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.
Making color selections can be very difficult and stressful for first time home builders; but it doesn’t have to be! Here are a few easy steps to get you started in knowing what you want, but just as important, what you don’t want.
Drive Around Local Subdivisions
Your local neighborhoods are great resources to find combinations that you like. We usually suggest newer neighborhoods because are more likely to be up to date on all product styles and color offerings. Take photos and record address of homes that strike your fancy. These are great to share with your contractor.
Pebblestone clay siding, wicker handsplit shakes, red gable accents, white trim in Normal il
James Hardie Siding panels and real cedar siding in Heyworth Il
Look at Pinterest or Instagram
These two platforms are chalk full of photos. You will definitely find a wide array of styles, colors, and combinations. This is perfect to do when you have a few extra minutes or want to look late or night. The one downside to looking on Pinterest or Instagram is that not all products you see are guaranteed to be provided in your area or by your contractor.
Browse Your Contractor’s Portfolio
Your contractor should have tons of photos readily available to you on their website. We love asking clients to start here because we know exactly what products/colors are installed on each home.
Meet With Your Contractor
Often times customers want to know what’s available in their budget or get a little reassurance from a professional. Meeting with your contractor lays a great foundation. They can even go through their online photos with you to help you visualize.
Mastic Deep Granite siding with Royal Weathered Grey hand split shakes, white trim, and moire black roof in Bloomington, IL
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
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.
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!
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:
Did they arrive on time to perform the work?
How was the daily clean up?
Did you run into any issues? How did the contractor handle those issues?
Were the employees polite and professional? Any specific interactions?
Did your neighbors like the crews while they worked on your house?
Carlson exteriors Crew member cuts Royal Celect Siding
Forman Brian hangs Royal Celect Siding on Bloomington IL House
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.
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 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.
Before: Cedar siding looked run down. After: English Wedgewood vinyl siding brightens up this home
The Hasting’s Bloomington, IL home before Carlson Exteriors resided
Hastings Home after the Chestnut brown siding was installed. Our crew also replaced 7 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!
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, 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.
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.
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?
Custom metal accents in gables sounds and looks pricier than it actually is.
White trim, Cream shakes with cream siding in Normal IL
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.
This blog is part of a series. Search our site for “behind the scenes” to read other articles in the series.
Mastic deep granite grey siding and shakes, white trim and CertainTeed moire black roofing in Edwards IL
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.
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.
Newport Bay Blue can become very vibrant when placed next to white and grey
Deep granite shakes and Board and Batten siding with Natural Slate siding, white trim and black roof in Savoy IL
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.
Mastic Software takes your home and transforms it so you can see different siding products on your home.
Mastic Software takes your home and transforms it so you can see different siding products on your home.
These documents also come with a breakdown of exact Mastic Product and color that was used on your 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.
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.
Mastic Quiet Willow Green siding with Cameo trim and CertainTeed Landmark Weathered wood Roofing in Downs, IL
Large window replacement in Commercial building in Bloomington il
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:
Carlson Exteriors mapped location
Door to the office
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.
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!
Mastic almond trim, Mastic Scottish Thistle light green siding and CertainTeed Landmark Weathered wood Roofing in Downs IL
Gable Brackets are a simple way to make your home look expensive
This Normal IL has green siding and shutters, white vertical siding and trim.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Example Warranty Certificate of what every replacement roof customer of Carlson Exteriors receives
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.
DaVinci makes a polymer shake product that looks like real cedar shakes
Harbor Grey siding, white trim, deep granite board and batten in Normal il
Montana suede dark brown siding with Terra Bronze trim Weathered wood roof in Bloomington IL
Back porch with new Royal Celect siding and new trim around windows and doors
LP Smartside siding in Pewter with White trim and Black roof and Metal Roof accent
Dark Oak garage doors with arched stockton windows in Bloomington IL
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.