Fed up with outside roofers, solar contractor starts roofing division

Dec 10, 2018

Many installers get their start in the roofing industry before seeing an opportunity to jump into the residential solar market. Not many companies travel in the opposite direction. But Palomar Solar & Roofing (No. 225 on the 2020 Top Solar Contractors list) is that rare gem in California.

“Our goal since Day 1 was to help people make great decisions, whether they choose us or not,” said Adam Rizzo, partner and director of sales at Palomar. “If you’re going to be a serious solar contractor, you need to have both [a roof and solar system] to do the job right.”

Eleven-year-old Palomar Solar started its own roofing division in March 2019 almost as a necessity. When customers needed a new roof before getting solar, the hired roofers’ inconsistent schedule was eating into Palomar’s tight installation timeframe. Then, many roofers would automatically void a new roof’s warranty after the solar company made penetrations. To provide a better experience for the customer and prevent a backlog of solar projects, Palomar started performing its own roof replacements and is now a C-39 licensed roofing contractor.

“It’s become apparent that there’s a lot of finger pointing going on when the roofs leak, and so [we wanted] to be able to offer that peace of mind to our customers that everything’s done in-house,” Rizzo said.

If a solar customer needs a new roof, Palomar can now provide that product and include the roof and solar into linked warranties.

“I’ve found most solar contractors avoid that [new roof] conversation because they know if they make it an issue now, the homeowner is going to try and find a roofer and then more than likely the roofer knows a solar guy,” Rizzo said. “Unfortunately we’re getting a lot of phone calls on companies that installed on bad roofs and it leaked the next year, the company’s out of business and now they’re paying us to remove it, replace the roof and reinstall it — and it’s not cheap to do that.”

To help start the new roofing division, Palomar hired George Cortes, a 20-year roofing veteran who brought his own experienced crews to the team.

“I said, ‘We’ll give you a new truck, you bring your crews, we’ll worry about workman’s comp insurance and paying people, and all you have to do is worry about roofs,’” Rizzo said. “We didn’t want to start it from scratch because that would have been a nightmare. He already had crews with him for 15+ years, and it really has been one of the best business decisions that we made.”

Rizzo said the integrated roofing division keeps Palomar Solar relevant in a saturated market.

“There’s been a lot of rain out here, which is unusual, so there have been a lot of leaky roofs. People hear our ads and never thought about solar. So they just call about a roof originally and then we educate them,” he said. “They need a roof and they want to be able to just deal with one company who handles everything. They have a better experience all around, and they also know that if there are ever any leaks, they’re not going to be dealing with two different companies.”

Talking about home upgrades outside of the solar sphere is often difficult, but having that in-house roofing expertise makes it easier to uphold Palomar Solar’s prominence in the industry.

“These are tough conversations. Salespeople don’t want to bring up the tough issues. They want to get the paperwork signed and let somebody else deal with it,” Rizzo said. “That’s where we are different. We don’t pressure people. We’re very transparent, and that’s paying off. Having that reputation over 10 years now and the great referral sources are really keeping us going.”