10 Steps to Finding A Good Roofer

10 Steps to Find a Good Roofer

Need a roofer? Follow these ten steps to make sure you find a good one!

  1. Ask for references. Learn what you can from each person and ask questions. Take time to make an informed decision. Pay careful attention to what the roofer recommends.
  2. Don’t jump at the lowest bid. If all bids for your roof are within 20 percent of each other, the low bid might be okay. Compare what each roofer is offering, and watch out for hidden costs or extras.
  3. Make certain the company is properly registered and insured. Ask the roofer for his contractor’s registration number, which means he has legal credentials to operate in your state.
  4. Do not consider anything but a proposal in writing. Ask the roofer if he has given you an estimate or a bid. An estimate is the roofer’s best guess on what a job will cost. It is given when much of the work that needs to be done is unable to be seen or measured. A bid is a fixed amount of money to do the job, an agreement that the job will be done for an agreed-upon price.
  5. Ask when payment is due. Some roofers want a percentage up front, before they begin the job. Others request the full amount to be paid within ten to 30 days after completion.
  6. Find out when the job will begin and end. Ask what you can do to get ready. Will the roofer clean up when he’s finished? How? (If clean-up is not included in the contract, ask to add it in, a contingency of payment.)
  7. If you’re replacing a roof, ask the roofer how many layers are already up there. (He can usually tell easily by making a small cut.) Will he remove the existing old material? All layers shoud be removed, the roofer should strip the roof, check for rot in the wood below, insulate and then reroof. A good roofer isn’t afraid to do this.
  8. Most roofing materials are covered by a manufacturer’s warranty. Some roofing materials are designed for special applications, such as high wind, heavy snowfall, or salt-water exposure. Ask your roofer how each of these apply in your situation and what warranty will come with the material you chose.
  9. The most frequent causes of roof deterioration are inadequate venting and poor flashing. Find out how the roofer plans to deal with these areas. If you don’t see it in his proposal, ask about it.
  10. The best time to have a chimney repaired is just before the installation of a new roof. Ask the roofer about your chimney. If it needs repair, he should be able to recommend a mason and coordinate the work.

Pros and Cons of Wood Shakes

Pros & Cons of Wood Shakes

Roofs with wood shingles are a thing of beauty. They have a pleasing look that gives your home a lot of character. Due to the nature of wood no two roofs will look the same. Wood allows the house to breathe and also helps to insulate the attic.

The appearance of a wooden roof is beyond compare to many. Wooden roofs have many issues that offset their beauty though. These problems have become so large and commonplace that many insurance companies require homeowners to replace them. This puts the homeowner in a jam since you risk losing coverage or having your premiums skyrocket. If you decide to try a new insurance carrier you run the same risk of having to pay a large premium or being denied coverage altogether. Some carriers may continue to insure your home but they may put a roof exclusion on the policy.

The main issue with insurance carriers is that they view caring for your roof as a maintenance issue. If your roof leaks and causes damage to your home they have to pay for those damages. It is up to you to maintain your roof in such a manner that it does not leak and cause damage that they have to pay for. In their view the insurance company is there for catastrophic losses.

The extent of wear on a wooden roof varies. There are many factors that play a role in the life of wood shingle roofs. The slope of the roof, the grade of the product and attic space ventilation all play big parts in the life of the roof.  One very major issue on roofs with wood shingles is that they are not rated by fire safety codes. Some use wipe-on or spray-on retardants which offer less protection and have to be reapplied every few years. The fire issue is a major concern for insurance companies. Embers blown from a fire down the street could cause a fire in a home a distance away.

Insurance companies have become wary of insuring homes with wood shingles on their roofs. The cons of having these types of roofs greatly outweigh their beauty in the eyes of many insurance carriers. If you have a wooden roof on your home don’t be surprised to find your insurance company asking you to replace it. If not they may drop you, raise your rates greatly or exclude the roof on your homeowners policy. Even as the aesthetics of a wooden roof make it a joy to behold, your insurance company may not have the same view!

Green Options for Home Remodeling

Green Options for Home Remodeling

Dropping costs in green technology are helping to make green remodeling a popular trend and available to more and more homeowners. These green building concepts are being put to work for homeowners at all price levels. If you’ve ever wondered where old blue jeans and newspapers go, the answer might be as close as your walls. Total-fill insulation made from recycled materials pays off in the short term and the long run. Because you’re using recyclables, your initial material cost is often lower than it would be for virgin materials. You’re also saving money over time by using insulating products that perform as well or better than first-use insulation. Cotton, wool, wood pulp and soybean byproducts are a few of the materials you’ll find as spray-in or roll insulation. There are many other recycled materials being used in green home building, such as reclaimed wood and countertops made from recycled glass, aluminum and even soda cans.

