How to Make Color Selections

Subdivisions are a great place to get color selections.

Making color selections can be very difficult and stressful for first time home builders; but it doesn’t have to be! Here are a few easy steps to get you started in knowing what you want, but just as important, what you don’t want.

Subdivisions are a great place to get color selections.
Subdivisions are a great place to get color selections.

Drive Around Local Subdivisions

Your local neighborhoods are great resources to find combinations that you like. We usually suggest newer neighborhoods because are more likely to be up to date on all product styles and color offerings. Take photos and record address of homes that strike your fancy. These are great to share with your contractor.

Look at Pinterest or Instagram

These two platforms are chalk full of photos. You will definitely find a wide array of styles, colors, and combinations. This is perfect to do when you have a few extra minutes or want to look late or night. The one downside to looking on Pinterest or Instagram is that not all products you see are guaranteed to be provided in your area or by your contractor.

Custom color LP SMartside in dark grey siding
Custom LP Smartside in dark grey

Browse Your Contractor’s Portfolio

Your contractor should have tons of photos readily available to you on their website. We love asking clients to start here because we know exactly what products/colors are installed on each home.

Ironstone grey siding with white trim, black roof, and faux wood garage doors in normal il
Ironstone grey siding with white trim, black roof, and faux wood garage doors in normal il

Meet With Your Contractor

Often times customers want to know what’s available in their budget or get a little reassurance from a professional. Meeting with your contractor lays a great foundation. They can even go through their online photos with you to help you visualize.

Customer Reviews vs Customer References

Customer testimonials and customer references seem like the same thing on the surface but they are very different and serve different purposes. They are equally important.

So what’s the difference?

Let’s start with the more familiar: Customer Reviews. You can find these on the contractor’s website, Facebook, and any Third Party website (like Google, BBB, Yelp, Home Advisor, etc.). When you start the hunt for the best roofer or perfect siding repair company, you should start by looking up reviews from previous customers. Click here to be taken to Carlson Exteriors’ page of testimonials.

Things to take note of to help you gauge the contractor’s professionalism:

  1. How recent are these reviews/ testimonials? How frequent do they occur? How many are there? You want to see a lot of recent and frequent reviews. Take in to consideration any off-seasons for exterior contractors; they will have less reviews during winter.
  2. Do they talk about their experience working with the sales person/ Project Manager? A sales person or a Project Manager will likely be your first and main contact to the company. They should not apply any sales pressures or gimmicks – only treating you respect. They should be easy to communicate with and happy to answer any questions you may have.
  3. Is Customer Service a common theme in reviews? For some reason, it’s easy to forget that contractors need to provide a high level of customer service. Remember you are paying them for their services.
  4. Are there repeat customers? The true testament to a contractor is if you can find evidence of returning customers. If a homeowner was truly satisfied with a contractor’s work, that contractor will be the first one that homeowner calls.
  5. How did the contractor handle mistakes? Even the best contractor is still human; they make mistakes. What separates the good contractors from the bad is how the mistakes are handled. Can you find evidence that problems were handled in a timely manner and to the customer’s satisfaction?

 

 

Now let’s talk about customer references! When you meet with your potential contractors ask them for a list of previous customers you can call. This way you can ask previous customers how the whole working experience was like.  Perhaps you are shy and are not interested in calling a handful of strangers. Ultimately, customer references are more meatier, more detailed than customer reviews. Look to see if your contractor has any Customer Spotlights on their website. Examples of that are:

Click here to Meet the Pound’s

Click here to Meet the Gualazzi’s

If you click those links you will find a before and after pictures, detailed descriptions of the job, and videos of interviews with the homeowners talking about their experience.

One of America’s Fastest-Growing, Private Companies!

Carlson Exteriors Crew

A couple weeks ago, Inc 5000 named the fastest-growing, private companies in America. Carlson Exteriors was thrilled to be recognized as one of the 5000!

Inc 5000 prides themselves on examining entrepreneurs every year to gauge the development. The look at rate and total revenue to rank companies.

Click here to see the list

2018 Qualified Remodeler Top 500 National List

We are so excited to be included for the second time in a row on the Qualified Remodeler’s Top 500 National List. We are the only Bloomington/Normal contractor to make the list!

If you are unfamiliar with the QR 500, they benchmark growth amongst remodeling companies. They use third party verification to ensure the companies that make the list deserve it.

