2018 Qualified Remodeler HIP 200 National List

HIP200-2018

Carlson Exteriors was included on a national list of 200 Home Improvement Pros for 2018. This list tracks construction companies that continually grow despite the slowing economy. Last year 41% of our business was new roofs for Bloomington and surrounding cities. 37% was replacement siding for Bloomington and surrounding cities.

Click here to read more. 

 

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.

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.

 

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

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.

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Proper License 

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

 

Insurance

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

Letters

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

 

Professionalism

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

Example professional estimate
Example of a detailed roofing estimate and contract

 

Warranties

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

 

 

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

Understanding Roof Underlayment

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

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

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

 

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

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

Out-of-Town Roofing Contractors

Roofing Bloomington, IL

Many homeowners in Central Illinois were devastatingly impacted by the storm that arrived last fall- home repairs continue to ensue 6 months later.  As a local contractor, it is our responsibility and duty to both inform and educate the Bloomington/Normal area in regards to the risks of out of town contractors, commonly known as “storm chasers”.

The exterior construction business is a rather large portion of all remodeling that takes place on homes; it continues to have national, year over year growth.  As the demand for exterior construction needs rises, the population of “storm chasers” has proportionately grown. These contractors will follow storm activity nationally, never staying too long in one place. It is commonplace for “storm chasers” to ascend upon a storm ravaged area with a sales staff exceeding twenty sales people.  These sales people will go door-to-door knocking and asking for permission to inspect the damaged roof, siding, gutters, and/or air conditioner. Upon completion of the inspection, the sales staff may ask to contact your insurance company directly; they may even ask for a signature seeking permission. Be cautious and hesitant of what you sign- read all contracts and legal documents carefully; many of these permission slips and documents have a clause requiring the homeowner to employ said contractor upon an insurance settlement.

Feel free to contact your insurance company for contractor recommendations.  For example, Country Companies’ adjusters have a policy in place where they can recommend three contractors. State Farm has a preferred vendor list.  However, most insurance companies have additional policies in place to attempt to mitigate their liability to the homeowner in the event of the contractor not completing the work in a professional manner.  This is the exact moment where it becomes the homeowners responsibility to perform their due diligence.  The majority of insurance companies nationally place a one-year timeframe upon the initiation of a claim from a storm.  This being said, unless there is imminent damage, most homeowners have time to initiate an insurance claim.

The following are a list of bullet points on ways to perform said diligence:

-Run “construction storm chasers” through whatever Internet Search Engine you use.

-If a salesman comes to your door, do not sign anything.  Please take time to review the estimate and the contractor.

-Inquire as to where the company is physically located and the length of time in that location.

-If it is an out of town contractor, inquire what type of service after the sale will you get.  Is the contractor willing to drive, in some cases, hundreds of miles to return for service?  Please get this portion in writing.

-Please demand copies of both Liability and Workmen’s Compensation Insurance.

-Ask to see required state permits and licenses. Both contractors and insurance adjusters have to be licensed by state agencies.

-Inquire if the company has employees performing the work or will it be subcontracted out.  If it is subcontracted out, demand copies of the Subcontractors Insurance as well.  Ask to meet the Subcontractor that will be working on your home prior to work being started.

Please utilize the above questions.  There are many other tools available for a homeowner to use.  Such as, Internet reviews, local business associations and reviews, BBB, and referrals.  We urge you to use these resources to determine the caliber of your potential contractor.