Liberate Yourself From Bad Contractors

Unfortunately, the construction industry is abound with poor principle. How do you begin to find a contractor that’s trustworthy? I suggest thinking of contractors as employees you are interviewing to potentially work for you/your company. It may seem silly at first, but that mindset will give you the confidence you need to feel like you can ask the right questions. To find a contractor with good character, you start with their references. We recommend looking into 3 references.

1- Bank Letter

A Bank letter solidifies the company’s financial status. It gives insight to the company’s cash flow. It also lets you know the company isn’t running the finances through the

Notes to help understand what to look for in bank letters
Notes to help understand what to look for in bank letters

owner’s personal finances. The example bank letter has been marked with what to look for.

Make sure the letter is addresses to the company (not the owner). It reenforces that the company has it’s own account.

Look for some clues to how long the financial institution has known your potential contractor. The longer the better.

Having a company that has decent cash flow actually ensures the company has higher skilled employees. If a company needs your job to pay employees for last week’s work, good employees won’t stick around at a company that may or may not pay. If a company asks for half upfront, that money may be used to pay employees or to buy materials for your job because there isn’t enough money in the account to buy materials without your deposit. That’s not a good sign of a good company.

Weathered wood shingles, chestnut brown shakes, latte tan siding, tan gutters
Weathered wood shingles, chestnut brown shakes, latte tan siding, tan gutters

2- Supplier Letter

Getting a letter from your potential contractor’s supplier ensures they have a great business relationship. This letter lets you know the contractor pays their bills. The last thing you want is a lean placed on your home because your contractor did not pay their material bills. Yes that does happen!

Example of a Supplier letter
Example of a Supplier letter

 

Mastic Russet red vertical siding, white trim, natural clay shake siding, certainteed moire black shingles in canton il.JPG
Mastic Russet red vertical siding, white trim, natural clay shake siding, certainteed moire black shingles in canton il

3- Customer References

This is very different than testimonials or good reviews. Customer references is a list of customers with addresses and contact information (given with permission). You can call any or all of the previous customers and ask them what it was like working with the contractor. A few example questions to ask homeowners:

  1. Did they arrive on time to perform the work?
  2. How was the daily clean up?
  3. Did you run into any issues? How did the contractor handle those issues?
  4. Were the employees polite and professional? Any specific interactions?
  5. Did your neighbors like the crews while they worked on your house?

 

 

Contractor Estimates: How To Gauge Professionalism

dark grey siding and shakes with white trim and dark roof, brown brick and white garage door, craftsman style columns

Estimates can be a true testament to a contractor’s professionalism and trustworthiness. Using the detailed estimate as a contract protects you (the homeowner) and protects the hired contractor. All prospective contractors should provide a detailed description of work to be completed; presented in a professional format – not handwritten on note paper or texted. This estimate should be very specific about what products are being used (including name brands) and what products might be reused (if applicable). After agreeing upon price, you should expect no surprise charges from the contractor. Below we examine why using an estimate as a contract, a legally binding agreement, protects everyone involved in a remodeling project, roof replacement, or even a small repair.

Example estimate
Example of a Professional Estimate

Detailed Job Description

I know this sounds obvious, but so many homeowners find themselves paying more because they assumed certain construction related tasks would be included. The estimate you receive should include any type of removal. For roof replacements where the contractor is tearing off the old shingles, the contractor should list that and how many layers of asphalt to get down to wooden deck. On new siding estimates, your contractor should list if they are taking off the existing siding, or just covering over the existing. If covering over existing, they should be specific in what measures are being taken. Are they fan folding over? If it’s over cedar siding, what will be done if certain areas of the cedar are rotted. You should expect brand names of products to be listed. When the work is being performed, you should make sure those brands are actually being used- if not, that will be a breech of contract. Unfortunately, there are many companies out there trying to cut corners by not using the brand-names they promise.

 

Clean up and Waste Responsibilities

Some construction companies expect homeowners to provide a dumpster. Personally, I think that’s rude and unprofessional. Make sure the estimate lists whose responsibility it is to clean up, order/pay for the dumpster, and any other type of debris removal.

