Identifying and Evaluating Traveling Roofing Companies (Storm Chasers)

by Feb 6, 2021

Avoiding Storm Chasers in Wichita

When major storms sweep through an area, the experience can be traumatic. These storms often leave major destruction in their wake, affecting road networks, public buildings, transportation services and residential neighborhoods. When dealing with destruction on this level, the last thing you want to be involved with is some sort of scam. Unfortunately, times of crisis present an opportunity for questionable business practices and scams.

The roofing industry is sometimes perceived as having a bad reputation; likely (we think) due to the promises and failure to deliver by “storm chaser” organizations, which travel to affected cities after weather events hit that are severe enough to cause roof damage. While there are certainly good roofing organizations who hit the road, it can be very challenging as a customer to differentiate between a real reputable company, a ‘semi-real’ company, or a predatory salesperson (see below in our section explaining various business models of actual organizations).

As we ourselves are a “stationary” local contractor in the Greater Wichita area, it’s temping to make a blanket recommendation like “always work with a local roofing contractor.” However, the situation is not always that easy. Many markets experience seasonality that make roofing impossible (or limited) during parts of the year. Some customers have specialty roofs that require services not available locally. Finally (and most common in our part of the country), many small towns and communities simply do not have the volume of resources to meet roofing needs after a storm.

It is our goal to help homeowners and buildings owners be able to make more informed decisions about contractor selection, whether that person is within our geographic market or not. For every customer who can correctly evaluate and identify reputable contractors, the overall potential market for predatory businesses shrinks. Those companies will either go out of business or be forced to start doing honest business. Either way, it is our goal to arm folks with information and good questions to ask in order to make informed decisions.

Identifying Local vs Traveling Roofers

Note that while we’re writing about roofing contractors, much of this is true for any trades. In a post-storm environment, this typically also means siding, window, or tree/landscape contractors.

Defining “Local” vs “Traveling” Contractors

We consider “traveling” to mean that the jobsite is more than a typical sized work crew would expect to drive there-and-back in a single day. In roofing, which usually operates with crews of 6-12 people, this is about 150 miles from the closest office. For trades typically performed by just 1 or 2 people, this radius might be larger; for example a masonry repairperson only has to drive 1 person and some tools, whereas a roofing crew typically has to bring trailers or other large equipment.

Single-location Companies

Sometimes, identifying the difference is as easy as searching the name of the company online. Any reputable local contractor will list a primary place of business with an office address. Traveling contractors also may have a primary office location that’s listed (e.g. on their website, or Google My Business profile). Again, we don’t want to say that all traveling contractors are bad – that’s simply not true – but you do need to be aware when talking to one.

Multi-location Companies

This business model is common in roofing, and important to be aware of. Roofing is a challenging industry because in most markets (like here in the lower Midwest), it is highly weather-dependent. One way that many roofing companies handle this is by diversifying via opening several locations. This could be different cities across a single region, or in the case of markets where roofing is not possible in the winter, a second/additional location may be in a totally different part of the country with different seasonality. There are also a handful of reputable companies from (mostly northern) regions that have a single place of business during the summer months, then go on the road when roofing is not possible at home. Companies will list any permanent office locations on their website, and should have information readily available about which states they regularly do business in.

No Location Is Listed

Having no location listed tends to be a red flag for a contractor. The legal business address may be registered out of a house, but not publicly listed. There may still be a legitimate reason for a contractor exclusively working on the road – e.g. a specialty installer or repairperson, but more often, the lack of a fixed location/address is associated with contractors who may disappear after committing to work, or who lack permanent businesses with ‘something to lose’ in the event that bad work leads to a damaged reputation.

Evaluating Traveling Contractors: How to Identify Between Good and Bad

Until now, we haven’t gotten into the details of how unscrupulous contractors operate, or why it is worth being wary of certain contractors. Furthermore, what are some potential business practices or consequences unique to traveling contractors that add risk to a project? Again, we want to point out that not all traveling contractors are “bad,” and indeed the trustworthy companies in this space serve a real need in some markets, especially rural areas or small-to-medium cities where there simply are not local companies that can meet the needs (or the volume of need) after a storm.

Knowing how the undesirable traveling companies might operate is one way to evaluate the motives or risks (to construction quality) associated with different traveling contractors or “storm chasers.”

