Having one or more problems with contractors, whether they’re a plumber installing a new sink or a contractor installing a new roof, are more common than you might think.
If a metal roof is getting installed on your home or building and a big or small contractor-related issue comes up, do you know how to properly address the general contractor (or another main contact, such as a project foreman, supervising contractor, or otherwise)?
While most problems aren’t severe and usually involve only one or two minor fixes, it’s still best to educate yourself on how to approach a metal roofing contractor with an issue. Not only will this help ensure you maintain a good relationship with the contractor, but it also helps you get the best end product possible for your new metal roof.
In this article, we’ll discuss:
- Common contractor-related problems a property owner might come across
- How to deal with these problems in the best way
- What to do if your problems or communications are ignored
Contractor Problems a Property Owner Might Encounter
First, we’ll start off with some good news: You might not even come across a problem stemming from a contractor error. With that said, you want to be prepared so you’re not caught off-guard when an issue does arise. We’ve covered this topic in another article that you can check out, but here is a quick recap of some common contractor-related problems:
#1: Poor Workmanship
- Crooked or off-center panels
- Significant gaps in between the panel seams
- Flashings or panels are loose or don’t appear to be secured well enough
- Noticeable gaps in the flashing zones
- Noticeable dents, small or large, in the metal panels
- Excessively scuffed or scratched paint on the metal panels
- Rough cuts or exposed bare metal edges
- Excessive sealant is applied or noticeable
- The metal roof color is not the one chosen by the property owner
- Panels, seams, or other details are not what you agreed to
#2: Irresponsible Practices at the Job Site
- Severe lack of organization, especially with the metal, by contractors or installers
- Contractor vehicles or machines are tearing up your yard
- The installers are frequently seen just standing around
- Improper disposal of the old roof
- Exposing the roof underlayment to UV or weather for too long before installing the metal roof
- The installers did not clean up at the end of the installation
- Intoxication of any kind on the job
- Using the bathroom inside of your property (unless you allow it) or going outdoors on the property itself
#3: Communication Difficulties with the Supervising Contractor
- You can’t find the general contractor or project foreman at the job site
- You’re leaving messages and not getting any response
- Your questions aren’t answered
- You don’t understand what the contractor is telling you
- The contractor doesn’t thoroughly explain their processes
- A language barrier is present between yourself and the contractor
#4: Contractor and Installer Reliability
- Not showing up on time or when the home or building owner is aware of
- Lack of communicating any delays in starting the install or any delays during the project
- Missing proposed deadlines or not following through on commitments
- Failing to document all of your concerns
#5: Budget Issues & Deviations from the Original Bid
Last but not least are problems stemming from changes in pricing, especially those that are significantly higher than the initially proposed bid. The standard opinion in the industry is that the final price should not deviate much from the original price. Side note: It's also important that you never pay the contractor in full prior to the work being completed.
Contractors should capture any escalation clauses in their bids just in case something is discovered during the installation. Common reasons for a project to escalate beyond the bid price could include (but are not limited to):
- Increases in the cost of raw materials from the time the project was bid to when the work is performed
- Unforeseen issues, such as the existing roof deck needing replaced or shimmed
- Other problems, such as mold, rot, etc.
For more on this topic, check out this article for reasons why a bid price may be too high or too low.
How to Deal with a Contractor Problem
So let’s say that you do come across one or more of the issues listed above, what should you do next? Let’s go through step-by-step instructions of how to address this problem:
Step 1: Stay level-headed
First and foremost, try to stay calm and remember that mistakes sometimes happen. It’s okay to be a little upset or frustrated when a problem presents itself, but try not to let it cloud your judgment and affect how you approach the situation. In other words, don’t walk outside of your business or your home and start placing blame on the first person you see or be overly aggressive. Instead, focus on getting as much information as you need so you can have the conversation and effectively communicate your concerns. Such as in life, when an issue arises, focus on resolution and not the problem.
Step 2: Create the punch-list of problems you want to discuss
Next, make a list of the issues you have with the project. This could include physical problems like those listed in the poor workmanship section above, or maybe a less tangible problem like having difficulty communicating with the general contractor. No matter what it is, write it down and keep a running punch-list of items to discuss. It is also recommended to email these items so there is a digital trail of your concerns that have been delivered to your contractor, this includes saving text messages.
When making this list, keep the following in mind:
- Ensure your perceived problem is a real problem
- Sometimes, home or building owners think something is a problem when it’s not. So, if you’re unsure if something is a real problem, ask questions and do your research first. Make sure the answer you get is to your satisfaction prior to moving on from it or waiting until the project is completed.
- Differentiate installation issues from aesthetic issues
- Some metal roof details, such as specific flashing points, disrupted seam lines, or parts that create shadows, might be considered unsightly to property owners who aren’t familiar with the components of a metal roof. However, while these parts might not be the most aesthetically pleasing, they’re often necessary to make it weather-tight.
- Potential weather-tight issues are most important to document
- The last thing you want your roof to do is leak. In addition to having to pay for repairs made to the roof after the install is already complete, a leak can also ruin other valuable items in your home or building (furniture, photos, drywall, flooring, appliances, etc.)
- Ensure the agreed upon details are what is installed
- Before the installation began, all details and options should have been agreed upon by both the contractor and yourself. If you believe the incorrect details were used, document it immediately. Details tend to be more prominent in the realm of commercial projects and/or architectural specified projects.
- If possible, take photos
- When you’re making this punch list of items, photographic proof helps the contractor understand the points of concern. For example, if the roof covers a massive structure, you may lose track of where a scratch in the paint was, or a spot of perceived excessive oil canning occurred. Alternatively, if you’re having an issue with the installation crew, take photos for proof that the action was taking place.
