What to Expect From a Roofing Estimate

Workers inspecting solar panels on a roof

A roofing estimate — also known as a bid, quote, or proposal — outlines what the roofing work will look like and the cost. It’s a chance to compare offers before committing to a roofing company.

Every home will need a new roof someday. If today is the day for you, it’s time to contact roofing contractors and get estimates. While each company’s estimate will look slightly different, we’ll review the necessities and the additional information they might include.

8 Things to Expect From a Roofing Estimate

We’ve created a list of the information that may be included in your roofing estimate. Some of this information is vital for a reasonable quote. However, a roofing estimate may not include everything on this list. Don’t be afraid to ask the contractor to fill in any blanks so you can be confident in their services.

Roofing Contractor Inspects House
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Before a contractor can give you an estimate, though, they need to know what’s going on. When you reach out, describe the problem and your roof type as best you can. If you’re making an insurance claim, you should discuss this with the roofer so they can create the most accurate estimate.

Most roofers will come to your home and inspect your roof in person. This method is the best way to ensure an accurate estimate. While your verbal description is helpful, their expert eyes may identify problems you haven’t noticed.

A roof inspection takes between 30 and 60 minutes, and the inspector may need to look inside your home to see internal issues such as leaks or structural damage. They might take pictures and videos for future reference.

Videos and pictures alone may work if something prevents an in-person assessment. However, there is a higher chance the final price will differ based on unforeseen factors.

1. Written Information

Now we’re ready to dive into the actual roofing estimate. After the assessment, the roofing company can draft a document with all the project details we cover below. The length varies, but most will be a page or two. You may receive a physical or electronic copy. Any handwritten parts should be legible — if you can’t read something, ask for clarification and make a note of what they say.

Beware if the company won’t provide a written estimate — it could be a sign they’re ripping you off. Without written proof, they could deny what they said previously or make undisclosed changes. Even if they stick to their word, it’s more convenient for you to have a record of what they said so you don’t have to memorize it.

2. The Roofing Company’s Contact Information

It’s common sense for a company to provide contact information — after all, they want to hear back from you. It may include a:

  • Phone number
  • Address
  • Email address
  • Website (if they have one)

The more information they provide, the better. With this information, you can further research the company to assess its trustworthiness. Check their website for reviews and testimonials, then check third-party review sites like Google and the Better Business Bureau to confirm their reputation.

3. Proof of Licenses, Insurance, and Bonds

When you hire a contractor, you want to know they’re trustworthy and accountable for their work. The best way to guarantee that is to hire a licensed, insured, and bonded roofer.

  • A contractor’s license means the company is approved by the state to work in construction. State requirements differ, but they may need to attend training and pass an exam. The roofing company will be familiar with building codes and can be held accountable if they don’t follow them.
  • General liability insurance protects the consumer and company in cases of property damage or personal injury. Workers’ compensation insurance covers workplace injuries. Licensing often requires proof of insurance.
  • A bonded contractor has a legal contract with a bonding company. If the contractor doesn’t perform the promised work, the bonding company will compensate the customer.

While this information is important, not all roofing estimate paperwork includes it. If it’s not there, you should request it or look on their website. You can check a contractor’s licensing through your state’s licensing agency.

4. Current Roof Conditions

The estimate often includes a description of your old roof’s condition. Here are the details it may cover:

  • Materials
  • Color
  • Slope
  • Design
  • Number of stories
  • Damage or other problems

The information included will vary from company to company and project to project. For example, the current color may be necessary for roof repairs and replacements but not when switching to a new type of roof.

The description of the damage ensures you’re on the same page. If the description is missing anything you’re concerned about or includes something you didn’t know about, discuss it with the contractor before you proceed.

5. Project Description

Once the contractor identifies the conditions and issues, they will create their game plan. The estimate should outline the scope of work and the roofing components affected. The project description may be written out, part of a checklist, or included in the itemized pricing. Here are the questions it should answer:

  • What parts of the roofing system will they repair or replace (shingles, underlayment, ventilation, flashing, fasteners, etc.)?
  • What parts and materials will they use (including brand, amounts, costs, and warranties)?
  • Will you get any upgrades (new skylights, gutters, roof vents, etc.)?

Sometimes the roofer needs to make unexpected changes to the project. It could be as minor as switching shingle brands if the original is unavailable. However, they may discover something major once they start working, like rotten roof decking that wasn’t visible until the roof was torn up.

