Storm season: Red flags to look out for when planning roof repairs

Expert offers tips, red flags to know when choosing contractors

By Mike DeForest - Investigative Reporter

ORLANDO, Fla. - Hurricane season brings the threat of strong storms potentially damaging your home and roof, which means you could need repairs in the event of a hurricane.

With the stress of needing work done on your home comes the stress of choosing the right contractor to do it. You often hear stories after major storms about people having bad experiences with the person they've chosen to do the work. 

[GET PREPARED: Consider these tips before a storm to ease the insurance process after5 tips to help protect your home, belongings during flood]

In hopes of preventing you from having an unfortunate experience or being scammed, we've done some research to help you make the right decisions when it comes time to take care of your roof.

Before the storm

Long before a hurricane roars across Central Florida, construction experts suggest checking your roof for preexisting damage to ensure it can withstand high winds and heavy rain.

"If your roof is 20 years old or older, you certainly want to have a good, trained set of eyes take a look at it," roofing contractor Mike Silvers said. "Obviously, an older roof is going to fail much sooner than a newer one."

Silvers is the technical director for the Florida Roofing and Sheet Metal Contractors Association, an Orlando-based trade group that promotes a high standard of business ethics among members, while also educating the public about the importance of hiring licensed companies.

"You're going to get a lot of rain, and you want to make sure the drainage system is clear," Silvers said.

After the storm

Act fast

If your roof is damaged by a hurricane, Silvers suggests contacting several licensed roofing companies as soon as possible to add your name to their wait list.

"When a storm like this passes through, there's a lot more demand for roofing contractors," said Silvers.  "Try to find someone who is in your area and has been in your area.  They have a connection to your community. They have a stake in it. They're going to be here after the storm is gone."

Beware of scammers

Silvers said homeowners should be wary of roofers who send salespeople from door to door in search of damage.

"Very often, these folks are not very experienced. They’ve been hired very recently to go out and chase storms, basically," he said.

Do your research

The Florida Roofing and Sheet Metal Contractors Association can help homeowners find reputable companies.

Regardless of who you hire, the organization highly recommends checking the contractor's license status on the website for Florida's Department of Business and Professional Regulation.  

"Contractors who are from Florida work every day under the Florida building code," Silvers said. "Someone who comes from outside the state of Florida may not be as familiar with it."

The roofing contractor should have liability insurance to cover accidental damage to your home, as well as workers' compensation insurance in case a worker is injured while on your property, according to Silvers.

Other red flags

"Anyone who is putting you under high pressure, period, you should be pretty leery of," he said. "If you feel like you're under too much pressure to sign a contract, you probably are."

Although some contractors may ask for a deposit prior to beginning work, Silvers' organization cautions against that.

"We recommend that you make your first payment once the work has started -- not just when the materials are delivered, but (when) materials are delivered and the work starts," Silvers said.

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He said many contractors will request one-third of the total payment when work begins, another third when the job is roughly half done and the final third after completion.

"If you've got a problem, or you think you've got a problem, you don't want to make that final payment until you know you're satisfied with the work that's been done," he said.

Avoid further damage

While waiting for the contractor to begin work, Silvers cautions against putting tarps on your roof unless absolutely necessary to stop major leaks.  Screws, nails and even footsteps on the shingles or tiles can cause further damage.

With good roofers in high demand after large storms, Silvers said homeowners should be patient while waiting for them to begin work. But, he advises against waiting too long.

"Even after a storm event, most of the work should be done 60 to 90 days at the outside," Silvers said. "If it gets beyond that, you may have an issue where you're going to have additional damage before it's taken care of."

For more consumer information from the Florida Roofing and Sheet Metal Contractors Association, click here.

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