Roofing scam: The fluctuating bid

Damage to a roof’s decking may not be obvious until the upper layers have been removed. Photo courtesy of Ivette Pagan.

Damage to a roof’s decking may not be obvious until the upper layers have been removed. Photo courtesy of Ivette Pagan.

In a roofing scam sometimes referred to as the “elevator ride,” a contractor will offer a low bid that is far less than other companies in the area. The contractor knows the homeowner doesn’t have a lot of experience dealing with a roof replacement and since it’s an expensive job to begin with, the homeowner jumps at the low bid.

Once the job begins, unexpected costs and unforeseen problems suddenly appear. The contractor might claim an increase in the cost of materials, or find damage that wasn’t addressed when the contract was agreed upon. In some instances, the contractor will literally remove the old roof and threaten to leave if additional payments aren’t made.

By the time the job is finished, it ends up costing substantially more than what was initially agreed upon.

Doug Miller, president of highly rated Coomer Roofing Co. in Indianapolis says material prices do change in the roofing industry, but it’s a major red flag if a contractor tries to increase the price mid-project.

“Materials do go up all the time but every reputable contractor gets notices from the manufacturer weeks before the price goes up,” Miller says. “The price of materials going up is not the homeowner’s responsibility to pay.”

Miller says the one area of the roof that can’t be examined prior to starting a job is the roof’s decking, which is essentially the bottom layer or foundation of the roof where everything else is laid.

The Indianapolis roofer says most legitimate roofing companies will include a section in their contracts that explains how any damage to a roof’s decking will be addressed and how much it will cost to replace per square foot. Miller says most companies charge around $1.50 per square foot to replace damaged decking.

To prevent a situation like this from occurring, Miller says a roofing contract must contain a section that lists the total cost of labor plus materials, as well as how the contractor will handle damage to the roof’s decking. 

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