The fight of the century! Who will win? Who should win? What does it mean for you? As we look at the importance and the differences between product quality and workmanship, the answers to those questions become clearer. The ultimate goal of this article is to help you get the most value out of your next roofing project. But you can only achieve that if you fully understand how product quality, workmanship, and price relate to each other.
“I’m getting three bids and I’d like you to provide one too.” As a roofing contractor, we often hear these words, or ones very similar. On the one hand, they make perfect sense; a property owner wants to get multiple bids so that he can be assured that he’s not being price-gouged. Seeing how multiple bidders compare on price is a reasonable way of doing that. Too often, though, the reason multiple bids are requested is not a simple qualifying of a bid price, but is a deliberate search for the lowest bid. With money so hard to come by these days, who could blame someone for wanting the best price?
But Isn’t Price What Matters Most?
Short Answer: No. Unfortunately, it is for a lot of owners, often to their own detriment. After all, you usually get what you pay for. But when price becomes the sole objective – or even a primary one – some of the other important elements of doing business with a roofing contractor get ignored. Don’t get me wrong, price is and always should be a very important aspect of deciding whether or not to hire someone. But price should not be an isolated issue, as if it has no connection to other aspects of the work being done. For example, spending $25 on a hamburger sounds ridiculous. But knowing the burger is 3-1/2 pounds of prime USDA Filet Mignon and comes with a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon, that $25 price tag seems more than reasonable. On the other hand, spending $1,500 on a brand new car seems like a great deal. Until, of course, you find out that while the car itself is new, it has no tires, no engine, and recently suffered severe body damage from a recent hail storm. The point? Price should always be looked at in comparison to what is being acquired. It seems like a very simple, even childish point. But it is one that is often overlooked by those that only care about getting the lowest price. Focusing on the lowest price can seldom get you the best deal, and ironically often provides a finished result that is far less desired than that supposedly great price that was offered. The lowest bid often provides the lowest quality. If you pay too little, there is no reason for someone to give you a lot in return. Then again, the low bid may be due to expertise or efficiency. Just don’t make the mistake of focusing solely on the price when there are so many other important aspects to evaluate.
WORKMANSHIP: (1) the skill of a craftsperson or artisan; (2) the quality of something made; (3) the quality imparted to a thing in the process of making it
QUALITY: (1) superiority of kind, degree, or grade of excellence; (2) how good or bad something is; (3) a high standard
As it relates to getting a new commercial or industrial roof installed (or restoring an existing one), there are 2 highly-critical points to consider. In fact, they may be even more important than price itself. They are workmanship and product quality. As a decision-maker, you must weigh expenditures made against the direct or indirect benefits returned to you or your business. If money was no object, what should you focus on: the quality of the work or the quality of the product? Once you have these concepts firmly in mind, only then can you make an adequate comparison as to whether or not the associated price tag is reasonable, whether there is real value in what’s being done.
What is Workmanship?
The definition of workmanship would probably be defined differently by different people. Depending upon your background, work history, or current career path, you may have your own perception of what workmanship means. But as it relates and compares to the quality of your roofing product of choice, I’m going to define workmanship this way: Workmanship is careful and conscientious application of technical skills, personal integrity, and self-worth toward the installation of a product with the fewest mistakes possible so that the product can last as long as possible with the fewest failures.
So let’s break that definition down a bit to understand more fully why workmanship is so critical to the success of any roofing endeavor.
- CAREFUL AND CONSCIENTIOUS APPLICATION: No matter how talented someone may be at their craft, if they just don’t care about the work they do, then it is unlikely that the finished product will meet with a pleasing result. Often it is the attention to detail that separates a bad job from an outstanding job. Being concerned about doing the best job possible and taking the needed time and applying the required effort to accomplish the job at hand is a critical component of a job well done. Some contractors employ people with the “blow and go” attitude, meaning that what counts is getting the job done as fast as possible at the sacrifice of quality, safety, or code-compliance. Of course, a quality contractor may employ well-trained, highly-competent people that can get a job done very quickly too. But the difference is that they will not do so at the expense of quality, safety, or code-compliance. The difference is in the careful, conscientious application of their skills to the job at hand.
