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

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

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 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

Behind the Scenes with Mastic

two story house with white siding, white trim, white brick, black roof, and black gutters

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

 

 

PlyGem (Mother company of Mastic) has been the industry leader in vinyl siding for quite some time. Being a lead manufacturer usually means that the “small-company feel” gets lost. However, that is not the case with Mastic. They are personal and prompt – customer service, training, and warranty issues. This is the main reason Mastic is Carlson Exteriors’ preferred brand of vinyl siding. They are extremely personal and efficient when working with contractors customers. The few warranty claims we have had with Mastic, get remedied quickly and our homeowners aways walk away very happy.

Mastic is not just a producer of products.

– Collin Clougherty, Mastic Territory Sales Manager

What I think Collin means by this, is that Mastic is more than a siding factory. They care about the customer experience from start to finish. Mastic wants it to be enjoyable picking out colors and styles; that’s why they’ve invested so much into technology to help you see their products on your own house. Mastic wants the install to go without any hiccups; that’s why spend so much time training Mastic employees and contractors. Mastic knows their products are made to last and be durable; that’s why they never stop testing their products against the elements. Mastic wants you to love them even after you’ve bought from them; that’s why they resolve any siding problems very quickly with the least amount of cooks in the kitchen.

I had an opportunity to chat with Collin Clougherty about his Mastic Career:

I started working for Mastic when I was 14, mowing the yard at the plant in Princeville, IL. My father was a Corporate buyer for them and they always treated him very well. I get excited about Mastic’s evolution of products and colors! The day I started, we had 3 profiles and 6 colors. Today, we have 6 profiles and 35 colors.

Mastic was Collin’s first job and has been Collin’s only job! He’s watched and helped them grow and is still looking towards Mastic’s future. Below is Newport Bay and Natural Slate, which are two of Mastic’s newest color releases.

 

 

Back to Collin:

Mastic is not just a specialist that makes vinyl siding. We also make our own  Metal, Rainware, I.M and Stone. This allows consumers to color coordinate and everything is covered under one manufacturer’s warranty.

Our specialty is being an ally to contractors and their customers. We offer sales tools that include color and design programs to assist the consumer in product and color selection (even using their own home) along with comprehensive installation/training programs that certify the contractor with the latest installation techniques.

Mastic happily takes a photo of your home, uploads it in their software, and lets you pick and chose what siding or shake products you want and where you want them. Here are some pictures that Mastic did for one of our customers last year.

 

 

These documents also come with a breakdown of exact Mastic Product and color that was used on your home

 

This sheet breaks down the mastic siding and shake products that were used on this home.
This sheet breaks down the Mastic siding and shake products that were used on this home.

We are set apart by product, people, and warranty.

Product: We offer a good-better-best in many styles in over 35 design colors. We make our ownMetal, Rainware, and I.M products with color coordination across all product platforms. All covered by one manufacturer’s warranty.

People: Easy access to our company. We don’t subcontract out to 3rd party customer service. Our people are trained and will come out to contractors to help with advertising and marketing, etc. We have local sales representatives.

Warranty: All Claims are not created equal. We still allow our reps to inspect warranty claims. No 3rd party inspections. All warranty calls are handled by PlyGem

Mastic sends out a Semi-truck decked out with a showroom of all their products to many county fairs and home shows across the nation. Every year, you can find Carlson Exteriors by the Mastic Semi Truck at the McLean County Art Fair.

mastic-semi-truck

I’ve been working very closely with Carlson Exteriors for over 7 years now. I’m trusted to go out and discuss warranty issues with Carlson’s customers. We keep Carlson Exteriors up to date on new products and programs. We also have visits from our marketing group to train Carlson’s sales people.

If you are one of our customers and happened to have a warranty issue with your Mastic vinyl siding, you’ll get to meet Collin! He’s our biggest advocate when it comes to getting your siding fixed up.

Click here to visit Carlson Exteriors Vinyl Siding page

Click here to be directed to Mastic’s Website

 

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.

Time to Improve: Benefits of Adding a Covered Porch

long covered porch

As the New Year rolls in, you are probably thinking of all the home improvement projects you want to tackle for 2017! If you have more projects than you have the motivation, time, or budget for which one should you start with? A covered porch or patio might be the perfect place to start.

If done correctly, you’ll be asking yourself how you ever lived without a covered porch. The extra living space can become a great entertaining spot or a nice, relaxing space while adding value to your home.

covered porch with decorative landscaping and patio furniture
You can spruce up a covered porch with landscaping.

Outdoor living areas are trending right now (for very good reasons!). Covered porches can be very elaborate and versatile by being a living area, dining space, and sometimes an extra kitchen!

covered porch with full kitchen and fire place
If you don’t want a full blown kitchen like this covered porch but want a cooking spot, consider building a brick oven, pizza oven, or fireplace.

Since the space is sheltered from some environmental elements you can even decorate the space. These furnishings will last longer by being sheltered from most weather conditions. You can feel better about investing more money into decorations, rugs, and furniture if it will endure longer.

You might find that adding a covered patio or porch will reduce your utility bills since it increases the amount of shade around your home. Depending on where you live, you might find that it’s a good idea to add ceiling fans or some outdoor heaters to help lengthen the span of usable weather.

Lastly, putting in a quality covered porch will increase the value of your home. If you happen to live in a more competitive housing market or put your house up at a competitive time of year, the extra outdoor living space might give you the edge.