Project Continuity vs Handoff 

The initial point-of-contact with a roofing or contracting business after a storm may have many different titles. Most commonly, this is with a salesperson, canvasser (knocking door-to-door), or estimator. However, this person could also be a project manager, or in a smaller company, may even be the owner. Whether or not this person is actually involved in the day-of construction project or not depends on how the business is structured. In an ideal scenario, the same person who initially inspects your roof, assists through the process of an insurance claim, and designs the roof is also involved in the installation. However, that person may also hand off the project to a trusted team member, an installation crew, or in some cases if the contract has language about being “assignable,” the contract can be sold to a different company entirely. Ask careful questions about the team structure and who will actually be there during the installation. Which brings us to the next point:

Ongoing or Traveling Crew vs One-time Contracted Work Crews

Roofing, or at least complete replacements (as opposed to repairs) usually require a larger crew in order to operate efficiently. Typical roofing crews range from 5-12 people. Some traveling contractors, especially those serving specialty roofing customers (tile, slate, metal, wood shake, synthetic shake, etc) travel with one or more install crews that they have an ongoing relationship with – either 1099 contractors or in-house employees. In the specialty roofing market, we would recommend this as a requirement when selecting a contractor – the complexity and financial consequence of specialty installs should really not be left in the hands of anyone who does not regularly perform that work, and certainly not with an unknown team/supervisory relationship.

In the US, asphalt shingles are the most common roofing material, found on nearly 80% of homes. The ubiquity of asphalt shingles affords some flexibility with installation crews. HOWEVER, exercise caution around any contractor who does not have a regular ongoing relationship with the installation crew that will be performing the work. A local crew doing 1099 work for an out-of-state contractor may yield a perfectly good outcome, but there are many similar situations to avoid. The worst outcomes for storm replacements of roofs come from a person who makes the sale representing a roofing company, then “sells” the job to a crew to perform the work, after which the initial person leaves without any further involvement. Install crews, just like the roofing companies that bid and design the jobs, also travel to chase storms, meaning their understanding of local building codes, or consequences for incorrect work, may be absent.

As you would expect, an ongoing working relationship with the installation crew is always preferred. However, that may not be an option in your particular scenario. In every case, don’t be afraid to ask who will actually be doing the work. Reputable companies will proudly brag of their team, know the names of the installers, have pictures, etc. Others should be expected to have safeguards in place such as active supervision of jobsites, written standards, or other practices to demonstrate that they can stand behind the work.

Understanding of Local Building Codes

Building codes are the legal minimum requirement for work completed under a permit reviewed by the local building council. In the US, building codes are usually enforced by the local city or county building authority. Those groups cans choose to adopt sets of national standard codes, or adopt/use those codes with modifications set locally. Building codes are readily available, but anyone doing construction work in a new area needs to ‘do their homework’ prior to designing and building a project in that area. Proper attic ventilation is one of the areas we see that is most commonly missed or ignored. They must also understand the permit process – permits being legally required virtually everywhere for roof replacements.

Material manufacturers typically set product warranties with written assumptions of the work being performed “to code,” or conforming with legal building standards. If the roof is not built to code, the manufacturer may void their warranty.

A second relevant set of building requirements may come from HOA, covenant communities, and neighborhood standards. Property owners in an individual community can choose to adopt a charter with enforceable expectations on building restrictions, color and design choices, material selection, and quality standards. In roofing, this is often with the goal of creating uniformity throughout the neighborhood, and preserving the quality “brand” of homes associated with the name of that neighborhood. If your contractor is from out of the area or has never done work in your neighborhood before, you need to be extra vigilant to read through the documents in your charter or community bylaws about roofing standards and provide those to the contractor. You, not them, will be ultimately responsible for the consequences of a nonconforming roof. Unfortunately, we have seen the situation several times where insurance paid to replace a damaged roof after a storm, only for a homeowner to have to pay out of pocket to replace it a second time because the roof did not meet community standards. As you can imagine, the homeowner never chooses to have the original contractor to perform the second install.

