Roofing contractor preparing a commercial roof estimate

For all potential commercial roofing projects, there comes a time when the customer needs an estimate. It falls on the contractor to crunch the numbers and determine the bottom line. This onus is one that comes with a little bit of leeway.

As a contractor, you can expect the estimate to be off by a bit, but you should also know some key factors of the job when considering a project. The first question any contractor should ask is “Will I be able to solve the customer’s problem within their budget?” If not, there is no point in continuing with the project. If you can, you should ask, “How can I be profitable?”

In determining this, you must consider and balance two truths: the best thing for the customer is the lowest price, and the best thing for you is the highest price. In order to be successful in providing an estimate, the price must fall somewhere in between these two extremes. When preparing a commercial roof estimate, there are a few things to consider when finding the right price.

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Identify the Issues

It’s rare for a customer to try to solve a problem with their roof before it exists. As a result, the first step in the estimation should be to identify what the customer needs.

In many cases, a savvy business owner will do a bit of research before reaching out about a project like this. They may have some sense of what they need. If a customer has a particular roofing system in mind, ask how they came to that conclusion. Try to get as much information as possible. Determine what they have identified as problems with their roof. Based on those problems, decide if the roofing system they have asked for is appropriate for their project.

Sometimes, the roofing system they had in mind is not the right solution for their building. When recommending a different system to the customer, you should explain what factors lead you to the roofing system you are suggesting.

In the event that a customer has not done their homework and they are looking for help choosing a roofing system, ask them to identify the problems with their roof. Is it leaking? Are there cracks? etc., etc.

Get a Feel for the Roof

Before beginning your estimate, consider the details of the roof. The most important details are the square footage and the substrate. Other factors to consider are protrusions (AC units, ventilation, different roof levels, roof access, etc.).

Getting this basic information and organizing it now will help you down the line, as you now know what to expect when inspecting the roof. Forgetting one essential component could lead to a grossly inaccurate estimate. The more information you have going in, the better your estimate will be.

Visit the Site

The best way to gather the basic information you need for the estimate is to visit the roof in question. Even if you already have the information from the building owner, seeing the roof yourself can provide valuable information.

The issue may be more serious than the customer knew. It may also be something as simple as having one or two more AC units than the customer mentioned. Whatever the case may be, there is nothing better for the estimate than seeing the roof yourself.

In the event that an onsite visit is untenable, try looking at the roof in an online maps program and getting some photos, past inspection reports, or blueprints from the customer.

Preparing the Estimate

Now that you have all the requisite information, it’s time to prepare the estimate. First, you should consider any previous jobs with similar dimensions and specs. Pull the files from old jobs that had similar dimensions, used the same system, or fixed comparable issues.

You can also ask the crew who worked the jobs if there were any snags or unforeseen issues, which will help you to anticipate such occurrences. After you have familiarized yourself with related jobs, begin preparing the estimate in earnest.

Something to consider when doing so, however, is that there will always be unforeseen circumstances. There may be some damage that went unseen during the initial inspection or some human error in the application of the system. To avoid unforeseen problems in the project, raising the price above that of the estimate will allow yourself some wiggle room with the estimated price.

It is better in most cases to be safe rather than sorry, and any customer will be happy to have a job completed under the estimated cost. You want to avoid overcompensating, but remember to strike the delicate balance between making the most profit and being affordable to customers.

Contact Your Material Supplier

If you run into any unknowns during your estimate or cannot get the necessary information from a customer, you can always ask your material supplier for assistance.

If you have questions about a particular roofing system you have never worked with before or need a refresher on something you have worked with in the past, it is best for you to contact the material supplier and get the latest information.

As a material supplier, we are here to help our approved contractors do their best work and complete a project efficiently and with high quality. Having the support of a good supplier is an indispensable asset to your commercial roofing business.


Gathering all the requisite information and crafting an accurate and complete estimate is not easy. Even for something as relatively simple as roofing systems, there are a lot of factors to consider.

If you are a contractor and need help preparing an estimate, we will provide you with anything we can to help. If you are a business owner looking to install a roofing system, we have a network of contractors all across the country and would love to put you in contact with one in your area.