Wednesday, September 28, 2011

When is it Time to Replace Your Roof?

Missing Granules.  It’s normal to have some granules dislodge from the shingles and collect in the gutters, especially when the roof is new. However, if granules are missing on the surface of the shingle, exposing the asphalt or fiberglass mat below, it can decrease the life of your roof. On aging shingles, areas of missing granules indicate it might be time to replace the roof.
BucklingA number of factors can cause shingles to buckle: improperly applied felt, wrinkled underlayment, poor roof ventilation or new shingles applied over an existing layer of shingles. If buckling is caused by wrinkled felt below the shingle, a roofing professional can simply remove the affected shingles, cut the wrinkle and replace the shingles. If the cause is poor ventilation, you’ll need to add ventilation to the attic space to allow heat and moisture to escape and keep attic temperatures lower.
If buckling shingles are left untreated, the shingles will begin to crack and tear and will need to be replaced immediately to avoid significant damage to the roof or roof deck which can lead to leaks and rotting. Consult a roofing professional for this job. If your roof has more than one layer of shingles, the top layer will eventually conform to and reveal any imperfections of the layer below. The only solution is a complete tear-off and re-roof.
Curling.  Curled edges on shingles can be a result of improper fastening (such as high nails or too few nails), poor roof ventilation or lack of a back-coating on the shingles. Curling is more common in organic shingles such as wood and will often start at the bottom edge of the shingle. However, it’s important to note that if roofing is installed on a cold day, some temporary curling or cupping is natural. As soon as the temperature increases the shingles should lay flat. If the problem persists, contact a roofing professional as soon as possible to avoid further damage to the roof.
Rotting.  Rotting is caused when the mat at the core of the shingle absorbs moisture. Rotting is more common when the mat is made from organic compounds. Replace rotted shingles with ones made from non-organic compounds, such as fiberglass, which resist moisture and are less likely to rot.
Detecting the warning signs of a rotting roof is easier than you’d think and doesn’t require a roofing expert. By simply standing on the ground and looking up at the roof, look for shingle irregularities. Depending upon the roof, these irregularities appear as discoloration, black spots or large spaces of missing color granules. Because granules protect the shingle from the harmful affects of UV light, without granules the asphalt is exposed to the elements and will turn black and begin to rot.
Blistering.  Blisters are sometimes found in non-organic shingles and are caused by trapped moisture in the shingle. Not all blistered shingles need to be replaced. But, if blistered shingles break open they can leave shingles susceptible to other damage such as granule loss, color fading and may even lead to water leakage and should be replaced. While blistering shingles are rarely visible from the ground, a punctured blistered shingle will be easily spotted because it will likely appear to have black spots – which are actually the exposed asphalt shingle.
Ceiling Spots.  Stains on your indoor ceilings may be caused by a leaking roof. Check your attic to find the source of the leak, and examine the rafters for leaks that travel away from the original source. On the exterior, check the chimney and vents for cracks in the flashing. Also, look for damaged shingles and check the eaves for ice dams that cause water to back up. It is advisable to have a roofing professional who is safely harnessed to the home, conducting checks on these key areas. 
Roofs with wood shake shingles present additional challenges. Like shingles, shakes can experience many of the same problems mentioned above and it may be time for a roof replacement. Other problems to watch for with wood shake shingles include:
Moss/Algae growth.  On a shingle roof, algae growth is unsightly but doesn’t affect the service life of the roof. With wood shake shingles, algae can reduce the long-term performance of the roof. Moss and algae growth are most coming - in damp or humid climates or on shaded areas of the roof. Replace damaged shakes with moss/algae resistant ones.
Splitting.  Splitting can be the result of natural aging or caused by stress, such as walking on the roof. The condition is aggravated by water infiltration in wood, cement tile or fiber?reinforced cement shakes and is compounded in damp climates with repeated freezing and thawing. Small cracks can be caulked, but larger ones required the damaged shakes to be replaced.
Termite damage.  Wooden shakes provide sustenance for termites. To exterminate termites, the home must be tented and fumigated. After the termites are gone, replace the affected shakes with new ones.
If it is time for your to get a quote:

How to Avoid Storm Chasers and Scam Artists

Roofing scams are not entirely uncommon, and are more frequent after a high wind or hail storm where communities receive significant roof damage. Particularly at risk are the elderly and handicapped who may have more trouble assessing the damage themselves. That means it is important to get background checks on your roofing contractors, to see if they are legitimate contractors as well as to assess the quality of their work.

