As buyers, we are often inclined to choose the lowest bid or price for items or services we need. Why? Because we don’t want to spend too much of our hard-earned money on something we could get at a lower price.
Unfortunately, the lowest price on something like a metal roof could spell trouble in more ways than one and lead to even more money being spent in the end to fix problems. It doesn’t mean it always will, but it’s important to know what to look for on a quote or bid that could attribute to the low price and potentially create issues and failures in the future.
With nearly 20 years of experience in all things metal roofing and wall systems, Sheffield Metals knows the value of choosing the best metal roof quote. This is why we think it’s important to discuss the seven most common reasons the lowest price on a bid for a metal roof installation could lead to issues.
Reason #1: Materials Are Missing, Incorrect, or Low-Quality
Contractors who are quoting jobs aren’t always perfect and sometimes make honest mistakes. But it’s their job to quickly correct their mistakes and ensure that you are happy with what is included in the quote.
The success of a metal roof is contingent on all of the panels, accessories and components, materials, and add-ons included during the installation stage. Also, not only should there be all the parts, but they should be the correct parts you’ve specified, such as the right color, gauge, profile, finish, or other choices for metal roofing.
To be sure the quote has everything it should, use the following list as a guide:
Material costs of:
- Metal/metal panels + quantity/size
- Underlayment type (peel and stick vs mechanically attached) + quantity/size
- Fasteners, rivets, or screws (ensure quality) + quantity
- Clips or clamps (engineered vs non-engineered) + quantity
- Plywood or other roof deck materials + quantity/size
- Flashing materials (drip edge, trim, pipe boots) + quantity/size
- Sealant or butyl tape + quantity
- Gutter materials + quantity/size
- All other accessories and materials needed
- Tear-off cost per hour + number of hours to complete tear-off (shingles, metal, etc.)
- Installation cost per hour + number of hours to complete installation
- Roof deck install/repair
- Panel install
- Accessory install
- Drip edge, trim, or gutter install
Costs of warranties or other after-sale benefits
If a bid comes in at a significantly lower price than others, it’s important to ask the contractor why this may be and then have them explain their reasoning. It could potentially be missing one or more of these pieces, or the contractor could be using low-quality materials that aren’t engineered or tested, which we will discuss next.
Reason #2: The Contractor Is Using a Non-Engineered System
One easy way to determine why a metal roof bid is too low is to check if the contractor quoted a non-engineered metal roof system, as these can be significantly less expensive than engineered systems.
First, we want to mention that engineered metal roofing systems, which are tested in a third-party lab and adhere to strict metal roofing industry standards, are not always a requirement. These engineered systems tend to be used more in commercial projects over residential homes because many localities require it and also because of the size, complexity, and functionality of commercial buildings. If you want to know if it’s a requirement for your home or building, contact your local building department to check. Even if it’s not required, you should always have the option to choose if you want to buy one, which the contractor should take into account when calculating the estimate.
Not using an engineered metal roofing system isn’t always a bad thing, but just know that these systems have been substantiated and have the testing results to prove that it will withstand harsh weather and environments.
Reason #3: The Contractor Is Trying to Make Your Budget Work When it Doesn’t
Your budget is important. It’s as simple as that.
You should have a budget range that you feel comfortable spending on a metal roof before you schedule any consultation or receive any bids from contractors. You want to ensure that you’re not trying to overextend how much money you can spend and leave yourself in a bad financial situation.
One of the first indicators that your contractor might try to low-bid you is if they ask what your budget is before they ever see your roof or provide any quotes or bids. For an example, if a contractor finds out your budget is around $8,000 and they’re accustomed to quoting jobs at $10,000 or over, they might be inclined to include low-quality products in the bid in order to get the job. This isn’t true with all contractors, as some might hear your budget and be truthful by telling you that they don’t quote projects that low.
It’s best not to tell contractors your budget before you receive bids. That way, if you get price quotes that are well over your budget, you might end up realizing you can’t afford a metal roofing system after all.
Reason #4: The Contracting Business Is Small and/or Younger
We want to preface this by saying not all small contracting businesses are bad; you just need to ensure the contractor has the capacity, knowledge, and ability to complete your roofing project before hiring them. There are a few different ways that hiring a small business as your metal roofing contractor could get you into trouble, including inexperience and longevity.
Inexperience – Most new contracting companies start out as a small business. Some of these small businesses may be an experienced contractor who branched off and started their own business. But there are also inexperienced or young contractors who just start businesses on a whim and might not have enough experience to be a reliable and experienced metal roof installer. To combat this, always be sure to ask how long the business has existed and how many years each installer has of experience. If the answer is under 5 years, it may be worth questioning and checking online ratings, reviews, project photos, anticipated installation details, and other indicators of good performance in metal roof installations.