Click here to see the list

Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Roofer

nick-coyle-carlson-exteriors-project-managerProject Manager Nick Coyle has been in the roofing industry practically his whole life. He currently manages the roofing crews, meets with homeowners to provide estimates on roof replacements, roof repairs, and stop tricky roof leaks. I sat down with Nick to find out the most popular questions from homeowners but more importantly the questions homeowners should be asking before hiring a roofer.

 

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

Frequently Asked Questions

Are you licensed and insured?

Nick said this is almost every homeowner’s first question. Most roofers say yes but many homeowners fail to ask for proof. A quality roofer should proudly display this documentation and make it easy for a homeowner to verify. Nick leaves a copy of Carlson Exteriors Inc Roofing License and current insurance with the homeowners that he meets with.

Carlson Exteriors' License, Bond, and insurance

Do I have storm damage?

The best any roofer can do is to give his professional opinion. Nick takes photos when he is inspects roofs to bring down and explain what he sees to homeowners. Nick can provide his opinion whether the roof looks storm, wind, or hail damaged but ultimately the decision lies with your insurance company. When homeowners contact insurance about potential storm damage, they start a claim which has the potential to raise your rates. Nick advises homeowners to familiarize themselves with their current plan, know their deductible, and to see if it’s worth potentially having higher rates. Example- If it’s a small repair that barely exceeds a homeowner’s deductible; it might not be worth making a claim.

What’s the difference between synthetic felt and regular felt?

Synthetic felt has grown with popularity amongst roofing companies. It’s easier/safer for crews to walk on and it has a higher resistance to ripping in the wind. Regular 15lb or 30lb felt rips very easy in the hands, while synthetic felt is practically impossible to rip. Some shingle manufacturers require synthetic felt to qualify for warranties. Carlson Exteriors only uses synthetic felt. Click here to read more about synthetic felt.

Winterguard and Diamond deck photo

What’s the difference between the Landmark shingles and the Landmark Pro Shingle?

This question usually comes after Nick presents the estimate to homeowners. Landmark is the standard shingle and Landmark Pro is a slight upgrade. Both are manufactured by CertainTeed and both qualify for the Unconditional Roof Warranty. Aesthetically, Landmark Pros have a wider selection of color choices and the shingles are Max Def. Max Def means the lights are lighter and the darks are darker giving each shingle a higher contrast. Landmark Pros have a 15 year algae warranty to protect your roof from getting streaky. Nick advices homeowners with many mature trees to select the Landmark Pros because of the 15 year algae warranty. Landmark Pros can have a higher wind rating than the Landmarks; this is dependent upon your contractor. Landmarks and Landmark Pros both can meet the max wind rating of 130 mph if shingle starter is also applied up the roof rakes. Carlson Exteriors uses starter up the rakes to ensure max protection for every homeowner.

Ridge vent vs Box vents – Is one better than the other?

As long as the roof is adequately vented ridge vents and box vents are equal. Currently the trend is to go with ridge vents because it provides a cleaner look on the roof. Nick advises homeowners who are thinking about putting the house on the market to select ridge vent because of the current housing trend. When replacing the roof, there is no price difference between using box vents or ridge vents. Every roof Carlson Exteriors replaces, Nick does an inspection to make sure it has enough ventilation. If a home does not have much ridge line, Nick advises box vents.

Questions Homeowners Should Be Asking Roofers

Can you be more detailed about the products you are using, how you use them, and why you use them? 

Nick says many roofers only provide a price for roof replacement with minimal supporting information. Nick gives every homeowner a packet of information that includes:

  • Summary of roof replacement process/ what to expect
  • Roof selection guide
  • Warranty information
  • Letter from Carlson Exteriors Bank
  • Letter from Carlson Exteriors Supplier
  • Information sheet about synthetic felt
  • Information sheet about ridge vent
  • A copy of Carlson Exteriors Roofing license
  • A copy of Carlson Exteriors current insurance
  • Information sheet about protection from ice dams
  • A customer reference list with contact information (Upon request)

All of this falls into gauging a roofer’s professionalism. If a contractor just provides a homeowner with a slip of paper with the cost it’s essentially the same as someone expecting to sell a used vehicle on craigslist with no listed mileage, information on condition quality, and not allowing a test drive. Click here to read more about gauging contractor professionalism.

Upon comparing two estimates that are $500-1000 different, what am I getting or not getting?

