When it comes to estimating, Bloomfield Construction, which does a lot of roofing work, has a policy. According to owner Jeff Petrucci, the policy is that wherever possible, estimates involve a first-hand inspection of the roof and attic for his Bloomfield Hills, Mich., company.

Ordinarily, Petrucci says, “I won't submit a roofing estimate done from the ground, nor will I allow my salesmen to do it.” He cites the possibility for mis-measures. In addition, Petrucci says, “if you're not getting into attics, looking for soft spots, checking the flashing on chimneys and sidewalls,” chances are good that your proposal will be less than complete. (Exception: steep-slope roofs, which company salespeople estimate from the ground.) Petrucci insists that he will not give a fast and easy proposal, even if the client claims not to have the time for anything extensive.

The reason has less to do with perfectionism than with the manufacturer warranties he sells. “If the guy says: ‘Just measure it from the ground. I don't want you in my attic,' then we're not interested. He just wants a quick tear-off and replacement, not a roofing system that lasts. We don't want them calling back in five years saying that the roof failed.”

Competitive Advantage For Jeff Head, owner of Head's Roofing Contractors in Evansville, Ind., having an estimator/salesperson scale the roof, tape measure in hand, not only allows for a more accurate estimate, it impresses the hell out of prospects.

“We just sold one today because my guy climbed the roof and the competition didn't,” Head says. In that particular situation, Head Roofing's estimate was $600 higher than the competitor's estimate. But because the company's estimator scaled the roof, he was able to see that the roof had a flue, not a brick chimney. “The customer figured that [the competitor] would've known there wasn't a brick chimney if they'd taken the time to climb the roof.”

Head estimates that maybe two out of every five roofing estimates in his area involve actually scaling the roof.

Insurance Issue For some companies, such as Clearwater Home Improvement, in Mystic, Conn., insurance considerations come first. Owner Randy Brown says that the company combines a ground-up estimate with a trip to the attic. Estimators can't climb out on the roof because if they did, Brown says, their workers' comp rates would be equal to that of installers, i.e., they would quadruple. “Ninety percent of the time, it doesn't matter,” Brown says, “but 10% it does. They like somebody going up on the roof. If they want us to go up, we will. In that case, they usually have a ladder ready.”