- TECHNICAL SKILLS: Just like a doctor needs a different skill set than a lawyer to do their job well, so different types of roofing systems require a different skill set. Granted, there is often much overlap in the skills required to install various types of roofing systems. But there are enough differences in the various types of roofing systems that it becomes imperative that the proper skill sets are brought to bear for each particular installation scenario. Is the roof going to be fully-adhered in which glue will be used? Is it going to be mechanically-attached? Are the seams to be hot-air-welded or taped? What requirements does each manufacturer have regarding the correct installation of their particular, unique product? There are many more related items, but hopefully you get the point: Having well-trained, competent installers are essential if the product in question is to be installed correctly, and with the least amount of human error.
- PERSONAL INTEGRITY AND SELF-WORTH: Though this is closely linked to item 1 above, it deserves to have its own line item. These are intangible qualities that reflect in the job done. Someone who cares about personal integrity is one who will give careful and conscientious application of his or her technical skills to the job at hand. There are a lot of talented people out there that just don’t care about using those talents to help others. While that is a personal decision on their part, by employing such types of individuals how likely is it that you are going to get your money’s-worth from their efforts? People who care about themselves and how they can improve their skills will often provide the very best results in any endeavor they put their mind to. If you could combine (1) careful and conscientious application and (2) technical skills, you’d be on your way to having an outstanding installation team. But if that team – individually or collectively – lacked personal integrity and self-worth, then when things get tough, there would be no incentive, no intestinal fortitude to see a project through to a pleasing result. In short: the people you have working for you have to care about doing a good job for you if you’re going to get the best results.
All of this is brought to bear when installing a new roof or even in repairing or restoring an existing one. A failure of any one of these items will reduce the quality of the installation, regardless of the quality of the product itself. For example, someone may be very proficient and wield substantial technical skills that can be applied to his trade. But if he doesn’t care about quality, how likely is he going to be to make sure those technical skills are fully employed in his efforts? Maybe he’s having a bad day, or maybe he lacks the personal integrity required to really care about how his work reflects on him. On the other hand, maybe he has the utmost integrity and really wants to do the best job he can, but he lacks the technical skills that would otherwise enable his standard of quality to match his desire for quality.
So when deciding to have your roof replaced, repaired, or restored it is important to choose a roofing contractor that takes seriously hiring individuals that have that highly-elusive combination of personal integrity, self-worth, and technical skills. Too many contractors hire the cheapest. The job gets done, they collect their money, but after all the dust settles you’re left with a less than quality installation. Since even the best products will fail sooner rather than later if not properly installed, a key way to make sure you are getting your money’s-worth is to use a quality roofing contractor who focuses on quality workmanship. But it’s not as if quality workmanship is the only requirement. In fact, the quality of the product used is also critically important. Let’s tackle that issue next.
What Does Product Quality Really Mean?
This is probably the easiest point to understand. A quality product is designed to last and deal successfully with the adverse conditions brought against it. A quality product is made up of quality materials that contribute to the whole. While this is a simple concept to comprehend, it can be a difficult concept to implement successfully. There are so many competing products out there. How are you to know what product is truly a quality product as opposed to just hype? Let’s see if we can put this into perspective.
A quality roofing product will generally last for 15 or more years with little to no required repairs needed during that time due to product degradation. A quality product will typically have a quality warranty. (See the article Not All Roofing Warranties Are Created Equal) A quality product will have a track record of success that can be evaluated. That track record would show long-term installations that are still in service and a record of energy-saving benefits. Instead of reiterating the same things already addressed, I encourage you to review the article Which Is a Better Roofing System – TPO, EPDM, or PVC? That article highlights the differences between these popular products and the benefits and detriments of choosing one over the other.