The sun is the ultimate source of clean, low-cost energy. When you build, you have a unique opportunity to plan for solar power use in a way that owners of older homes cannot. By making solar power native technology in your new home, you can take advantage of light and geography to get the most efficiency and energy for your investment. How you position your home on its lot and where you place solar panels can have a significant impact on the power you collect.

The material used on your roof can make a dramatic difference in your home’s energy efficiency. You may want to consider a product that reflects the sun’s energy away from the roof, cools faster at night and holds less heat for less time in order to help reduce energy costs and usage related to heat. There are many roofing options, and though the green options typically are more expensive they will save you money in the long run.

When remodeling your home you have many options on the materials and design. If you want to go Green with your remodeling project.

How to Choose Kitchen Flooring

How to Choose Kitchen Flooring

You scoot chairs across them. Kids play on them. Family pets sprawl out on them. No doubt about it, kitchen floors take a beating. That’s why it’s so important to do your research before selecting a new floor for this all-important room. All kitchen floors should be durable and easy to clean, but some households are tougher on their floors on a more frequent basis. A family with a 5-pound shih tzu dog, for instance, won’t be as hard on a floor as one with a 150-pound bullmastiff. Similarly, the floors in a household with many active children will likely take more of a beating than those in a kitchen belonging to a single senior.

As you begin your floor covering research, here is some info to consider when it comes to some of the most popular products.

  • Ceramic tile is a safe bet for nearly any style and budget. Options for color, size, shape and pattern are nearly limitless, so you can create the look that suits your tastes, whether you prefer country or contemporary.
  • Wood flooring has made a major comeback in both new and remodeled homes. From Petrie’s perspective, wood’s popularity has always been strong — especially oak, maple, cherry and mahogany.
  • Laminate flooring comes in a variety of styles imitating natural dark wood, light wood, bamboo or stone. Its affordability makes it attractive to many homeowners.
  • Vinyl flooring comes in either tiles or sheets. Available in a wide range of colors, designs and styles, vinyl is easy to cut. Vinyl sheets often require professional installation, but the tiles are a fairly easy do-it-yourself project.
  • Concrete can be a beautiful, low-maintenance and sustainable option for residential kitchens.

Whatever type of floor you choose make sure that it is installed by a trained and experienced professional.

Do You Need a General Contractor?

Do You Need a General Contractor?

Typically, if your job requires more than three subcontractors, a general contractor may be a good idea. A general contractor can free you from such burdens as maintaining a work schedule, obtaining necessary permits, and resolving disputes with suppliers. He or she will have more leverage than you do with subcontractors, since you’re only a one-time job. In a tight labor market, that could be important. A general contractor may get discounts at lumberyards and supply houses. Whether or not these savings are passed on to you or retained as part of the contractor’s fee is something that should be covered in the contract.

Don’t count on newspaper advertisements or the phone book. The best contractors don’t have to advertise. They get work through satisfied customers’ referrals. Consult friends and neighbors who have had work done. Call the Better Business Bureau or a local consumer-affairs agency for complaint histories of the contractors you’re considering. You’ll also want to check with the appropriate agency to see if the contractor is properly licensed and insured.  As a rule, licensing entails passing a test to measure competency, while registering involves only payment of a fee. When checking references, ask whether the contractor is insured and, if applicable, licensed to do the work. If, for example, someone gets hurt or your neighbor’s property is damaged by an unlicensed or uninsured contractor, you could wind up paying. It’s wise to know what your homeowners’ insurance covers before work starts.

How to Choose Gutters

How to Choose Gutters

Gutters aren’t glamorous. But unless there are long overhangs on your roof and your property is steeply graded, they’re essential for routing roof runoff away from your home. Installed properly, gutters keep basements and crawl spaces dry, preserve topsoil, protect siding from backsplash stain and rot and shield windows and doors from water infiltration and damage.

Which Material?

