivery delays and any weather constraints that may impede project initiation. It is far better to start a project before your scheduled date than weeks after your initially promised date.

Another important consideration is project duration. Project delays are inevitable and unforeseen conditions can extend a project beyond its initially anticipated completion date. The owner should be informed of these occurrences. The delay with most projects is in finishing the punch-list items and incidentals once the production crew has left the site. The best practice in this case is to have a dedicated crew to complete these items. You will receive final payment sooner and satisfy the owner, which could set your company up for future work.

The most important response factor is to act when there is a problem. It seems problems arise all too often in this industry. The successful contractors are the ones that deal with these issues immediately. Most of the litigation that I have observed has occurred when one party neglected to respond to a problem. As time passed the problem remained at the same level, but the affected party's perception of the problem increased turning it into an explosive situation.

The best practice for this situation is to meet with the owner immediately after the problem arises. Even if you cannot resolve the problem at that time, the immediate response will signal to the owner that you care about the issue and will make every attempt to resolve it.


Communication is the most critical element to success on a project. Open lines of communication provide the opportunity to divert problems before they magnify and resolve the problems without the aid of a lawyer, judge and jury.

The best practice is to communicate with the owner at every phase of the project. Contact them on a weekly basis during the project and provide updates on the schedule. It may also be helpful to have your job foreman meet the owner or owner's representative on a daily basis to discuss work conditions and indicate where work will be completed that day or the following day.


There are owners who have denied contractors the opportunity to bid future work due to their poor housekeeping on past projects. Most building owners and facility managers are not roofing experts and they might not be able to identify common practices, however, they can identify garbage on the site. Based on this their natural assumption may be that if your company does not take the effort to provide a clean work site, there may be some shortcomings in workmanship also. After all, cleanliness is next to godliness. In this instance, the best practice is to provide individuals on the ground crew with the responsibility of site cleanup every day of the project. Clean work trucks and equipment can also present a good image of your company. A yardman and a hose can go along way.


Proper workmanship is an element similar to reasonable price-it should be expected on every project. Professional roofing contractors adhere to proper roofing procedures and standards, but we still encounter the contractor who has cut corners to complete the project at cost. There are also instances where the project is a little bit above the contractor's skill level and it is reflected in the workmanship. Most application errors occur at flashings, penetrations and termination sheet metal. These are typically points that require a higher skill level than the production portion of the project. The best practice is to employ detail-orientated mechanics on each crew to perform these tasks. Properly trained sheet metal mechanics should also be employed. Generally, when roofers complete sheet metal work, it looks like roofers completed the sheet metal work. This is not always a pretty picture.


Finally, live up to the promises that you made to the owner during the bidding process. Be accountable for your actions. In essence, if you complete the first four elements presented here you will be accountable to the owner. This will ensure a good project for the owner and present an opportunity for your company to receive more work from this owner in the future. The best way to grow your business is through repeat business with your existing clients. Best Practice: Be impeccable with your word. It takes a lifetime to build a reputation; it takes one bad job to ruin it.