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 

 

 

Carlson Exteriors Named 2nd Roofer in State of Illinois

LP Smartside siding in Pewter with White trim and Black roof
CertainTeed names the Nations top 20 Roofers - Carlson Exteriors was 16th in the Nation and 2nd in State of Illinois
CertainTeed names the Nations top 20 Roofers – Carlson Exteriors was 16th in the Nation and 2nd in State of Illinois

In April, we happily received this letter stating that we were ranked the 16th roofer in the nation and the 2nd roofer in the State of Illinois in registering roof warranties. So many roofing companies out there promise warranties they cannot deliver. Carlson Exteriors is not one of those. For every roof we install, we register it in the homeowner’s name(s) with CertainTeed, a leading shingle manufacturer. We actually pay for this warranty but pass it on to our customers for free. Why? Because purchasing a roof with a solid warranties, no loop holes and no prorating, should be demanded from by homeowners.

Lets run through a hypothetical scenario:

Jan needs a new roof. Her neighbor Stan also needs a new roof. Both Jan and Stan call 3 roofers to compare estimates. Jan decides she wants to go with Carlson Exteriors because of the Sure Start Roof Warranty. Stan decided to go with Chuck in a Truck Roofing Company because they were the cheapest. Jan and Stan have similar roofs and are both getting CertainTeed Landmarks (shingle); Jan paid $10,000 and Stan paid $9,000. Jan gets the roof registered in her name with a certificate as proof. Stan gets the standard Limited Warranty on the shingles. In 11 years, both Jan and Stan realize that their shingles are curling on the edges like potato chips. The asphalt shingles are very brittle. The roof is failing not because of how the shingles were installed or because of any hailstorms; the shingles just malfunctioned. Roofers come out and say it will now cost $12,434 to replace the roof. Even though nothing has changed to the roof, inflation has raised the cost of the roof replacement. Jan’s annoyed but not worried because she has her 4-Star warranty. Stan is mad but knows he has some kind of warranty. Jan places a claim with CertainTeed, they issue her $12,434 to have the roof replaced. This includes the tear-off of the bad shingles, dumpster fees, permit fees, roofing labor, and new shingles. Jan is happy. Stan places a claim with CertainTeed, they explain that since he only has the Limited Warranty they cannot fully cover the roof replacement; they issue Stan $3,233. Stan is responsible for the other $9,201. Stan is mad that his “50 year shingle” only lasted him 11 years.

All of Carlson Exterior’s roof replacement customers are Jan. They get this 4-star Warranty register in their names. They don’t have to worry if their shingle will last 50 years, because if it doesn’t – CertainTeed will cover them.

certainteeds-shingle-warranty

unconditional-roof-warranty-example-certificate
Example Warranty Certificate of what every replacement roof customer of Carlson Exteriors receives

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).

 

Behind the Scenes with CertainTeed

CertainTeed shingles in Moire Black in Normal il

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

roof-replacement-bloomington-il-certainteed-landmark-pro-in-maxdef-pewter

CertainTeed is a nationwide known brand; and for good reason. They make great shingles and offer plenty of colors. But the reason Carlson Exteriors loves using CertainTeed is for the roofing warranty they provide to the homeowner.

This warranty is registered in homeowner’s names. The original is mailed to homeowners, a copy is mailed to Carlson Exteriors, and CertainTeed keeps a virtual copy. Unlike most warranties, CertainTeed’s has no loop holes and no fine print. To read more in detail about our Unconditional Roofs – Click here.

I was able to interview CertainTeed’s Territory Manager, Bob Eaton, to get his insider opinion.

I’ve worked for CertainTeed for 15 years now. I truly enjoy seeing my customers and I believe that will never change. I believe providing a true 50 years Peace of Mind Full replacement warranty for all homeowners is essential. I’m the point person for all claims and when a shingle does fail, I want to make sure the homeowners gets taken care of in all aspects. The only way to do that is to have the SureStart Plus Warranty on their home.

If you look at the chart below, the SureStart Plus warranty Bob is talking about, actually increases with inflation. The middle column is the usual warranty that most shingles come with. With the typical Limited Warranty, even in the first year the homeowner is still paying a decent chunk out of pocket. EVERY roof Carlson Exteriors installs, gets a SureStart Plus Warranty.

certainteeds-shingle-warranty

unconditional-roof-warranty-example-certificate
Example Warranty Certificate of what every replacement roof customer of Carlson Exteriors receives

Now back to Bob:

I can’t ever remember CertainTeed not doing the right thing for the consumer. CertainTeed has always supported me in the field and that is critical to my success and to homeowner’s happiness.

Carlson Exteriors is a great partner. I truly enjoy working with everyone. You’re extremely organized from top to bottom. From my stand point, you do it right the first time.

Click here to get a roof replacement quote

Click here to visit CertainTeed’s website

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

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.