How To Find A Contractor You Can’t Live Without

 

Do you absolutely love working with your contractor? Or do you dread the thought of another run around where you spend too much effort trying to just get one phone call returned? Do you feel like you always get over charged on a service that wasn’t that professional?

If it’s time to break up the relationship and find a new contractor – here are some great tips on finding a trustworthy contractor:

Local Location 

 

This might be obvious, but you want a contractor with a permanent location in the area that you live. Double check Google to see if they have an address listed, then drive by it to make sure it’s an actual office with office hours, and not the owner’s house. It never hurts to know that you can walk in and have a face – face conversation. After you’ve confirmed that they are a local contractor, research their reputation. Ask neighbors, friends, and co-workers. Google them, Google the owner’s name. Stalk the company! Find out everything you can about them and make sure you like what you find.

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Proper License 

The State of Illinois requires contractors to have a roofing license. A contractor can only pull a roofing permit if the city has the valid license and updated insurance. You might be saying “Duh – tell me something I don’t know!” Well did you think about looking at the roofing license to make sure it’s your contractor’s license and not their friend’s? Sometimes contractors share a license and an unlicensed roofer will essentially “subcontract” under a licensed roofer. Your estimate and contract might be from Contractor A, your check will even be made out to Contractor A, but if you look at the City’s permit records your roofing permit will be registered to Contractor B. That’s because Contractor A, your contractor is not licensed. Another sign that they aren’t licensed is if your roofer asks you, the homeowner, to pull your own roofing permit! Never put up with that! Homeowners are allowed to pull their own permits without a license; but if a contractor is doing the work they should be responsible for the permit and the permit fees. Besides, it’s rude if they want you to pull their permit – even if they are licensed!

Insurance

Everyone always verifies that their contractor is insured; but there is an extra step a contractor can do to prove their love for you. Add you as an additional insured! Contractors don’t like doing this because it does cost a little extra to have you listed, but any trustworthy contractor knows you are worth it.

Letters

If your contractor doesn’t already provide these up front, you should ask for a letter from their bank and a letter from their supplier. The bank letter lets you know that the company isn’t broke and does not run finances through the owner’s personal bank account. The letter from the supplier lets you know that your contractor pays the material bills. Last thing you want is a lien placed on your home because the contractor didn’t pay for his materials.

Professionalism

All contractors should give you a written estimate filled with all the details of the work to be performed. It should be extremely detailed and include a total price. On top of the professional estimate, the contractor should no pressure you in any way. Pressure can on many forms. Scare tactics, calling more than they should, telling you the price expires in a week, and any other gimmick. Once this final contract is signed by both you and the contractor that should be the final price. As a homeowner you should expect your contractor to honor this contract. It’s their promise to you.

Example professional estimate
Example of a detailed roofing estimate and contract

 

Warranties

Most contractors have a labor warranty to accompany their work. Typically this is 1 year. Some contractors might extend that warranty for longer, but be weary of anything less than 1 year. You should ask for material warranties of the products being placed on your home. Manufacturers can vary warranties based on contractors and what they are certified to guarantee. Carlson Exteriors offers a 50 year non prorated warranty. This warranty will be registered to homeowner’s name and can be transferred one time! If you sell your house after we’ve replaced the roof your warranty goes with it. Look for any extra love and assurance that a contractor can provide you in the material warranty department. Click here to learn more about our Unconditional Roofs.

 

 

 

If you want more tips and techniques to finding out if your next contractor will be the contractor you can’t live without – Download our Guide to Contractor Standards

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Intro to “Behind the Scenes” Blog Series

Deep granite shakes and Board and Batten siding with Natural Slate siding, white trim and black roof in Savoy IL

The brands a contractor uses should not be an arbitrary decision. Any product that’s new to the construction industry is not offered immediately by Carlson Exteriors Inc. We wait and watch for a few things:

  • Does the product do what it claims to do- without fail!
  • Are there warranty issues? If there are, how does the manufacturer handle it?
  • Does the manufacturer provide adequate training for contractors?
  • Is the product a safe bet for homeowners?