Gutters and downspouts – the vertical sections that send runoff down to the ground – are made out of aluminum, vinyl, galvanized steel, stainless steel and copper. Wood is also an option, but wood gutters are rare, except for restoration work. They’re also expensive, starting at about $12 per linear foot installed and, depending on the wood species, running as high as $20 per linear foot. Copper is another material usually reserved for classic restorations. It’s handsome, never rusts and never needs painting. But at about $15 per linear foot, it’s also expensive. Stainless-steel gutters are strong and rust-free, and maintain their high sheen for years. But as with other high-end custom materials, the drawback is cost: about $20 per linear foot. For this reason, galvanized-steel, aluminum or vinyl gutters are the predominant varieties. Steel and aluminum gutters are the types most homeowners choose. With prices ranging from about $10 to $15 per linear foot installed, galvanized-steel gutters are the most economical. Steel gutters can stand up to ladders and fallen branches better than aluminum. But even thick galvanized steel eventually rusts through. Aluminum gutters, however, never rust. And at $5 to $9 per linear foot installed, they’re still relatively inexpensive – two reasons why aluminum has the edge in popularity, Mike H. says “Ninety percent of what we install is aluminum,” Mike says. “If downspouts get plugged and water collects, you don’t have to worry about rust, as you do with steel.” When buying any metal gutters, choose the thickest you can afford – optimally .032 in. Though .027-, .025- and .019-in.-thick gutters are available, they won’t hold up as well. When buying aluminum gutters, insist on primary aluminum, which is the thickest and most consistent kind. Avoid secondary aluminum, a recycled product that’s often plagued by inconsistent thickness. Vinyl gutters, besides being impervious to rust and rot, are easiest to cut to size; you can install them yourself in a weekend or less. But vinyl can get brittle with age or in extreme cold. And while gutter sections cost just $3 to $5 per 10-ft. length, they still wind up at about $3 and $5 per linear foot installed when you factor in the cost of couplings, hangers and downspouts.

Sizing Up Your Options

Choosing new gutters also brings several other decisions that involve balancing convenience, esthetics and long life. Sectional versus seamless. All gutters are either sectional or seamless (or continuous). Sectional gutters are sold in pieces and installed as component systems. All do-it-yourself gutter systems are sectional, though pros install these, too. The sections themselves can be over 20 ft. long each or cut to any size with a hacksaw. Snap-in-place connectors join gutter sections to each other and to downspouts. All sectional systems have end caps, corner pieces and drop outlets for connecting to downspouts. The drawback to sectional systems is that all those seams can eventually invite leaks. Seamless gutters won’t leak at seams because there are none; sections join only at inside and outside corners and at downspout outlets. That’s why they’re the most popular configuration. Seamless gutters, made of aluminum, galvanized steel or copper, are extruded to custom lengths on site using a portable machine. But, as you might have guessed, seamless gutters must be installed by a contractor. Sizes and shapes. Most gutters come in several sizes and shapes called profiles. These include U shapes as well K configurations, in which the ogee-shaped front looks like the letter K.

Why You Need to Vent the Attic

Why You Need to Vent the Attic

A key benefit of venting the attic is that the approach is the same regardless of how creative your architect got with the roof. Because the roof isn’t in play here, it doesn’t matter how many hips, valleys, dormers, or gables there are. It’s also easier and often less expensive to pile on fiberglass or cellulose insulation at the attic floor to hit target R-values than it is to achieve a comparable R-value in the roof plane. The success of this approach hinges on the ceiling of the top level of the house being absolutely airtight before any insulation is installed. It’s also important to ensure that there isn’t anything in the attic except lots of insulation and air—not the Christmas decorations, not the tuxedo you wore on your wedding day, nothing. Attic space can be used for storage, but only if you build an elevated platform above the insulation. Otherwise, the insulation gets compressed or kicked around, which diminishes its R value. Also, attic-access hatches are notoriously leaky. You can build an airtight entry to the attic, but you should know that the more it is used, the leakier it gets. How do people get this simple approach wrong? They don’t follow the rules. They punch a bunch of holes in the ceiling, they fill the holes with recessed lights that leak air, and they stuff mechanical systems with air handlers and a serpentine array of ductwork in the attic. The air leakage from these holes and systems is a major cause of ice dams in cold climates and a major cause of humidity problems in hot climates. It’s also an unbelievable energy waste no matter where you live. Don’t think you can get away with putting ductwork in an unconditioned attic just because you sealed and insulated it. Duct sealing is faith-based work. You can only hope you’re doing a good-enough job. Even when you’re really diligent about air sealing, you can take a system with 20% leakage and bring it down to maybe 5% leakage, and that’s still not good enough. With regard to recessed lights and other ceiling penetrations, it would be great if we could rely on the builder to air-seal all these areas. Unfortunately, we can’t be sure the builder will air-seal well or even air-seal at all. So we have to take some of the responsibility out of the builder’s hands and think of other options. In a situation where mechanical systems or ductwork has to be in the attic space or when there are lots of penetrations in the ceiling below the attic, it’s best to bring the entire attic area inside the thermal envelope. This way, it’s not as big a deal if the ceiling leaks air or if the ducts are leaky.