Longevity – It’s an issue we’ve heard about in the past: Businesses changing their names every few years in order to escape a bad review or reputation. With smaller businesses, there is less room for error, especially when they often rely on positive reviews to grow their business. One or two bad reviews could significantly affect how much work a contractor is getting, which is why contractors with bad reviews have been known to change their name every few years. If the business is newer or smaller, be sure to ask:
- Why is your business small?
- Has your business ever gone by another name in the past?
- If so, what was the name and why did you change it?
- If you are offering me a five-year (or other time range) warranty, can you guarantee that you will still be in business in five years?
- If you aren’t in business, what would I need to do?
Like we said, not all small business contractors are bad. Some of them are very qualified and perfectly fine with having a smaller contracting business. The biggest challenge contractors face today is maintaining a qualified labor force, so many companies choose to remain small so they can better manage their crews. Just do your due diligence and always ask the right questions.
Reason #5: The Contractor Doesn’t Offer After-the-Sale Benefits
Contractors are responsible for providing customers with the peace-of-mind before, during, and after the installation. Part of this involves offering after-sale benefits to buyers, which are often reasons that many people buy metal roofing, including:
- Substrate – Offered by the manufacturer
- Weather-tight – Offered by the manufacturer for non-residential buildings
- Paint/Finish – Offered by the manufacturer on behalf of paint/coating companies
- Workmanship – Offered by the contractor
- While it’s not common with every contractor, offering metal roof maintenance is a great benefit for the property owner to receive with their purchase. A low price could indicate that maintenance isn’t included with the installation, so be sure to check with the contractor before you buy.
- This goes along with the workmanship warranty. Just think about it: If the contractor won’t back up their own work and installation abilities, including any after-the-fact repairs or fixes, should they really be trusted?
- Also, before you sign a contract, make sure there is a clause about workmanship or leak repair for a specified period of time, which ranges anywhere from 12 to 60 months after the installation date.
The easiest way to tell if a contractor isn’t offering any of these benefits is to look at the quote. If the bid price is low, or if you don’t see any of the above items listed, it’s worth asking about. It’s the contractor’s responsibility to discuss warranties, maintenance, and repairs with the property owners before any sale is made.
Reason #6: An Accounting Error Occurred on the Bid
There are many different scenarios where an error in the accounting on a bid could make the price lower than normal. This could include:
- A math/accounting mistake was made
- Low bidding (in materials or hours of work) to get the job and then having to purchase extra materials or add extra time after the contractor is hired
- Something substantial is missing from the bid
As we mentioned before, everything should be included in the bid, plus there should also be a clause about unforeseen product additions that are found during the installation. Such as, “If we find this condition/problem, then this will happen.” If it’s missing or you haven’t discussed potential added costs with the contractor, make sure to ask how it will be handled. Often times, contractors will include “escalation clauses” in their quotes. This is absolutely acceptable and common in the metal roofing industry; however, if the installed price is much higher than the quoted price, it is fair to have the contractor prove why the increased cost is necessary prior to just accepting the costs.
Bottom line: If the company is experienced and well-versed in quoting and providing bids, there shouldn’t be any mistakes on the bid, whether it was just an accounting issue or a missing part.
Reason #7: The Contractor Deliberately Underbid to Get the Job
Accidents in accounting could be made, but there are also situations where a bid is deliberately low just so the contractor gets the job. They could be underbidding the number of labor hours needed or could be using under-qualified, un-insured, or even cheap laborers. Be wary of this, especially because it could lead to extra charges for time and replacement materials later on in the installation or afterward.
There is also the scenario where a contractor is undercutting their own prices in order to win over jobs from their direct competitors. Many contractors are familiar with their competition and have an idea of where they will bid work, so it is not necessarily a bad thing to communicate who the other players are on a project. This may or may not end up causing any issues, but it could be seen as not focusing on the needs of the customer. Just keep this in mind and always ask if you suspect the bid is deliberately too low.
Final Thoughts on Low Metal Roofing Bids
The lowest bid for a metal roofing installation project won’t always cause problems, but it’s happened enough times in the industry to warrant talking about so it can be prevented.
Our best advice is to keep an open dialogue with the contractors. If you feel like something is priced out too low and could be a cause for concern, talk to them and ask questions; it’s their job to provide the best experience for their customers as possible. Don’t let yourself be “sold” on accepting sub-par workers, products, or details on your roof just to save a few dollars.
Keep an eye out for:
- Low-quality or cheap materials
- The types of the materials included in the bid
- Smaller businesses with only young/inexperienced workers
- Contractors who don’t offer after-sale benefits or warranties
- Accounting problems or mistakes
Here at Sheffield Metals, we see the importance of getting a metal roof installation right the first time, which is why we believe in educating you on how low bids can potentially cause issues.
For more information on the quoting and bidding process, contact us today to speak a trained metal roofing expert.