Why Am I Telling You This?

Carlson Exteriors Inc. spends a long time debating and researching a product before we ever think about adding it to our exterior services. Our siding carries purpose. Our shingles have a backbone. Our gutters will never let you down. We always insist that every product performs perfectly – zero exceptions.  It’s worth talking about – so we will! With our ‘Behind the Scenes’ blog series, we will go over products Carlson Exteriors has chosen to use and why. We will discuss our relationships with siding, roofing, gutters, and garage door companies, we’ll talk with manufacturers directly, and we’ll show you, the homeowner, how you fit into the grand equation.

 

 

If you are interested in reading these articles, search “Behind the Scenes” on our website. It will show you all the articles that have been released.

Love the Wood Look? Hate the Wood Maintenance?

DaVinci makes a polymer shake product that looks like real cedar shakes

You are not alone! Thankfully there are many home exterior products out there to satisfy your desires. Let’s celebrate those products by taking a closer look.

 

Garage Doors

If refinishing your garage door every couple of years has kept you from purchasing a wooden garage door, CHI Accents line has come to your rescue. While these overhead garage doors look like real wood (even close up) they are metal doors made to look like wood. No maintenance at all! They over many styles and five different wood colors.

Click here to build your faux wood garage door online

Click here to look at CHI Accent Product Guide

Wooden Shakes or Wooden Shaker Style Siding

Most people know that vinyl shakes come in a variety of colors but few seem to realize that vinyl can mimic natural wood if the homeowner so desires. Vinyl Manufacturers have started to variate colors on a single shake panel to really recreate cedar siding.

Cedar Siding

There are a few hard board sidings out there that do a fantastic job of looking like real wood siding. Some require more maintenance than others. These hard board sidings are LP Smartside, James Hardie Fiber Cement Siding, and Royal Celect Siding. Check out our earlier blog series on Comparing Hard Board Siding by click here to learn about them.

If hard board siding breaks the budget, consider a variegated vinyl siding panel. Mastic Quest siding has six colors that resemble cedar. The Gualazzi’s thought it was a good choice for them after deciding their current cedar siding was not working for them. Check out that amazing decision by clicking here.

Wood Shake Roof

There are a couple of companies out there that make a wood shake roofing product that’s made of a polymer blend. Two top these companies are DaVinci Roofscapes and Inspire Roofing Products. While these products will be close to the same price point as real wooden shakes, there is absolutely no maintenance with a polymer blend shake. These shakes may look slick but are easy to walk on (so you can hang Christmas lights!). They are considered “self-healing” shakes, which means if they get scuffed or scratched the sun will heat up the polymer and erase the scratch.

 

Want to talk more about one of these? Interested in a wood-look product not mentioned? Give Carlson Exteriors a shout.

Genflex Rubber Roof Training Day

Carlson Exteriors Inc. Roofing Crew had an in house training day with Genflex. They learned how to install rubber roofing materials around bump outs, corners, properly overlapping seams, knowing how to patch holes the right way, and the correct way to apply adhesive.

Click here to visit Genflex’s website

Understanding Roof Underlayment

When replacing your roof, it’s very easy to get caught up in shingle color and brand. Before you rush into that, make sure your contractor is not skimping on the underlayment. Not all underlayment is created equal. Not all contractors install underlayment in the same locations.

Carlson Exteriors uses Winterguard, CertainTeed’s brand of ice and water barrier. Per city code this barrier is placed at all valleys and at the eaves.  However, there are locations this barrier should be applied that are not required by city code. These locations are all roof penetrations (such as vents or furnace flues), around chimneys, skylights, and anywhere a roof line meets a siding wall. These joining areas are first susceptible to leaks if your home is not sealed correctly by using a ice and water barrier. Many manufacturers require these additional areas to have an ice and water barrier applied to qualify for the roof or shingle warranty.