Final Price

The estimate you are given should be the final number. No extra surprises! No hidden costs! By using your original estimate as a contract it ensures that the detailed work listed above will not include any additional fees. This protects the homeowners. It also protects the contractor by having the expected work detailed out. It states clearly what they intend to do and at what cost. If the homeowner adds anything to the scope of work along the way, the contractor can revise estimate to include the added work and clearly state the added cost.

 

Out of Scope Clauses

In construction, you can’t always tell what’s going on beneath the surface. Most contractors can looks for clues of rotting or mold lying beneath the surface but sometimes you can’t tell until it’s exposed. All estimates should include a proposed rate at replacing OSB or any type of underlayment.

Homeowner Responsibilities

If the homeowner has any responsibilities, it should also be clearly listed on the estimate. Some homeowners have siding panels on reserve in case they need a siding panel replaced. Just by supplying the material to repair panel of siding, that responsibility should be listed.

 

In summation, the estimate should clearly state anything “assumed” on both sides. Homeowners and Contractors should clearly understand what’s being expected of them and at what expense. This is the mark of a true professional contractor.

Do you want or need more tips in finding a trustworthy contractor? Click here 

 

 

When Should You Replace Your Siding

Our crew just finished the Hasting's home. All new Royal Celect Siding in a bark brown color and 7 new windows

“If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” This was a motto I heard growing up on the farm. As I got older, I realized this was many families’ motto too. Generally speaking, most of us still operate with this philosophy when it comes to large purchases. If our current siding is not broken, falling down, and in working condition why should I replace? Or when should I replace?

Cedar Siding seems to be the easiest to decide when it’s on it’s last leg. The cedar siding has rotted dramatically, wood peckers have bored holes all over, or you’ve just grown tired of all the maintenance that goes into cedar siding. All of these are valid reasons to replace wooden siding. But what about vinyl? Vinyl can stay intact for many years and require little to no maintenance to keep it looking great!

Siding can fade over the years. The darker parts are where other siding panels were overlapping
Siding can fade over the years. The darker parts are where other siding panels were overlapping

Extremely Faded Siding – Twenty years ago, vinyl siding was not as advanced in preserving color like it is now. Most sidings are rated to preserve color for as long as the panel is viable. Once the color is completely bleached out, your siding may also be extremely weak and brittle. It might not weather heavy storms and high winds like it did in it’s prime.

The faded siding might also make your home look less appealing. If you plan on selling your home in the near future, contemplate replacing your siding. A good-looking home and bring in more prospective buyers. On the other hand, if you plan on staying in your home years to come, replace that siding for yourself! You want to love your home and nothing beats that more than pulling into a driveway of a home you’re proud to call yours.

Fungus or algae growth on vinyl siding
Fungus or algae growth on vinyl siding

Fungus, Mold, and Algae on Your Siding – Vinyl siding is extremely low maintenance but occaisionally it needs a little powerwashing to clean off the dirt and debris build up. If this has been ignored for many years, fungus and algae can grow on the surface of your siding panels. While powerwashing can help lessen the mold it won’t always get rid of it. The failsafe way to get rid of the algae is to just replace your siding and start from scratch.

If Your Home Doesn’t Have Housewrap – Requiring a moisture barrier underneath the siding was only put into effect in the recent years. If your home was built before the 2000’s it may not have housewrap on it. Housewrap or a spray applied moisture barrier (like Enviro Dri) is crucial at keeping your home free from leaks and rot. In theory, your current siding can be re-used; but depending on how brittle your siding is it may break as it’s removed . It’s not a bad idea to change up your siding look, especially if you are tired of it, when you have housewrap installed.

Your Siding Has Been Discontinued – If your siding has been discontinued it can be difficult or impossible to find replacement panels for repairs. You may find yourself going with a similar color in another brand’s siding for small repairs but over time you quickly find yourself living in a mix-matched home. Any warranty claims are extremely difficult to gain traction. If the mother company of your siding is still around, you might get some response but it won’t be as much as you’d hoped or as much as you would be entitled for a non-discontinued line.

