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Before beginning any roofing project, whether retrofitting an old roof or topping off new construction, there are many important issues to consider. After all, a roof is a major investment and should perform well now and in the future for the students and staff beneath it. Some of the most important issues are selecting a roofing contractor, dealing with warranties and specifying a new roof.

Selecting a roofing contractor Buying a new roof is an important investment. Before spending any money, take time to learn how to evaluate a roofing contractor.

All roofing contractors are not alike; insist on working with a professional roofing contractor. A professional is recognized as a person who has a specialized body of knowledge, has received intensive training in a particular field and has hands-on experience. It is a good idea to pre-qualify a contractor. A little extra work can ensure that the job will be done right the first time.

Things to consider:

-Check for a permanent place of business, telephone number, tax ID number and, where appropriate, a business license.

-Insist on seeing copies of the contractor's liability coverage and workers' compensation certificates. Make sure the coverage runs through the duration of the job.

-Look for a company with a proven track record that offers client references and a list of completed projects, including school roofing projects. Call these clients to find out if they were satisfied.

-Check to see if the contractor is properly licensed or bonded. Call the state licensing board for specific state requirements.

-Insist on a written proposal, and examine it for complete descriptions of the work and specifications, including approximate start and completion dates, and payment procedures.

-Check to see if the contractor is a member of any regional or national industry associations.

-Call the local Better Business Bureau to check for any complaints that may have been filed.

-Have the contractor explain his or her project-supervision and quality-control procedures. Request the name of the person who will be in charge, how many workers the job will require and the estimated time of completion.

-Carefully read any roof warranty offered and watch for provisions that would void it.

Keep a healthy skepticism about the lowest bid. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Remember, price is only one criterion for selecting a contractor. Professionalism and quality workmanship also are important factors.

Roofing warranties Current roofing systems are the result of a century of research and innovation. Therefore, the introduction of numerous systems using rubbers, plastics, modified asphalt and other synthetic materials has caused manufacturers to focus attention on warranties. Long-term warranties are used as a marketing tool.

However, the length of a roofing warranty should not be the primary criterion in the selection of a roofing product. You should base the selection of a roofing system for a particular application on the product's qualities and suitability for the prospective project. A long-term warranty may be of little value if the roof does not perform satisfactorily and the school is plagued by leaks. Furthermore, if the roof system is well-designed, well-constructed and well-manufactured, the expense of purchasing a warranty may be unnecessary.

There is a common misconception that long-term warranties are all-inclusive insurance policies designed to cover any roofing problem, regardless of the cause or suitability for the project where it is installed. Even the most comprehensive manufacturer will repair leaks that result from specific causes enumerated in the warranty. A materials-only warranty guarantees that the manufacturer will provide replacement material.

Warranty documents often contain restrictive provisions that limit the warrantor's liability and the owner's remedies if problems develop. The warranty also may contain other restrictions and limitations, such as prohibition against assignment or transfer of the warranty, exclusion of damages resulting from a defective roof, or monetary limitations.

Therefore, in addition to the roofing warranty, look for:

-Manufacturers who demonstrate relevant and proven merits of products and systems best designed to serve the school's specific needs.

-Manufacturers who base warranties for membranes or systems on honest and realistic appraisal of proven service life, contingent upon the financial ability and good faith of the issuer to honor those warranties for the duration of the designated warranty term.

-Manufacturers who clearly and conspicuously state in writing all recommended, as well as required, owner maintenance responsibilities during the projected service life of the roof.

-Manufacturers who solicit from the school a clear understanding of the school's primary responsibility to provide periodic routine maintenance during the service life of the roof membrane.

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