An Ice and Water Barrier (like Winterguard) should be applied around pipes, around chimneys, skylights, and anywhere a roof meets a siding wall
An Ice and Water Barrier (like Winterguard) should be applied around pipes, around chimneys, skylights, and anywhere a roof meets a siding wall

 

Make sure your contractor is not using a 15lb or 30lb felt. This used to be contractor’s only option but the roofing industry has evolved into synthetic felts. The old felt would tear easily and gave no traction to installers. If your home has the old felt under your shingles, if any shingles would blow off your flimsy felt would be left exposed. If exposed for too long, it will rip leaving your OSB to fend for itself. Synthetic felt eliminates this problem. Synthetic felt is extremely durable and resistant to ripping or tearing. Installers also prefer it when installing because it’s easier to work on.

When you meet with a contractor, remember more than the shingles are working to protect your home from roof leaks or ice dams. The whole roofing system, combined together, protects your home.

Updating Your Home on a Budget

Moulding is an easy accessory to add to any home - especially brick.

 

Boosting curb appeal for your home can seem daunting when you start to add up all the numbers. There are many ways to update your home’s exterior with out busting the wallet. Start taking the steps to getting your home to look exactly the way you want it!

Add Gable Accents

 

Gable accents are a quick way to make your house look like it’s worth more than what you paid for! You have a couple of options when it comes to accessorizing the gables. Options include Fypon brackets, custom metal work, or a cedar accent. You can keep the accents minimal or as decorative as you want (or as the budget dictates). The Fypon brackets have an endless array of styles, so you should be able to find the look you want easily. Custom metal work and cedar accents are similar in styles but can have very different looks. Custom metal work can be made out of any color and is limited to what your contractor can provide for you- very popular in a sunburst with varying “rays”. Cedar accents are also limited to what contractor can provide but gives a more natural, rustic look to your home. Cedar accents will require maintenance every couple of years.

Add Dentil Molding or Decorative Trim

Moulding is an easy accessory to add to any home - especially brick.
Moulding is an easy accessory to add to any home – especially brick.

Trim work is a quick way to spruce up your home – especially if your home is brick. The image right above is of an all brick home that had dentil moulding added to the front porch, decorative column caps, and added window trim above the lower windows. It’s amazing at how such little details can really turn a home around. The images below are of a brick home that added trim pieces right below the roof line and above the bottom row of window.

 

Remodel only the front side or entrance

 

No one said you have to remodel the whole outside of your home at the same time! Usually the decorative products go on the front of the home. By “decorative” I mean shake products, board and batten, shutters, decorative trim, wider window casings, etc. The home in the above photos, the homeowner was tired of the stucco look from the dryvit and wanted a trendier look with greater contrast. Mission Accomplished!

Add a Fiberglass column

Porch columns are easily glossed over; however, if you make them worth looking at people will admire them. Instead of a small vinyl wrapped column try a fiberglass column.

Fiberglass column

Replace your garage door

Garage doors can take up to 30% of the space on the front of your home. It’s typically the main entrance for many homeowners. Yet – the garage doors are the first things to take budget cuts or delay in updating unless it’s stop functioning. However, it’s worth considering replacing the garage doors to make your home look modern, trendier, or just make you (the homeowner) happier when you see your home. Often times, the opener doesn’t need replaced which can help keep you under budget.

 

 

Humidity Gone Rogue

Frozen attic condensation can cause a frost like appearance on the inside of your attic

Rogue : a deceitful and unreliable scoundrel.

Seems funny to apply the word “rogue” to humidity. But during midwest winters it fits. Here’s why:

Every winter is bound to have a couple days to a couple weeks of below zero weather. When temperatures start to rise, homeowners start to notice brown spots on their ceiling that resemble roof leaks. This could be a sign of a roof leak it could also be a sign that your home’s humidity was too high during the cold temperatures causing frozen attic condensation.

Furnace humidifiers are often forgotten to be adjusted during winters and create too much humidity. This moisture freezes when it hits your attic
Furnace humidifiers are often forgotten to be adjusted during winters and create too much humidity. This moisture freezes when it hits your attic

Many homes have humidifiers on their furnaces. Almost all new homes have this or homes with real wood floors. It’s a great thing to have but homeowners need to be mindful of appropriate humidity levels. If the humidity is set higher than it should be during negative temperatures, the moisture rises up to the attic and before it can escape, it hits the bottom of the snow covered roof and freezes. Sometimes icicles even form off the nails! Once the weather warms up and one of the first things to thaw is attic condensation. Depending on high the humidity has been set on your house, this can be a decent amount of moisture coming down – thus causing brown spots on ceilings. It looks identical to spots from roof leaks.

