The lady called about a roof leak. Clearly, she was frustrated. The roof was installed in December—that’s 2013, less than a year ago. I ask her why she didn’t call the contractor who installed the new roof. She says she did, but that she’d like a second opinion. Basically, what she’s saying is that she no longer trusts that contractor.

Here’s my guess: I know the contractor. He uses subs to install every job. I’m not saying that all subcontractors are bad. I’ve worked with subs for years, and some are very talented. What’s missing is consistency. Using subcontractors can work well if you have someone on the job every day who’s not afraid to tell them what to do.

If you don’t have some level of management to ensure certain standards, subs will rush the job. After all, they’re paid by the day, and if they don’t complete the job by the end of the day, they have to come back.

Up to Code

So we get one of our guys up on her roof and he finds that it’s improperly flashed. There’s a right way to flash a chimney. Good guys do it, schlock outfits don’t. The roof also has exposed nail heads.

I ask her: Why didn’t you call him back?

It turns out she did call the contractor and he had come out to the house and applied the cure-all: roof cement.

If this was something out of the ordinary, it would be worth describing in greater detail. But it isn’t. Not long ago we replaced a roof that had been on the house for just a month. The original roof had cedar shingles, and instead of tearing them off—which current code requires—the contractor simply put a layer of plywood on top and nailed asphalt shingles onto that. The building inspector passed it. I called him up. I pointed out that the roof was not to code. He said that as far as he knew it was. I said: I have the code book in front of me. Why don’t you get yours? After looking at the page, he says: Oh, you’re right.

The homeowner wants to know: How do we fix it? He calls the installing contractor, who doesn’t want to touch it. I look at the contract and I get on the phone with that contractor. His contract has no right of rescission and no start or completion dates. I say: We’re looking at a lawsuit here, if you want to go that way.

In the end, the contractor refunded the job in full and the homeowner hired us to tear off the roof and start over. Since then, we’ve done five jobs for that homeowner and he’s given us three referrals.

Installation Errors

Now back to the lady with the leaking roof. What we’re going to do is give her a report and tell her the truth. That doesn’t mean throwing the installing contractor under the bus. But the roof is less than six months old and it shouldn’t be leaking.

I don’t want to be the contractor who goes around complaining about other contractors. But the truth is, most of the roofs we’re called on to repair are less than 10 years old. And 99% of the time the problems are due to installation errors. Either the roof was improperly installed or it’s missing key components such as drip edge, ice-and-water shield, or starter strip.

Every roofing manufacturer claims that its product is superior to those of its competitors, but on one thing they’re all in harmony: Roofs need to be installed correctly and consistently, according to the instructions spelled out in installation manuals. As long as contractors ignore that, there will be plenty of work for companies like ours.

—Sales veteran and trainer Mike Damora has been the sales manager at several large home improvement companies. Reach him at [email protected].