So many homeowners think all roof quotes are created equal and the cheapest is best. Nothing could be furthest from the truth. The easiest way to find out why the cost difference is to call the more expensive roofer and see what they are providing  above and beyond the lower estimate. Usually it is because of a better warranty, higher quality products, not re-using certain products (drip edge, flashing, etc), better reputation, better customer service, or more stable company. More stable companies have an office and don’t work out of their house, they have office hours where customers can walk in. Stable companies pay their employees with checks and not cash.

Nick concluded our conversation by saying he wished homeowners did more research on roofers and the owners of the company. Information, good or bad, is so easily found online; it’s ashamed that many homeowners don’t utilize this resource. He recommended homeowners to read “How To Find a Contractor You Can’t Live Without” and “Why does a 30 year shingle not last for 30 years?” to better educate themselves on products and finding contractors.

If you are in need of a professional opinion of your roof, need a roof replacement, or have a roof leak and want Nick Coyle to inspect – Contact Carlson Exteriors.

 

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?

 

 

2017 Home Tranformations

2017 was the year of some monumental home transformations. Let’s re-cap a couple show stoppers!

A lucky home in Bloomington, IL went from real wood shakes on the roof to a maintenance- free synthetic wood shaker shingle. Along with the faux wood roof, they added in real copper flashings and window pans.

Before after bloomingotn il wood shake roof install.jpg

 

Next transformation goes to a county ranch. The homeowners wanted to freshen up the look by replacing real cedar siding with English Wedgewood Blue vinyl siding.

 

 

This lovely colonial style home wanted to be the talk of the street by going from a neutral color siding to a striking dark grey siding with contrasting white trim. They also traded the shutters for wider window casings; modernizing it slightly.

The new siding is a wrought iron dark grey with white trim
The new siding is a wrought iron dark grey with white trim
Celect side before and after
The new siding is a wrought iron dark grey with white trim

The last feature home from 2017 enriched their home by exchanging the discolored tan siding for a darker brown. The also traded in their shutters for window casings. The half moon windows on the side of the home were covered up.

IMG_0247
Before
Royal Celect chestnut 7" with willow trim in bloomingotn il.jpg
After

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 Enviro Dri

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

Carlson Exteriors gets excited about Tremco’s product, Enviro Dri for many reasons. These range from monetary savings all the way to long term homeowner protection. Before we dive into the behind the scenes of Enviro Dri, many of you might be unfamiliar with it. I’d suggest clicking here and reading this page to get a quick understanding.

EnviroDri on Apartments in Bloomington Il

The first benefit thats always on everyone’s mind is savings. How can something new save you money? While installation costs might be exactly the same as standard house wrap, using Enviro Dri during a new construction build can allow you to save money in other parts of your build. You can have thinner walls but have the same insulation rating because Enviro Dri is more energy efficient. The lumber savings alone is enough for many builders to switch to Enviro Dri from house wrap.

tyvek ripped and blowing in the wind

House wrap can tear easily if left exposed to high winds. Enviro Dri is a liquid that applied to your sheathing; no part of Enviro Dri can be ripped or destroyed by high winds or any harsh elements. During the build of your new home, you can rest assured that your home is protected if it takes a little longer than expected to get your siding installed. If you aren’t building your home, knowing that you you have Enviro Dri protecting it gives you a little extra piece of mind if any piece of siding would blow off. If you had a piece blow off or break, any exposed house wrap may also rip leaving the OSB exposed. Enviro Dri eliminates this from ever being a problem.

Enviro Dri is a more hardy of a moisture barrier. It can also be used under all products (brick, stone, stucco, etc). It will stand up to surface active contaminants that are frequently found in wood, stone, fiber cement siding. Over time these contaminants can break down house wrap’s barrier. There are no mechanical fasteners used in Enviro Dri’s application. Since it’s a liquid that’s applied, there are no nails or staples keeping it attached. Normally these areas could leave you exposed to a water infiltration. With house wrap your home will have many seams that could fail. These taped seams could fail from not being taped correctly to not withstanding the settling of your home over time. There are NO seams in Enviro Dri. As an added measure, everywhere the OSB sheets join up, our installers add a mesh strip to flex with the OSB (if needed).

 

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.

image001

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.

 

 

Carlson Warranty

 

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

contractor-standard-guide-front-outside-cover