Step 3: Set up a meeting with the general contractor and the roofer
The next step to remedying an issue with the installation is to set up a private meeting with your primary contact. As mentioned before, this person may be a general contractor, project foreman, or supervising contractor. If it is a general contractor who subcontracted the work out to another company, make sure a manager-level individual from the roofing installation business is present with the general contractor as well. If the roofing contractor is not responding to meeting requests, then meet with only the general contractor.
Keep in mind, these contractors often have busy schedules and more than one customer at a time, so you might not be able to set up a meeting right away. Try to be flexible with your schedule if you can. However, if your roof is leaking, the contractor should have someone come out immediately to provide a temporary fix until the problem can be properly corrected.
Step 4: Discuss your proposed problems with your contact & set up fixes
During this meeting, it’s important to come prepared to lay all of your issues out for the general contractor and installation contractor (if they are different). Having your punch list allows you to go line-by-line with your contact and talk out some of the problems to ensure they are legitimate issues requiring repairs. If you took photos, now would be the time to show your contact.
The contractor you meet with should be taking detailed notes and writing down everything. If it’s a physical issue, they should go out on to the roof to see the point of concern first-hand to come up with a list of action items and ways for the roofers to fix the issues (if they can). They should also be verbally communicating how they will fix problems with you and give you choices of available remedies. If it’s an installer/individual or another non-tangible issue, they should still outline how they will address the problem.
We recommend that you take notes during the meeting as well. When the meeting is over, run down your notes with the parties in the meeting to ensure accuracy of your notes as well as documented commitments from this meeting so you can be on the same page moving forward. In other words, you don’t want to leave this meeting not knowing where to go from there, so it’s important to set a time and date for the fixing the issues right then and there.
Step 5: Ensure the contractor fixed the problems or offered an alternative solution
Once the roofers show up to fix the issues, try to refrain from hovering outside or ordering the installers around. They should have met with the general contractor or their superiors ahead of time on how the problem is to be fixed and likely know what they are doing.
Once the work is complete, do another check of the final metal roof. Sometimes, the general contractor may come back and walk through how the problems were fixed with you, but this may not be the case in every situation. Beyond that, there is usually a punch list or a final construction checklist for most projects, and even though many of these items can be considered remedial, it is important that you confirm this work is completed adequately.
If you’re satisfied with the project, reach out to your primary contact and let them know you’re ready to move into the final discussions, such as making remaining payments, applying for warranties, and other after-installation benefits.
If you’re NOT satisfied, you can either repeat the process of making a punch list, meeting with the general contractor, and having roofers come out to fix the problems OR move on to step 6.
Step 6: If the problem isn’t fixed or the contractor is challenging to deal with, consider other options
This step of the process is very rare. Most contractors and installers are willing to do anything to fix legitimate problems and make sure you’re happy with the project. However, there are a handful of rogue contractors who are incapable of performing the job and/or don’t have the skills and experience needed to install a metal roof or work with property owners correctly. These contractors may be:
- Consistently difficult to deal with or talk to about project issues
- Denying there are any problems when it’s clear there are
- Placing blame on everything but themselves or their workers/sub-contractors
- Refusing to fix any of the problems
- Trying to charge you or add to your bid to fix problems that they caused
- Unresponsive or extremely difficult to contact
- OR you as the building owner could have placed unreasonable expectations, and you could actually be the problem
If you come into this situation, there are many different avenues you can take. There isn’t always one answer for everyone, but here are some actions you can take:
- Fire the contractor – This seems like the most logical, but it can be difficult and could incur more costs than just paying the rest of the price. If you do decide you want to fire the business, there must be a substantial reason and proof, which is why documenting any missteps by the contractor is vital. For more on recommendations for firing a contractor, check out this article.
- Look into hiring a metal roof consultant – Many roofing consultants, who are available to hire, specialize in inspecting and fixing problems with both residential and commercial projects.
- Contact your state/local licensing board to discuss your options & how they can help – One of the most important factors to check on when hiring a contractor is to make sure they are licensed by their state or local licensing board. If you’re unsatisfied with the way your project turned out, you could contact the licensing office to report a violation. Keep in mind, licensing varies by state and by locality.
- File a claim with the Better Business Bureau – The Better Business Bureau (BBB) exists to foster good relationships and trust between businesses and their customers. Dissatisfied consumers can file complaints against companies who are engaging in “substandard marketplace behavior.” When you submit a complaint with the BBB, you will be asked to provide evidence that you’ve tried to deal directly with the business, among other documents.
- If needed, hire an attorney and file legal action – If the contracting company refuses to finish the project, you can sue them for unfinished work, which would require attorney intervention. This option should be the last case scenario, mainly because it tends to be expensive and might not be worth it in the end.
Wrapping it All Up
Remember: Many problems are due to miscommunication or a lack of communication.
Your first step to solving any problem during installation on your metal roof is to talk to your primary contact. These contractors are there for a reason. If possible, try to keep in touch with this general contractor throughout the installation so problems can be squashed before they even begin.
If you get into a situation where the contractor is no longer focused on you and there’s apparent negligence, it may be time to go another avenue and seek additional help.
After 20 years of experience in providing high-quality metal for all types of metal roofing projects, Sheffield Metals has worked with all different contractors and home/building owners. We know how important it is for you to get the best metal roof on the first time around.
To ask us a question or to discuss your project, please contact one of our metal roofing specialists today.