Installing a new roof is one of the most important, and expensive, home improvement projects you’ll run into as a homeowner. Considering this, and since your roof is the first line of defense for your home against the elements, it’s important that you hire the best roofing company possible. Roofing contractors are a dime a dozen, so it’s important to follow a few basic rules when finding, choosing, and hiring a roofing contractor.

1. Talk to Several Contractors

You should talk to several roofing companies so you can gauge an honest and reasonable price range. You probably don’t want to make your final hiring decision on a couple hundred dollars for a project that costs several thousand dollars, but you should be wary of any remarkably low or excessively high bids. Of course, this will also help give you plenty of opportunity to build rapport and trust and to adhere to the other rules for hiring a roof contractor.

2. Research Credentials

Besides talking to several different roofing companies, it’s important that you do a little research on the contractor you choose to hire. Reputable contractors should be licensed and willing to provide you with at least three references verifying that they do good work. Once you’ve checked your roofing companies out and are satisfied that they’re legit, hiring a roofing contractor is more fun than stressful.

3. Review the Contract and Warranties Closely

Never sign a contract without reading it over carefully. Professional contractors won’t be annoyed by you taking the time to understand the terms of your agreement, and most will be happy to sit down with you and explain parts you don’t understand. Also, make sure you understand the warranty that comes with your new roof. All materials and workmanship should be guaranteed for at least 5 years, and the roofing itself ought to come with a 20- to 40-year warranty.

4. Cover Your Bases

Before work begins, be sure to cover your bases. Check with your contractor about whether you need to acquire a permit or not (most roofing companies will take care of this as part of their service), and make sure their employees are covered by workers comp as well. Finally, if you’re submitting an insurance claim on your roof, make certain that you’ve followed all the necessary procedures and had all work approved before work on your new roof begins.

5. Never Pay the Entire Balance Upfront

Never pay the entire balance of your new roof upfront. This goes for all large projects. If your contractor requires this of you, don’t sign the contract. Asking for a deposit as a good faith offering or a payment schedule that parallels the work are pretty common and accepted practices. Either way, don’t pay with money. Using a credit card increases the likelihood that, in a worst-case scenario, you can recover your money without expensive litigation.