But if I had to boil it all down to a simple statement of fact, I would say this: You get what you pay for. This is certainly the case as it relates to the roofing product you choose to put on your building. The difficulty is perception. What is often specified in new construction jobs is TPO. But that’s not because it is of the highest quality. It is often specified because it is less expensive than other, higher-quality options. Another popular product is EPDM, which is a black, rubberized material. EPDM is well-known and has been used for years. While the individual circumstances that govern its use vary, it is often specified because of such things as its name recognition or its long track record. But in this “go-green” society, a black roof is seldom the “best” solution. There are usually other viable options to consider. Since each roof and the circumstances surrounding it are different, the only way to be sure which roofing product best fits your needs is to evaluate the available roofing options yourself. Oftentimes contractors have a vested interest in using one product over another. I guess that’s okay if the product they offer is of the highest quality. But that’s not usually the case. While we focus on high-quality products, our goal at RTN Roofing Systems is to give each property owner the knowledge needed so that an informed decision can be made. We feel that a well-informed owner makes the best decisions, as those decisions are their own and they stem from the desire to provide themselves and their businesses with the very best. No one cares more about your money than you do, and that principle tends to make property owners avoid wasting their money on inferior products and services. What they are usually lacking isn’t the desire to make the best decision; it’s usually a lack of knowledge and understanding of all the facts involved. That’s where your choice in roofing contractor can make all the difference in the world. (See Choose Your Roofing Contractor Wisely)
Workmanship Verses Product Quality – Who Should Win?
Okay. Now you have some perspective on workmanship and product quality and their role in the price of a roofing project. So, then, who should when this battle? Which of the two – workmanship or product quality – should take the majority of your decision-making focus? Actually, it should be a tie. I know, a major letdown. I never said roofing was exciting. But think about it, if you use the best installers to install an inferior product, you’re going to get an inferior result. If you use the best possible product but use installers that lack quality workmanship, you’re going to get an inferior result. It’s true that a highly-skilled installation team can overcome some of the limitations of an inferior product, it’s just not wise to choose that scenario deliberately. An inferior product is an inferior product and no amount of quality workmanship will change that. On the other hand, paying to have a quality product installed by an unqualified installation team will seldom allow that product to last as intended.
Think of it this way: Suppose you have an extremely talented guitar player who was asked to play a complicated piece of music s/he had never heard, using sheet music that was upside-down, a guitar that was missing three of the 6 strings, and had a bent neck. No matter his or her level of ability, would it be reasonable to believe that s/he could play that piece of music well, if at all? Or, suppose you had the best guitar ever made in the hands of a two-year-old whose fingers couldn’t even wrap around the neck of the guitar. How likely would it be that he could play even the simplest of songs well? It only stands to reason that a quality guitar in the hands of a talented guitar player is the only way to produce the best result; in this case, to play a quality piece of music. Just the same, a quality roofing product installed by a quality crew is what you need to get the best result. You have to have both parts of that equation.
So how can you be assured that you are getting both sides of the product verses workmanship equation? Use a roofing contractor that focuses on both. Don’t seek out the contractor willing to lower his standards in order to give you a better price than the next guy. Seek out the contractor that will give you the very best in product and workmanship. Then when you evaluate price, you’ll be in a better position to determine the real value of what you are getting.
RTN Roofing Systems is no stranger to being rewarded for quality workmanship. We have been tried, tested, and have achieved one of the best reputations in the roofing industry. We also are known for using the best roofing products on the market today. Though we do offer a wide variety of roofing solutions, the products that we actively promote are sure to provide you with the best quality, and thus, the best results. The stellar workmanship and outstanding product quality offered by RTN Roofing assures you of the very best value you can get anywhere. So if you have a roofing need, or simply want to find out if you do, call us today at 970-593-1100 and schedule for your commercial roof evaluation.