What is the appropriate level of humidity for your home?

If the outside weather is…

  • 20 to 40 degrees, humidity should be less than 40%
  • 10 to 20 degrees, humidity should be less than 35%
  • 0 to 10 degrees, humidity should be less than 30%
  • -10 to 0 degrees, humidity should be less than 25%
  • -20 to -10 degrees, humidity should be less than 20%
  • below -20 degrees, humidity should be less than 15%

This will prevent attic condensation, mold, or any other issues caused by overly humid and warm air.

What about you?

These guidelines are the optimal levels to make your home comfortable, but what about the people living in it? Dryer air is not always the best for us to live in but there are ways to keep both you happy and your home comfortable. Instead of using whole house humidifiers use individual ones when you are using the room. Use programmable timers to turn on and off humidifiers. Buy indoor humidity sensors – these range from $5-$50. Click here to see the “indoor hygrometers” on Amazon.com

 

It’s so easy to forget to monitor or change your humidity. Many people don’t even realize this is what’s going on until it’s too late – brown spots appear! If this happens to you, don’t  panic but it’s still good practice to have a trusted roofer inspect to confirm no roof leaks.

 

January Employee of the Month

January Employee of the Month Drew Alvarez
Drew Alvarez is Carlson Exteriors’ 2018 January Employee of the Month

Even if you haven’t met Drew in person, you may recognize his face as he has been Employee of the Month before. Since you saw Drew last, he has really stepped up his game! Drew has widened his skillset and frequently gets sent off to work independently on emergency jobs, roof repairs, and skylight replacements. If you see him on your roof, be sure to thank him for his continued dedication!

Comparing Hard Board Siding: Part 4- Royal Celect Siding

This is it – The final portion to our four part series on comparing hard board siding. Quick re-cap, we did a quick overview on what hard board siding is and it’s general pros and cons. After that we zoned in on the specific brands LP Smartside and James Hardie Fiber Cement. Now we are going to look at Royal Celect Siding; what it is, it’s history, and the benefits and negatives!

Hastings Home after the Chestnut brown siding was installed. Our crew also replaced 7 windows.
Hastings Home after the Chestnut brown siding was installed. Our crew also replaced 7 windows.
The Hasting's Bloomington, IL home before Carlson Exteriors resided
The Hasting’s Bloomington, IL home before Carlson Exteriors resided

History

While Celect Siding is a new product to the industry, Royal Building Products has been one of the leading siding manufacturers for many years. Royal started off as a plastic company in the 70’s. They specialized in PVC products and window frames while maintaining a rather large PVC recycling facility. Very early on they developed a cellular PVC process that was the foundation to many off shoot companies Royal started. One of the products Royal has been popular for is their cellular PVC trim mouldings. These trim pieces have been nationally used for 30 plus years and still going strong. Celect is essentially the trim mould make-up but in a siding format. Celect siding has the addition of color options and a patented interlocking mechanism.

Celect before and after

Make-up

Royal Celect Siding is made up of recyclable, cellular PVC material that is unaffected by moisture and the elements. It’s covered with a Kynar Aquatic coating which is stain and water resitant.

Pros

Royal Celect siding has so many Pros. It’s completely maintenance free, looks like real cedar, extremely durable and gives your home stunning curb appeal.

It’s made up of a cellular PVC material you don’t have to worry about recaulking, repainting, or any other annoying maintenance task. The cellular PVC has hardly any expansion during climate changes – this allows the seams to be incredibly tight and hard to see. The images below show that the siding seams are almost invisible from all angles.

 

The surface coating is not lacking on the durability and maintenance free aspect. The Kynar Aquatic coating doesn’t fade, doesn’t chip easily, and will not need repainting. The proof is in the 25 year warranty against fading.

