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?

 

 

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

Free Guide On Finding Trustworthy Contractors

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

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

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

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

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

Or this tip:

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

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

1 - 2019 Contractor Standard Guide front outside cover

New Roof: Tear Off Or Layover Shingles?

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

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

Inspect Condition of Roof Decking 

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

Roof Warranty

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

Overall Roof Appearance

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

curled shingles

Shortened Roof Life

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

Too Much Weight

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

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

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.

Early Signs of Roof Failure

roof with loose shingles

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

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

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

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

     

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

    cracked pipe boot flashing
    Cracked pipe boot flashing causes leaks

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