Workmanship Warranty

The term ‘workmanship warranty’ is often used in the sale large construction projects, especially roofing. We have a whole separate on just What Does a Workmanship Warranty Actually Mean, with a lot more detail on what coverage is usually included or paired, how to compare them, and industry practices around them. At the end of the day, however, a workmanship warranty is a promise made by the company at the time of sale for a project. It is easy to make a promise, but much harder to deliver. Whether, how, and how willing a company is able to actually address warranty repairs is dependent on a number of factors, some of which are relevant to our bigger topic of local contractors vs traveling contractors.

A company’s motivation to deliver on a workmanship warranty is to A) avoid legal action in breaching a written contract, and B) a desire to preserve a business reputation and win the trust/referrals from the community. A local company that will continue to do business in the same area even after the storm is subject to both of these forces. For a traveling company, they may not have any need to keep past customers happy, so at least make sure that the warranty contract is in writing and legally enforceable.

Again, we want to bring up that there are many reputable traveling contractors out there in the market. These companies must be realistic about their warranty claims, and may address geographic challenges in other ways, such as having a reimbursement or payout model for future warranty repairs if they are needed, rather than performing the work themselves. Ask detailed questions about each company’s process, and make sure that any material and/or workmanship warranties are outlined clearly in writing. If not, then any claims carry no more weight than a vague promise.


Recommendations After a Storm: Here’s How You Can Avoid Untrustworthy Storm Chasers

Avoid Door-to-Door Contractors

Roofing contractors don’t usually go door-to-door pointing out your roofing issues. If a roofing contractor is knocking on your door, chances are they just rode into town trying to make a quick buck off of vulnerable people.

Be Present for Roofing Inspections

It is best to be present when having your roof inspected. Often fake roofing contractors and scammers cause further damage to your roof while inspecting it, which gives them more work to do and you forking out more money.

Don’t Reveal Anything about your Insurance Payout

Never reveal upfront the amount of your insurance payout. Revealing this amount may lead to the contractor increasing the amount of his quote, sometimes to the entirety of your insurance payout.

Always get Multiple Quotes

Don’t rush and settle on the first best contractor that comes along. It is best to source multiple quotes from different roofing contractors so that you can not only compare prices but so that you can also scope which one offers the best services for your money. If available in your area, we recommend getting a damage inspection and recommendation for at least one local contractor. These local teams may be temporarily overwhelmed with the volume of work needed after a storm, but if you are in a position where the damage is not urgent (or a temporary repair will do), it may be worth the wait to be able to work with a company that is a part of your community for the long haul. Insurance claim assistance, workmanship warranty, familiarity with local building code or even HOA guidelines etc, and a willingness to do quality work in order to protect a long-term reputation within the community may all be things that only a local company is willing or able to provide.

Don’t make Large Upfront Payments

Making large upfront payments, especially cash payments is largely discouraged. This is due to the fact that contractors may take off with your money. Cash payments also mean that there’s no paper trail to follow up with should anything go wrong. Professional roofing contractors usually only accept money once the job is done.

Consider Putting Up a Yard Sign

Especially after a storm, many contracting businesses will ask you if they can put a sign in your yard displaying their company name. The company’s marketing tends to have one benefit in particular to the homeowner – it gets (some) other contractors to stop knocking on your door. If you have already agreed to work with a reputable contractor, consider putting the sign up. Companies (and especially dubious ones) are typically keenly aware of other businesses reputations. If you have chosen to work with a reputable or local name, those with less sound business practices will know it would be extremely challenging to change the mind of a homeowner who is already talking with an honest, trustworthy team.

Know State Consumer Protection Policies

Kansas has a 3-day law, allowing customers up to 3 days to change their mind after signing a contractor bid. This law was put into place to help consumers with a way out of high-pressure sales tactics. Check the laws in your area to know what protections are available to you.

Ask to see state Licensing

Business registration is managed by each state. This registration, which is required by law, is a low bar, so a company having this doesn’t do much for helping you evaluate between businesses. However, you can be sure that a company who doesn’t even meet this bare minimum legal requirement for doing business in your area should be avoided or even reported – usually a link is available on the state Attorney General website or Secretary of State website.

Any reputable company will appreciate you asking this and be happy to show you registration and/or liability insurance documentation for the state where the jobsite is. For a quality company, educated customers are good customers.


Make sure that you’re always alert and trust your instincts when things feel a little out of place. For reliable Wichita roofing services, Rhoden Roofing offers free estimates and consultations in the greater Wichita area.


This article is part of our Storm Response Series. Learn more about:

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