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Save money on a new roof by asking the right questions

Friday - 5/30/2014, 12:25pm  ET

Important items to detail in roof replacement bids

Kevin Brasler, executive editor of Checkbook.org

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WASHINGTON - It can be easy to get soaked hiring a company to replace a home's roof.

Secret shoppers from Washington Consumers' Checkbook.org received wildly different bids from local roofing companies asked to replace the same roof. Bid prices ranged between $5,400 and $20,195.

Fortunately, homeowners don't always get what they pay for in the roofing business.

"We find that really good roofers - really top-rated roofers are just as likely to quote low prices as are low-quality roofers," says Checkbook.org Executive Editor Kevin Brasler.

Reputable companies that perform good work tend to do similar things when replacing a roof, according to Brasler.

He says individual companies may prefer some materials over others or have slightly different opinions about specific products or methods, but there's quite a bit of uniformity in the industry.

"The only way to know whether you're paying a fair price or not is to get multiple bids," says Brasler, who recommends homeowners seek three to six detailed fixed-price estimates.

Checkbook also recommends paying for roofing work as late as possible during the process. About half the contractors surveyed by Checkbook allow homeowners to delay payment until all the work is complete. Some roofing companies also may allow homeowners to hold off paying the entire bill until a bout of stormy weather confirms the works has been done correctly.

Other tips include:

  • Get a warranty on the materials and the work - ideally for five to 10 years.
  • Ask for proof the contractor is insured.
  • If there are problems after installation, negotiate directly with the contractor.

Checkbook has ranked local roofing companies based on opinions from thousands of area homeowners.

Find those ratings at checkbook.org/wtop.

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