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.

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 

 

 

When Should You Replace Your Siding

Our crew just finished the Hasting's home. All new Royal Celect Siding in a bark brown color and 7 new windows

“If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” This was a motto I heard growing up on the farm. As I got older, I realized this was many families’ motto too. Generally speaking, most of us still operate with this philosophy when it comes to large purchases. If our current siding is not broken, falling down, and in working condition why should I replace? Or when should I replace?

Cedar Siding seems to be the easiest to decide when it’s on it’s last leg. The cedar siding has rotted dramatically, wood peckers have bored holes all over, or you’ve just grown tired of all the maintenance that goes into cedar siding. All of these are valid reasons to replace wooden siding. But what about vinyl? Vinyl can stay intact for many years and require little to no maintenance to keep it looking great!

Siding can fade over the years. The darker parts are where other siding panels were overlapping
Siding can fade over the years. The darker parts are where other siding panels were overlapping

Extremely Faded Siding – Twenty years ago, vinyl siding was not as advanced in preserving color like it is now. Most sidings are rated to preserve color for as long as the panel is viable. Once the color is completely bleached out, your siding may also be extremely weak and brittle. It might not weather heavy storms and high winds like it did in it’s prime.

The faded siding might also make your home look less appealing. If you plan on selling your home in the near future, contemplate replacing your siding. A good-looking home and bring in more prospective buyers. On the other hand, if you plan on staying in your home years to come, replace that siding for yourself! You want to love your home and nothing beats that more than pulling into a driveway of a home you’re proud to call yours.

Fungus or algae growth on vinyl siding
Fungus or algae growth on vinyl siding

Fungus, Mold, and Algae on Your Siding – Vinyl siding is extremely low maintenance but occaisionally it needs a little powerwashing to clean off the dirt and debris build up. If this has been ignored for many years, fungus and algae can grow on the surface of your siding panels. While powerwashing can help lessen the mold it won’t always get rid of it. The failsafe way to get rid of the algae is to just replace your siding and start from scratch.

If Your Home Doesn’t Have Housewrap – Requiring a moisture barrier underneath the siding was only put into effect in the recent years. If your home was built before the 2000’s it may not have housewrap on it. Housewrap or a spray applied moisture barrier (like Enviro Dri) is crucial at keeping your home free from leaks and rot. In theory, your current siding can be re-used; but depending on how brittle your siding is it may break as it’s removed . It’s not a bad idea to change up your siding look, especially if you are tired of it, when you have housewrap installed.

Your Siding Has Been Discontinued – If your siding has been discontinued it can be difficult or impossible to find replacement panels for repairs. You may find yourself going with a similar color in another brand’s siding for small repairs but over time you quickly find yourself living in a mix-matched home. Any warranty claims are extremely difficult to gain traction. If the mother company of your siding is still around, you might get some response but it won’t be as much as you’d hoped or as much as you would be entitled for a non-discontinued line.

James Hardie Fiber cement siding and shakes in taupe and green seven inch reveal siding in peoria il
This lovely ranch home was re-sided with James Hardie Fiber Cement siding in custom colors.

You Hate The Color Or Style – Yes, you hate it. So forget the “If it’s not broke don’t fix it” motto. You should love your home. Your house should be a reflection of you and if the color or style isn’t you, replace it! You are allowed to change things up when you want to.

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

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