Why Roofers Do Crappy Work

Here I want to illustrate the current state of the residential roofing market, and why you may want to have our Concierge Roofing Service

Yeah, I know  –  roofing is boring and all … but it is only boring until your roof leaks. So, a few years back I had an epiphany:

Roof Installers Don’t Get Paid Enough (I know, right…)!

Because roof installers are underpaid, they do bad, sub-par, or just plain crappy work on your roof, while insisting that it’s excellent! Homeowners have no choice but to believe the contractor they hire, because they usually don’t know any better (if the roof LOOKS good, no questions are asked). How I got to this conclusion is a bit less “glamorous”, and it took me a while to realize this.

Basically it all comes down to how much the client (homeowner) pays for the roof AND how much of that money goes to the installer or subcontractor who is doing the work. 

Deliberate Bad Roof Installation in Valley

Deliberate Bad Roof Installation in Valley

Since the actual installers get only a small portion of the money paid by the homeowner, they have no incentive to do quality work. In fact, most get paid based on “performance” or how many Sq. Ft. they install. Thus, they are motivated to work FASTER, not BETTER.

The roofing industry is plagued by these low standards, which are now the norm. They are the result of stiff competition, ever-rising material costs, and unwillingness of most homeowners to pay “adequate” rates. This unwillingness is reinforced by extremely low rates charged by illegal roofers and relatively low rates charged by general roofing contractors, who have to compete with illegals based on price.

Another issue that greatly affects quality is that many small roofing businesses are constantly looking to grow and expand. However, as a roofing company grows, the quality usually goes down! Here is why:

  1. When a new roofing company is organized, the owner(s) do much of the work and hire laborers to do less complicated tasks. But the owner(s) can’t do the work if they want to grow, as there isn’t enough time in a day to run the business, do sales and marketing, and install the product.
  2. However to grow and increase profits, the company needs to do more jobs. So, more roofers are hired to do the work, and foremen are put in charge of these crews.
  3. Now the roofs get done faster, but owner(s) make less money as the have to pay a high salary to the foreman to do the work, which the owner used to do himself. Still, most foremen work slower and do inferior work, compared to the owner. To improve quality, the owner has to pay more for an experienced foreman.
  4. Before you know it, there are two or three crews that you need to keep busy. Thus, you need to sell more roofs. However between the ever-rising cost of materials and stiff competition from illegal crews and semi-legal companies,  most contractors resort to lowering and/or never raising their prices, even as the costs go up.
  5. As a result, to maintain their profit margins,  they pay less to their workers, and reduce or eliminate insurance (both liability and workers comp).

This mentality is now so ingrained in the minds of most (99% or more) contractors, that it’s almost impossible to change it.

Here are some recent examples to illustrate this issue:

Last month, I was helping a friend (a fellow roofer) and was working along side his sub-contractor crew. According to my friend, this was a “high quality and very dependable crew”, and he “never had problems with them”. And he actually believed that.

When I saw this “great” crew in action, I realized just how LOW my friend’s standards are when it comes to work quality. What I saw working side-by-side my friend’s crew was Bad, Bad, Bad work. I would say HorribleHere is what they did (this gets a bit technical, but please bear with me):

The guys I worked “with” were given the task to “remove old roofing, install underlayment, and clean up”. They removed old shingles, leaving 100s of staples and nails on the roof (these need to be pulled out), and installed an Ice and Water shield on top of these staples / nails, and started walking over it. Soon enough, there were holes in the ice and water shield right along the valley, and these guys deliberately refused to fix it. Their excuse was — we are not getting paid enough! In the end, I was fixing all of this, along with about a 100 other holes left from the staples.

Basically, I had to police these guys every step of the way, and every step was as bad as the one before or after. I saw it all: from careless handling and damaging of materials, to deliberate covering of rotted wood, and so on.

The Bottom line is — time and time again I hear and see this “I don’t get paid enough” mentality.

In a way I understand them — these guys (subs) get paid a fixed amount for their work — if they do not finish in one day, they have to come back the next day. Fixing rotted wood there took me a total of 7 hours. If I were not there, and the subs did this work, they would have to come back and work an extra day, for the same money (effectively getting paid HALF of what they agreed to work for).

99% of contractors think there is NO problem (in the quality that is), except for those who knowingly do bad work. Here is another example:

One of the guys I once employed, told me this story:

He was working for this roofer, Baha, who was a sub for a big roofing company. Baha regularly delayed paying the salary, and often came up with “reasons” to reduce previously agreed upon pay.  “To retaliate”, my guy deliberately cut the underlayment in the valleys and around chimneys, skylights and other leak-prone areas. Once the roofs began leaking, Baha had to fix them at his own expense.

