How to Become a Roofing Contractor: Everything You Need to Know

Scott Dylan Westerlund
Updated September 23, 2021
Man installs shingles to roof
Huntstock / Brand X Pictures via Getty Images

Becoming a roofing contractor starts with training and licensing

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If you’re considering a career as a roofing contractor, you’re in luck. The industry continues to grow thanks to new construction and the repair and replacement of existing roofs. 

Learn how to become a roofing contractor, from licenses and training to the pros and cons of apprenticeships versus starting your own company. You’ll also learn how much roofing contractors make and the best way to find clients.

What Does a Roofing Contractor Do?

Roofing contractors inspect, repair, replace, and install roofs for homes and businesses. A contractor can either work for clients directly or contract with construction firms. 

A roofing contractor often does everything that a traditional roofing company does. This includes building roofs by installing shingles, insulation, and vapor barriers. Contractors also cut and fit sealing materials to protect against weather and the elements. Some contractors focus on specific types of roofs and conditions. 

Here's a look at some focuses:

  • Safety and repairs

  • New roof installation

  • Efficiency improvements

  • Solar panel installation

  • Working with insurance companies

  • Restorations

  • Special materials (slate, tile, metal)

  • Asbestos handling

  • Weatherproofing systems

Roofing contractors can work for residential or commercial clients or both. While commercial roofing can be more lucrative, it requires more upfront investment for equipment and more paperwork.

Licensing and Training

Licensing and training requirements vary by state and municipality. Some don't require a license to work as a roof contractor. Others require either a roofer's license or contractor's license.

You may need both state and local licensing to do commercial roofing work. To do residential roofing work, you usually only need a state license. Even states without general licensing requirements may still require a license for roofers who work with asbestos.

The process for obtaining a license varies by state. While some states require you to pass an exam, others require an exam along with a specific number of years of experience. In California and Hawaii, for example, you’ll need to show at least four years’ experience before you apply for a roofing contractor’s license. 

Ask your local chamber of commerce if you're unsure about the laws in your area. You should also contact your state's contracting board.

Apprentice or Start Your Own Company?

Decide if you want to start your own business or work as an apprentice with a roofing company. There are pros and cons to both paths.

Apprenticeship

Pros:

  • Experience: Many states require some years of experience before you can apply for a roofing contractor’s license. An apprenticeship can get you that experience and help you decide if being a roofing contractor is right for you.

  • Stability: You don’t have to worry about booking jobs.

  • Low overhead: Your employer is in charge of supplying and maintaining equipment

  • Less liability: You don’t have to worry about insurance or permits.

Cons:

  • More time: Completing an apprenticeship can take several years.

  • Lower income: While there’s less overhead and liability, you’ll also make less as an apprentice.

  • Less control: You won’t be able to pick and choose the jobs you take. You might have to wait for work instead of booking as many clients as you can handle.

  • Fewer tax write-offs: You won’t be able to take advantage of many tax deductions and benefits as an apprentice.

Start Your Own Company

Pros:

  • More control: You can pick the jobs you want to take and manage expenses for greater profit.

  • More money: You’ll have more responsibility, but you’ll also make more money working for yourself.

  • Tax benefits: The costs to become a contractor are high at first, but many of them are tax deductible.

Cons:

  • Higher overhead and more liability: You have to handle permits, billing, taxes, insurance, and provide all the equipment.

  • Lead generation and management: It’s your job to manage the business, including marketing and finding clients.

Things to Consider

There are many things to consider before you decide to become a roofing contractor. 

Here’s a small list of items to think about before becoming a roofing pro:

  • Decide if you want to specialize. Contractors can charge a premium by doing special jobs like vintage restorations, sloped roofs, or handling asbestos.

  • Consider your passion for contracting work. Roofers need balance, stamina, and skill. You must be comfortable lifting heavy loads to steep spaces in all weather.

  • Think about project size. You may have to get a separate commercial license to work on higher-paying non-residential projects in some states.

  • Know there will be slow seasons. In colder areas, roofing work slows down in the winter, aside from emergency repairs. You can spend the slow season doing emergency repairs or roofing audits.

How to Become a Roofer With No Experience

There are no formal education requirements to become a roofer. Most people become roofers by doing entry-level jobs or apprenticeships with construction or roofing companies. You may start by simply helping with preparation and cleanup before you actually begin roofing.

Many community colleges offer roofing programs in collaboration with local roofing unions. You could try to land a union apprenticeship using this option. Apprenticeships are how many new roofers get on-the-job experience and learn about blueprints, shingles, and roofing materials.

How Much Roofers Make

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for roofers in 2020 was $43,580. Roofer contractors who own their own businesses earn an average salary of $60,011 per year.

How to Get Business as a New Roofer

If you decide to work for yourself, you'll need to attract clients. Contractors usually book jobs through leads. Contractors use Angi to get qualified leads who are actively looking for roofing services. Angi lets you spend more time doing billable work and less time marketing.

What Types of Jobs Do You Want?

Independent roofers have the freedom to choose the projects they work on. If you're looking to take fewer projects that pay more, commercial roofing is the way to go. Residential roofing is a better option if you'd rather take on more clients with projects that range from simple repairs to installations.

You may find that getting special licensing for asbestos is worth the extra effort because you'll have less competition. The cost to get an asbestos handling license varies by state, but is usually around $100. 

Some states also require that you take a training course, which can cost anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.

Sign Up for Angi to Get Qualified Leads

Give yourself an extra edge as a roofing contractor by quickly finding warm leads on Angi. Sign up and start getting qualified leads on Angi today.

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