A good roofing estimate will include contingency plans and the cost for roof deck replacement if necessary. If the decking isn’t one of the line items, it’s worth asking about so you aren’t faced with unexpected costs.

6. Project Timelines and Other Dates

Roofing estimates often include several dates, such as inspection dates and the preparation date of the estimate. However, the most crucial details you need to know are the start and end dates for the project. You can use this information to decide whether the timeline works for you or whether another contractor suits your schedule better.

Since unexpected things can happen, expect some flexibility to be built into the timeline. For example, harsh weather conditions could delay the project. It also could last longer if the workers find damaged roof decking or other serious issues.

Estimates don’t last forever. If you wait a year, pricing could be completely different, and the roofer must provide a new estimate. That’s why many contractors provide an expiration or due date. Don’t worry too much — most estimates last several months, so you have plenty of time to decide. Check with the company if the estimate doesn’t say how long it’s good for.

7. Project Costs and Payment Details

Person using a calculator and a model of a house with a solar roof behind him
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The whole reason you get an estimate is to know what you’re paying. However, it’s more complicated than just the total cost. A good roofing estimate will break down expenses to show what you’re paying for. Here’s what they typically include:

  • Permit costs
  • Roofing material costs
  • Labor costs
  • Cleanup costs
  • Removal costs

Even if the estimate breaks down everything thoroughly, remember that unforeseen circumstances (such as supply issues or newly discovered problems) could change prices. However, there shouldn’t be extreme price changes that weren’t discussed with you.

If you don’t see an itemized list, ask for one. Any contractor that’s hesitant to provide this could be hiding hidden costs. If there’s no cost, then it’s not a proper estimate.

A roofing estimate also should outline what forms of payment they accept. They may offer different financing and payment schedules, such as:

  • Month-to-month payments after the project
  • Split throughout the project (deposit beforehand, partial payment during, and the rest after completion)
  • Full payment upon completion

While some companies require a small deposit, a contractor should never ask for a full payment upfront.

8. Warranties

No one wants to pay for something only to fall apart a year later. Warranties are there to protect you from this scenario by ensuring quality. Warranty information should include length and what is and isn’t covered. The roofing estimate should cover two types of warranties:

  • Manufacturers’ warranties cover the products used for repairs or installations. The brands that produce the products decide the warranty length and conditions. You can compare product warranties from different brands to gauge the quality and ask the contractor for alternatives. Manufacturers’ warranties range from 10 to 50 years.
  • Workmanship warranties cover the quality of installation. Any mistakes workers make will be covered, but neglecting maintenance and natural disasters won’t be. The roofing contractor decides this warranty’s length and conditions. Workmanship warranties range from two to 25 years.

Long warranties are always a good sign. But remember that the material type will affect the roof’s lifespan. For example, a metal roof lasts longer than an asphalt roof, and the warranty will differ.

FAQ About What to Expect From a Roofing Estimate

Are Roof Estimates Free?

Generally, roofing estimates are free of charge. Roofing projects are expensive, so you want to know what you’re getting into before paying. Roofing contractors know this, and the free estimate is a gesture of goodwill.

Are there any exceptions? A roofing company may charge a fee if your home or roof is very unusual. For example, historical buildings may require extensive examinations before they can give you an accurate estimate.

If your home and roof design is typical, be wary of anyone who requests payment for an estimate or refuses to give one. Remember that roofers may only be able to provide an estimate after seeing your property.

How Many Roof Estimates Should You Get?

You should get two or three roofing estimates. This will give you some options but won’t leave you too overwhelmed. Compare more than just their pricing — consider the warranties, licensing, and all the other factors we’ve discussed to make the best decision possible.

What’s the Difference Between Roofing Estimates and Contracts?

An estimate is designed to inform you before you commit. You can back out of an estimate with no consequences or money paid. Once you’ve made your decision to hire a company, you will get a contract. The contract will have the finalized costs, terms, down payment amount, and final payment provisions.

Get Roofing Estimates From a Pro

Are you ready for your roof estimate? Contact two or three roofing professionals, describe the work you need them to do, and compare their offers. Roof Gnome can connect you with skilled roofing contractors in your area so you can find the right pro for the job.

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Lauren Bryant

Lauren Bryant is a freelance writer currently based in the Pacific Northwest. She enjoys long walks and baking in her free time. With the rainy weather in her area, she understands the importance of a well-maintained, leak-free roof.