These examples are countless, and no one will admit to them.

The problem is that in all such scenarios, HOMEOWNERS are the ones who suffer and pay the ultimate price. They are hostages of roofing companies that they hire (often for a very hefty sum ), their unsatisfied crews, and the money issues between them. In the end, it is the clients’ roofs that often leak, and they end up getting trouble when they least expected it.

So is More Money the answer?

Yes… No… Perhaps. It’s not just how much money, but also who you pay it to, and who does the work, that make the difference. Simply paying more does not guarantee you better quality. Ultimately, to ensure quality, you want the OWNER to do the work.

This is the approach that I take with my  “Concierge Roofing”. I charge my clients more, but for paying premium, my clients know that their roof will be done better than my own roof!

Leo's Roof - TAMKO Steel Shingles.

Leo’s Metal Roof – TAMKO Steel Shingles.


10 thoughts on “Why Roofers Do Crappy Work

  1. AWESOME JOB! We’ll make get and do them right the first time. Thanks for getting me in these Google communities. It’s helped me tremendously.

  2. Well it just comes down to cheap labor and being a professional roofer. And are your installers manufacturered certified.

    • Manufacturer certification is a joke… Anybody can go to a building center and purchase a truck load of materials and call themselves a Roofer. The bottom line for manufacturers is to move product. the more people who buy their products the better. Many manufacturer’s award certification merely on how much product you buy in a calendar year.It does not oversee, govern or assure competence.

      Having a clear, concise, scope-of-work, outlining the specific materials and methodology used to install the roof, and having a qualified individual inspect, photograph and document the work, as it’s being done is going to yield the best results.

      • Some manufacturer certifications are worthless, but some have great value and benefit. Nothing we can do will assure competence or even quality. I have inspected, estimated, installed, overseen installation, and signed off on thousands of roofs. There is no such thing as a perfectly installed roof, in my opinion. However, with proper training and good pay, I have assembled an excellent crew which takes pride in their work. There is no need to baby sit them. They do it right – the first time – every time.

  3. Very true scenario. I believe hiring a very good project coordinator to be on site can cut those issues in half though.

  4. My installers and I attend several training seminars every year. Every crew leader must attend, no exception. Several of us visit manufacturers every winter to learn and get updates. The average pay per square for one layer asphalt off and asphalt on in my area is $70 – $80. My crew earns $90 – $110. I have not had to repair a roof my men installed in at least 5 years. Instill pride in the crew members. Show them they are the best.Then your “baby sitting” days are over.

    • Pete, thanks for your input.

      However I have to disagree – no matter how much training you give them, if you pay by the square, your baby-sitting days will not be over. I’ve seen it on too many levels. Your guys may do better job because you pay them more, but they always think “if we do 15 squares today vs 10, we’ll get $500 more” and so on. Although I do agree $100 is pretty good pay (versus average) for 1 square install (asphalt shingle I assume).

      • Leo, I haven’t had that problem, but I guess it could be possible. One way I have avoided such issues is by inspecting the roof and surroundings the day before the work will start, taking lots of pix. Then, when the tear off is complete, before any material; is laid, inspect again and take pix. Then, when the ice & water and underlayment are installed, inspect and take pix. Finally, when the job is completed, inspect and take pix again.
        The repeated inspections prevent sloppy work, shortcuts, and cover-ups. The pix make our customers happy.
        Uncle ROI likes it too. We have never had to repair a roof we installed. We have developed a reputation that leads to referrals. And, our crews are among the best – and the best paid – in the country.
        Emphasize the positive. Promote excellence. Reward quality.
        I learned these things years ago from one of the first large roofing companies I worked for. I was with them for three years. During that time they ran 7 – 9 crews with 8 – 9 men each. Only one man left. His father died and he had to go home to care for his mother.
        I moved to the Midwest in 1997. My son went to work for that company in 1998. He is still with them and says they have more than doubled in size.
        Always encourage others. Never demean them. Promote excellence by example.
        I just got a 38 sq. roof job, wood off and DaVinci on. My crew will be paid $195 per sq.

  5. Bottom line if possible, inspect the job before you pay them !, i do this on almost every job

    • Ben, you are so right. I try to do that, but sometimes I can’t. I’m so glad I have such a good crew. I haven’t had a problem with sloppy, careless, or improper workmanship in years.

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