Celect Siding is extremely durable against hail, golf balls, baseballs, bikes, etc. So if you live near a golf course or have kids this might be a big advantage to you. It’s wind resistance to winds up to 210mph. This siding is not going anywhere. You won’t have to worry about termites or any kind of mold growth. If the siding start to look dirty a simple wash with a garden hose will perk it up.

Visually, the panels create a striking appearance. The panels come in four inch and seven inch reveals; so whether you desire the standard four inch reveal look or crave the trending wider reveal, Celect will have a panel for you. Royal also offers the Celect line in  a shake profile and board and batten.

The panels are made by a patented joint interlocking system. The interlocking of panels on all four sides prevents and buckling, warping, blown off panels, and shifting in panels. Celect siding is the only siding line that offers this unique joining system.

The side profile shows off the interlocking lip on each panels.
The side profile shows off the interlocking lip on each panels.

 

Pricing is both a pro and a con. If you are in the market for a hard board, Celect siding materials are around the same price range as other hard board materials. The labor pricing can fluctuate quite a bit depending on your contractor and how many windows you have (more on this in the Cons section).

While Celect siding has not been around for a long time, the Royal brand comes with longevity, a great reputation, and a decent warranty on both the panel and the color coating. Click here to read the Celect warranty.

Cons

The biggest negative comes from an install perspective. Celect siding is not installed the typical way so it requires a contractor to learn a new process. This isn’t necessarily bad, but many contractors don’t like taking the time to learn how to hang siding all over again. Since it’s a new product, not all contractors know how to install the panels so it may be difficult finding a contractor willing to quote your siding project. Typically, siding is installed corners and trim pieces first. This creates a framework for siding panels to fit inside. With Celect, you have to install siding panels first then use the corners and trim as finishing pieces.

Siding panels are installed first. Corners, trim, and window casings are installed last.
Siding panels are installed first. Corners, trim, and window casings are installed last.

 

Royal Celect siding only offers 20 colors. This is enough to cover the basics; however, compared to LP and James Hardie you do not have endless choices or a custom color option. Along with being somewhat limited in colors, it is limited in panel options. Again, Royal Celect covers the basics with two siding widths, one shake style, and the board and batten option. Both LP and James Hardie have multiple siding widths, a few shake styles, and different finish options. I assume Royal has limited the product lines since it’s a new product testing the waters of client demand. Their options may grow as the popularity of Celect increases.

Even though pricing was listed as a pro it’s also a con. Contractors willing to install may not know what labor price is required with this product. You may wind up paying more than you should or you might luck out and get a bargain on labor if the contractor underestimates. The most tedious part of installing is the trim work around windows. If you have many windows or rather large windows, your pricing may be much higher than a home with less or smaller windows.

Windows make the con list because they take up a majority of installer time and require exquisite craftsmanship. Each edge of a window is one piece. The four trim pieces of a window are joined together, like a frame, before installing on the wall around the window. If your window is a 3′ x 4′ you will need a trim work frame that fits a 3′ x 4′ window; if your window is 20′ x 7′ you will need a trim work frame that fits a 20′ x 7′ window. The larger trim frames become harder to hold and lift up to the window; it requires more man power holding in place as it’s secured. Since each side is a single piece, any larger sizes that may be accidentally cut too short add up to significant waste by an unexperienced installer.

Window casings are made up of one piece on each side. The longer the window, the longer a trim piece is needed.
Window casings are made up of one piece on each side. The longer the window, the longer a trim piece is needed.

 

All hard boards are special order and are ordered specifically to the house. Usually special order siding materials cannot be returned, or if they can be returned come with a re-stocking fee. Contractors try not to order any waste with special order products. If materials are short ordered, it make take much longer to get any additional materials. Celect is no stranger to longer order times.

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Conclusion

Even thought Celect is newer product on the market, no homeowner should feel like they are taking a gamble by choosing this as your siding. If you don’t mind the options being limited to the basics, you will be thrilled with the durability, maintenance-free qualities to Celect siding.