James Hardie Fiber cement siding and shakes in taupe and green seven inch reveal siding in peoria il
This lovely ranch home was re-sided with James Hardie Fiber Cement siding in custom colors.

You Hate The Color Or Style – Yes, you hate it. So forget the “If it’s not broke don’t fix it” motto. You should love your home. Your house should be a reflection of you and if the color or style isn’t you, replace it! You are allowed to change things up when you want to.

When Should You Replace Your Gutters?

Gutters aren’t a big item most homeowners keep an eye on. If gutters are mostly doing their job, homeowners usually ignore them. So how to you know if your gutters need replaced or just repaired? Below are a few situations where your gutters should be replaced.

leaf protection on tan house with white gutters
5″ White  Leaf Protection on home in Normal IL

After a roof replacement – The best rule of thumb is to replace your gutters right after your roof has been replaced. When your old gutters are removed all the seals are broken. It’s hard to reseal old gutters once that’s been broken. If you keep up with the pattern of replacing your gutters everytime your roof has been replaced, you should not have any problems with your gutters.

Large Quantity of Rust Spots or Holes – Sometimes this can be repaired by sealant or a new section of gutters. But if rust or holes are consistent on every run of gutter, replacing your gutters will be better a choice to spend money on.

Sagging gutters are caused from improper pitch on gutters.
Sagging gutters are caused from improper pitch on gutters.

Sagging or Bowed Out Gutters – Sagging and bowing is caused by improperly pitched gutters. Water begins to pool and be held at sections of gutters; without being able to drain out the gutter sags at the weight of water over time. Once a couple sections are sagging, it’s best just to replace your gutters and make sure all runs have proper pitch to allow for drainage.

Flooded Basement – What a nightmare! And an expensive nightmare if you have a furnished basement. If your gutters are old and just aren’t making the cut your basement can flood. When your gutters aren’t channeling water away from your home’s perimeter, all that water seeps into your basement. Over time this can cause foundation damages too!

Wrong Size Gutters This can be hard for the average homeowner to decipher, but any contractor should be able to stop by (at no charge) to verify if your home has the proper sized gutters. Most homes come with the standard 5” gutter; however, if your home has a really steep pitch the water flow can amplify and overwhelm the 5” gutter system. Click here to visit our other article on 5” vs 6” Gutters.

Free Guide On Finding Trustworthy Contractors

grand ranch style home with green siding, cream trim and stone accents

Big home projects are few and far between. Chances are you’ve never shopped for a new roof or replacement siding. Or if you have, it’s been a very long time since. It’s overwhelming because you know there are questions you should be asking but…. how do you know what those are?

The hardest thing as an employee of a construction company is seeing people in my community get taken advantage of by local contractors. I wish this wasn’t the case – but it happens. Snakes are in the grass everywhere. As much as we want to to perform work for everyone, we know we can’t win them all. So, even if you choose not to work with us, we still want you to pick a quality contractor.

That’s why we created a FREE guide to compare contractors. Yes, you heard me, F-R-E-E. This guide is filled with insider tips like this one:

Many people know to look up online to make sure their contractor has a physical address. You should also drive by that address to make sure it’s an office with office hours, and not the owner’s personal house.

Or this tip:

When hiring a roofing contractor make sure their roofing license actually belongs to them and not a contractor friend’s license they are borrowing.

Get yours by clicking and downloading here. No entrance fees.

contractor-standard-guide-front-outside-cover

New Roof: Tear Off Or Layover Shingles?

When looking to purchase a new roof for their home, many homeowners debate laying new shingles over the existing shingles or just start fresh by tearing off the old shingles.  Usually homeowners think about laying over to save some money – but is it worth the saved bucks?