Roof Scam Examples

Roof scams are usually initiated by a ’salesmen’ going door to door offering to do roofing repair for a low price. He may even say the crew has leftover material from a nearby job they just finished allowing them to pass some savings on to the next customer. The ’contractor’ will typically ask for cash up front, and will not leave legitimate contact information, references, or even show a business license. The roof will be sloppily finished or left unfinished as the person or crew leaves before the homeowner realizes what has happened leaving the victim with little or nothing to go on.

How to Avoid Being taken in a Roof Scam

Warning Signs:
  • You are being pressured to hire the company because of a great price that is a "limited time offer". Particularly if there has been wide spread damage in your area you should be wary of someone pushing a cheap rate.
  • You are asked to pay for a significant percentage or all of the job in advance.
  • The roofers are not from your local area. Storm chasers (Travelers) will follow the most recent damage looking to make some quick money with the opportunity brought by hail and thunderstorm damage, etc...
Tips to avoid being scammed:
  • Never agree to pay cash up front before the job is completed. This should be a strong indicator off the get go as legitimate contractors will not usually ask for cash up front.
  • Be sure to ask for references, and check to make sure they have their contractor license and insurance up to date.
  • Call the Better Business Bureau for your area (or the area of the company) to check if there have been any complaints against them.
  • Request a written contract with the details of the work to be done as well as the agreed price.
  • Always get a phone number and an address for the roofing ’company’ they represent. Call and/or visit the company to confirm that they do exist and employ the person you have talked to.
Lastly, remember that a scam will usually involve the work to be done immediately since the con man doesn't want to give you extra time to discover what they are. If the salesperson insists on starting the job as soon as possible be sure that you have checked the company out thoroughly before handing over money.

There is a website that will do the research for you and save you the time and hassle...

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Avoid Paying for Your Roof Twice!

Be careful not to be exposed to possibly paying for your roofing materials twice!

Each state has it's own version of a mechanics and materialmen lien law. These laws allow a contractor or material provider to lay claim of lien on your property if labor and materials are not paid for!

To prevent this potential problem -- ALWAYS require your contractor to present you with a Final Wiaver of Lien from both himself and any material supplier that delivered goods to your roofing project. Do not accept any excuses or believe that these documents "are not needed". Doing so can put yourself in a position of having to pay twice for your roofing project. This is an area of construction law that many property owners are unfamiliar with.

Specific State laws can found here:

Friday, September 16, 2011

Minnesota Roofing Contractors and Homeowners Beware: New Restrictions Apply to Negotiating Storm Damage Claims

When a storm occurs, many homeowners may not understand the affect that the storm had on their property.  As a result, over the past several years roofing contractors have increasingly made themselves available to homeowners and sought to be a resource for them when negotiating property damage claims with a homeowner’s insurance company.  Sometimes, these roofing contractors will offer as a part of their contract with a homeowner to exclusively negotiate a claim settlement on behalf of the homeowner with the homeowner’s insurance company.  Such practices by roofing contractors are now subject to some new restrictions.  A recent law prevents roofing contractors, who will be paid by the homeowner from the proceeds of the homeowner’s insurance policy, from advertising or promising that they will pay or rebate all or part of the homeowner’s insurance deductible.  See Minn. Stat. § 325E.66.
Another recent law requires that roofing contractors give homeowners 72 hours to cancel a contract for roofing goods or services if the goods or services are to be paid by the homeowner from the proceeds of his insurance policy and the insurance company denies the homeowner’s claim.  Prior to entering into a contract with a homeowner, the contractor is now obligated to provide the homeowner with a statement advising the homeowner of this right.  If the homeowner chooses to cancel the contract, the homeowner must give written notice of cancellation to the roofing contractor at the address stated in the contract within the required 72 hour timeframe. The homeowner’s notice of cancellation does not need to be in any particular form, but it must express the homeowner’s intent to not be bound by the contract.  For further information on a roofing contractor’s obligation to provide notice of a right to cancel residential roofing contracts and the requirements related to a homeowner providing notice of cancellation of the contract, see Minn. Stat. § 326B.811.

