The Real Cost of Cheap Roofing

July 18, 2022

Low bid doesn’t always equal substandard work, but you should exercise some measure of caution. What seems like a low-cost project, can turn into a real headache. We’ve outlined the price you may end up paying for cheap roofing below.

Poor Workmanship

A roofing contractor that isn’t a certified applicator or who cuts corners so they can provide a low bid will deliver poor workmanship that can result in unexpected leaks or shorter service life from your new roof. They may use a labor force not qualified by other contractors, who will work at a lower rate. Their equipment may not be up-to-date or regularly serviced, all of which can impact project safety and the final quality of the roofing installation.

A low-cost estimate that doesn’t accurately predict the amount of time needed to complete a quality project often results in the contractor taking shortcuts. “A contractor can limit inputs in detail work, omit steps in preparatory work – things that may end up being invisible once the project is complete but exist on the underside and be a means for premature failure,” notes Ben Fashimpaur, Vice President National Account Manager, D. C. Taylor Co., Cedar Rapids, IA.

Inferior Materials

Another way to achieve a lower price is by specifying poor-quality materials. “Some scope of work items may only meet minimum warranty requirements or some materials may not be covered by the warranty. There are avenues where the contractor might be scrimping on adhesives, fasteners, flashing, or trim,” Fashimpaur explains.

Installation of materials that were not specified or are not compatible with the roof system (in the case of a repair) can void the manufacturer’s warranty, as well as result in a leak. The manufacturer and contractor should perform in-progress installation inspections on re-roofing projects to ensure that compatible materials and correct application methods are being used.

Unsafe Practices

“Safety takes time and money. Forgoing safety is one way you can save a buck on a job,” warns Fashimpaur. If a contractor doesn’t invest in safety equipment or spend time training workers in safe practices, not only will it endanger their workers, but it will also endanger yours.

Contractors in a hurry to finish a job, don’t take the necessary time to erect fall protection equipment, audit crew members, and protect your building and people from danger. They may not drug test, supply appropriate or functional personal protective equipment, or train workers on safe practices, fall protection, and hazard mitigation. “[Safety] can be a greater expense than the roof itself if you’re involved in a lawsuit,” notes Fashimpaur.

More Project Oversight

If you have suspicions that the crew is using poor workmanship, improper materials, or unsafe practices, you’ll be up on the roof providing more oversight than you intended. Your time is money and babysitting the roofing crew will take attention away from your normal job responsibilities.

“You as a building owner haven’t invested your life in the roofing industry and might not recognize when shortcuts are being taken,” says Fashimpaur. If you have to hire a consultant or observer to enforce good standards and practices, your low-cost project just became considerably more expensive.

Damage or Contamination

Hurried work is careless work and for facilities producing food, manufacturing products, and delivering medical services, the utmost care must be taken to avoid contamination from a roofing project. The absence of interior protection or failing to ensure the roof is watertight each night is risky. If workers have to access the roof by entering the building, simple acts like putting on coveralls over dirtied clothes and changing shoes after working on the roof can help keep debris out of the facility.

“If there are points of entry through the deck, between the deck and the wall, or a curb, or air intake on top of a roof, you could get dust, sometimes even physical debris, through gaps or holes or fumes through air intakes that can spoil sensitive operations and food,” notes Fashimpaur. If the contractor is working recklessly, not cautious, or is inexperienced, contamination is more likely.

And if contractors aren’t mindful of the weather and don’t heed wind warnings, spray adhesives and roof coatings can become airborne and damage property and employees’ cars parked nearby. This can be inconvenient and costly to remedy.

Unexpected Costs

If the estimate doesn’t include assumptions and exclusions, you could be in for an expensive surprise in the form of change orders and additional costs. Assumptions and exclusions are generally known by the roofing professional, but not the facility/plant manager or building owner. Always ask what’s not included in the proposal.

Contractors may use change orders to make back their money on a low bid. “Some are very adept at saying to the owner, ‘We couldn’t anticipate this. This is a latent condition; we have to bill you more,’” explains Fashimpaur.

Why Low Bid Contracting is so Risky

Viewing roofing as a commodity rather than a service means judging the proposed project, contractor, and scope of work solely on price, rather than performance, skills, experience, safety, etc. There is no contractor qualification criteria involved in the decision. The quality of the roof system cannot be determined solely by price. At any price, a roof system installed poorly is a poor quality roof. More needs to be considered than just the dollar amount when making a decision.

When you’re contracting for a roofing project, look for a long-term partner. Professional roofing companies have established a reputation for quality and have the years of longevity to back it up. “Low-bid contractors aren’t long-term contractors. They tend to come and go. They get themselves in trouble and get out of business,” says Fashimpaur. When you need to follow up with questions or maintenance, you want to know the contractor you’ve hired will be there to service your needs.

Time for a reroof? Need roof maintenance? Call D. C. Taylor Co. at 319.731.4118 today.


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