Most cases – no. Its worth tearing off your shingles for the following reasons:

Inspect Condition of Roof Decking 

Without tearing the shingles off and actually seeing the roof deck, one can only speculate the condition of the OSB. Obviously, if sections of your roof are rather soft to walk on the wood is bad and will need replaced. However, you can have smaller sections of wood rot and not know it until the shingles are torn off.

Roof Warranty

Many shingle manufacturers have rather poor warranties for roofs that have been laid over. Best case scenario you will get a 10 year limited life warranty – it will be pro-rated. If the shingle fails within the first year after your roof lay over, you will have to pay some money out of pocket. The best thing about a Carlson Exteriors roof replacement is the roof warranty. Any roof we replace will get a 50 year, non prorated warranty that is transferrable one time. It actually increases with inflation so you don’t have to pay anything out of pocket! Woohoo!

Overall Roof Appearance

If your old shingles have warping or curled up edges, the new shingles that you lay over will take on the look of the old shingles. The new shingles may look wrinkly or bumpy. The new roof will look terrible from day one.

curled shingles

Shortened Roof Life

If a new roof is laid over, it will have a shorter roof life. The shorter lifespan is due to a couple reasons. First, not nailing directly into the roof decking can lower your roof’s resistance to high winds. The nails might not be driven as deeply or as securely into the plywood as they should be. On the other hand, some nails may be overdriven thanks to the old shingles “cushion” . When nails are overdriven, it can pierce directly through the new shingle and not provide any security at all. Some home insurances provide better rates if your shingles are nailed directly into the OSB. Secondly, the moisture trapped between the two layers of shingles will increase the speed of asphalt deterioration. The second layer of shingles will increase heat and moisture retention, especially if your roof is not ventilated properly.

Too Much Weight

If you already have two layers of shingles on your home, city code prohibits another layover. This is because of the unnecessary weight each layer of shingles add to your home. If you are outside of city limits and are not required to obey city codes, be mindful of how much weight and stress you add to your home’s structure

Carlson Exteriors always tears off the existing shingles for these reasons. The money that homeowners would “save” by not tearing off old shingles is not worth it. A layover roof can be deemed more expensive due to poorer roof warranty, possibility of more leaks, and the damage that could be done to home’s structure. In this case, the cons outweigh the pros.

Behind the Scenes with Shur FloX

Shur FloX leaf protection has ridges so no leaves get stuck and cannot blow off.JPG

This blog is part of a series. Search our site for “behind the scenes” to read other articles in the series.

Shur FloX is a hassle-free leaf protection. It’s an all aluminum protection system so you don’t have to worry about it warping or deteriorating over time. Tiny holes that pierce the leaf protection allow water or any small debris (that won’t clog) to run down the gutter and out the spout. The ridges promote air flow – allowing dry debris to blow right off.

Shur FloX leaf protection has ridges so no leaves get stuck and cannot blow off.JPG
Shur FloX leaf protection has ridges so no leaves get stuck and cannot blow off

Did you know that so many leaf protection systems actually void your roof warranty?  Shur FloX really shines because it doesn’t tamper with your shingles. This is why Carlson Exteriors chooses to use Shur Flox and no other brand. Most gutter guard brands will advertise the wonders of their product and will not mention how their product impacts other products already on your home. Asking how a leaf protection will affect your roof warranty is not a question homeowners think to ask – nor should it be! That’s why you’ve hired an expert to help you.

Having a gutter leaf guard that needs to be secured under your roof shingle will void any roof warranty.
Having a gutter leaf guard that needs to be secured under your shingle will void any roof warranty.

If you look at the images below, you will see that Shur FloX only attaches to the gutter and will not interfere with your shingles.

 

Click here to see Carlson Exteriors’ page on Shur FloX

Click here to visit Shur FloX’s website

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.

 

Early Signs of Roof Failure

roof with loose shingles

As the snow and ice melt off your roof, it’s a good time to see if your roof sustained any stress or damage from the winter.

