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 

 

 

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

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

2016 Home Transformations

House with grey siding and white trim

Carlson Exteriors has had the opportunity to transform many homes this past year. Below are just a few of the homes we were lucky enough to get before pictures of!

 

This house had a plain white exterior- the homeowners were looking to give it a snazzy update with more contrast and decorative gable accent.

 

The Normal, IL homeowner had big ideas for this covered porch. Carlson Exteriors were able to make that dream a reality.

 

These Bloomingotn IL homeowners were tired of the up-keep that came with their natural cedar siding. They loved the look and were able to find a maintenance-free vinyl that had a very similar appearance to real cedar! Want to see more about this project? Click Here!!!

 

 

This homeowner in Peoria IL, had been fascinated by James Hardie Fiber Cement and wanted to add that product to his home.

 

This Bloomingotn, IL homeowner had been talking with us for a long time about replacing his cedar siding with James Hardie Fiber cement for a very long time! See more about his project by clicking here.