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By Karen Warseck, Contributing Editor
Roofing Article Use Policy
Ask the contractors about their training programs. Do they at least have their mechanics get hands on training with the manufacturer for new materials and methods? Better, do they also have safety and OSHA requirement classes? Do they send someone to trade association conferences to learn the latest information? Many contractors rely on older workers training newer ones, but if that is all the training the younger workers receive, beware.
Finally, ask the contractor for some references on projects with your proposed materials and installation method that are at least three to five years old. This is usually enough time for installation-related problems to show but young enough so that lack of maintenance is not yet a serious problem. Ask how the roof is holding up and whether the contractor is responsive to call backs. Keep in mind, however, that no smart contractor will give you the names of references unhappy with their roofs.
Once you have pre-qualified your contractors, gotten the best price, and are starting actual construction, there is one more thing you can do to be sure you have hired the right contractor. Get an on-site representative to observe the installation. The mechanics installing the roof may or may not have adequate training for the materials and methods being used, or hidden conditions may emerge that stop the contractor from providing the roof that was contracted. Keep in mind also that even the best contractors have off days. The National Roofing Contractors Association itself recommends that instead of a final inspection after completion and taking test cuts, the best quality assurance (aside from hiring the right NRCA member contractor, of course) is to have a full-time qualified inspector on the site during installation.
Hiring the right contractor to install your roof is not a difficult process, but it is one that demands care. A poor roof installation can mean not only water entry into your building, but also damage to the contents, growth of mold and mildew, angry tenants, and other unpleasant side effects. Checking the background, technical expertise, and financial stability of potential contractors as well as providing on-site project observation can save you from many problems to come.
Karen L. Warseck, AIA is a contributing editor for Building Operating Magazine and president of Building Diagnostics Associates, a Hollywood, Fla., architectural consulting firm specializing in problems with roofing and exterior walls.
— Karen Warseck
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