  1. Brown Spotting or Tea Staining on your ceiling. This is the easiest way for you to catch a small leak early. The spot might not drip or be wet to the touch but it’s a sign of a leak and will be worth having check out. If you know the leak has been fixed and want to get rid of the stain, use a stain-blocking primer like Kilz or Bullseye first then use your regular ceiling paint. Without the stain blocker primer the brown spot will come through the ceiling paint, even if the leak has been fixed.

    brown spot on ceiling tea stain on ceiling
    A tea stain or brown spotting on ceiling is an indicator of roof leak
  2. Missing Shingles. If you can see your roof in it’s entirety you will still know if you are missing shingles by finding pieces in your yard. Shingles lose adhesive strength as it ages. Drastic temperature changes are hard on the shingle bonding strip. After this is weakened, wind easily blows off your shingles leaving you exposed.

    roof with loose shingles
    Over time weaker shingle lose adhesive bond strength and may blow off easier
  3. Curled or Cracked shingles. Over time asphalt shingles dry out and become brittle and fragile. Frail shingles are no defense against environmental dangers (like hail) and need attention sooner rather than later. It’s easier to see curled shingles from the ground – the edges are often described as looking like a potato chip. Cracked shingles may only be visible while standing on the roof.

     

  4. Cracked or Damaged Pipe Flashing. Pipe flashing wear out quicker than the rest of your roof. It’s an easy fix in terms of roof repairs but may be harder for the average homeowner to see. The only way to inspect pipe flashing conditions is from being on the roof. Often it’s just best to call a local contractor that you trust to come over and inspect!

    cracked pipe boot flashing
    Cracked pipe boot flashing causes leaks

You might want to check out our short video by Project Manager Nick Coyle on why your 30-year shingle won’t last 30 years.

Water Management

Rotten OSB and moldy insulation from water running behind siding and house wrap

Uncontrolled water is the biggest threat to homeowners. It’s a slow and silent killer. Here are the most common issues we see on homes.

Lack of Kick-Out Flashings. Even if your gutters are pitched correctly and don’t leak, they may appear to be leaking where the gutter butts up the wall. Or it might look like nothing is wrong at all. Overtime, water constantly slipping between the wall and gutter will find its way behind any house wrap or moisture barrier you have in place. Read more about kick-out flashings

siding and underlayment rotted from water running down the wall
Without a kick-out flashing, water is free to run down your siding and can creep behind your house wrap.
Rotten OSB and moldy insulation from water running behind siding and house wrap
Once you remove the house wrap you can see all the damage that the un-controlled water did behind the house wrap.

No Downspout Extensions. Often times homeowners remove these extensions out of aggravation. These extensions might seem like a trip hazard, a pain to mow around, or get trampled easily. – but don’t get rid of them! Your home and your foundation need these extensions to route water away from you home. You can add hinges to these extensions to eliminate all the hassle they cause. Click here to read more about downspout hinges.

downspout extension laying down and then in the up position
Left: Downspout is fully extended for proper water flow Right: Downspout has been lifted up to allow for mowing

Inadequate or No House Wrap. Depending on when your home was built and the history of your city’s building codes, your home might not have any house wrap or moisture barrier. For example, the City of Bloomington, IL did not start requiring any form of house wrap until the late 70’s. Practically all houses built before the early 70’s (in Bloomington, IL) are without house wrap. Siding, bricks, shakes or any other exterior cladding are not intended to protect your home from water intrusion. If your home does have house wrap, it might be done incorrectly: applied in small pieces, too many mechanical fasteners, or taped incorrectly. There are alternative moisture barriers to house wrap at similar expenses- Read about EnviroDri.

cedar siding on chimney. Underneath chimney is rotted usb
Cedar siding doesn’t always protect your home

Bad Pipe Flashings. Pipe flashing have a shorter lifespan than your roof and will need replaced a few times before you need a new roof. It’s a simple fix but if the flashing is cut too large, water will still get in. Watch Nick Coyle replace a pipe flashing.

cracked pipe boot flashing
Cracked pipe boot flashing causes leaks

 

If you are unsure about any of these, call a local, trustworthy contractor to give you a free inspection.