One final change affecting roofing contractors is that they are now required to have a public adjuster’s license if they want to negotiate and act as a representative for a homeowner with the homeowner’s insurance company.  The Department of Commerce and the Department of Labor & Industry view such representation and actions by roofing contractors to constitute the contractor acting as a public adjuster, and therefore, under these circumstances, require that roofing contractors hold a public adjuster’s license. See Bulletin 2010-4 issued by the Minnesota Department of Labor & Industry and the Minnesota Department of Commerce.
Roofing contractors should be careful to make sure they are compliant with all these new requirements that apply to them.  Likewise, homeowners should be aware of these changes if they are approached by roofing contractors who wish to perform roofing goods or services for a homeowner after a storm.  If you are a roofing contractor or a homeowner who is approached by a roofing contractor, it may be beneficial to have an attorney review the roofing contract prior to entering into the contract so that you are aware of both your rights and obligations pursuant to these new law changes and under the proposed contract.  In addition, it is possible for an attorney or public adjuster to step in on behalf of a homeowner to conduct the negotiations with an insurance company while still receiving the input and expertise of the contractor to assist in obtaining a fair resolution to the homeowner’s claim.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

7 Common Roofing Contractor Scams to Avoid and How to Avoid Them

Of all the components to your home, your roof is probably the most important and the most overlooked, until there is a problem.  Even a minor leak can cause major damage to your possessions, the integrity of your home’s structure and your peace of mind.  To make matters worse, by the time you notice a stain on the ceiling or a wet spot on the floor, the water has had time to penetrate your shingles, underlayment, sheeting, insulation, attic space, ceiling joists and sheetrock.  What’s really maddening is that the results of a roof leak are typically a lot easier to detect than the source of the leak itself.

All of this angst is fuel for unscrupulous roofing contractors to take advantage of you.  While there are many clever scams (we’ll expose 7 of them here), the basic motivation for all of them is the same; to separate you from your money.  All of them play on your fears and lack of insider knowledge to take advantage of your bad situation.

Roofing Scam #1 – The Ferris Wheel:
You try to be a savvy shopper by bringing in multiple contractors and getting multiple quotes.  One company’s quote is dramatically lower than everybody else’s.  You scrutinize the quotes and press the low-ball contractor to explain how his number can be so low.  Here comes the shine-o-la.  He may tell you that he got a better deal on materials or that the other guys are overstepping the needs of the project by replacing components that are not damaged.  Sounds good.  And just like the Ferris wheel at the country fair, he puts his price on the ground so you can easily climb on in.  But once the lap-bar comes down, you better hold on.

Now that he has your deposit and has removed enough of your roof to insure your commitment to the project, the price starts to go up.  “I’m going to have to replace more of your sheeting than we agreed to.”  “I’ve noticed some damage to your fascia boards and your trusses.”  “We can’t match your shingles so we’ll have to replace all of them.”  The price keeps going up until he has become the most expensive of all your quotes. But it’s too late to change teams.  If you refuse to pay, he just disappears and you have to find someone else.  Only now you have less money and less time to correct the problem.

How to avoid it:
Get local referrals for any roofing contractor you choose.  If he hasn’t done work for your neighbors, he doesn’t belong on your roof.  Get your quote written in contract form before you let work commence.  If he is too eager to get started it is usually so you don’t have time to change your mind until you’re up in the air.  Never agree to pay more than 30% at the start of the project.
Rule of thumb – avoid the temptation to go with the lowest bid.  The cost of structural damage to your home, or damage to your property or losing a potential buyer will always surpass a few dollars for the right contractor.

Roofing Scam #2 – The Poor Mouth:
Your contractor says, “I’m only charging 8% mark-up on your roof.”  This scam is designed to give you the feeling that your poor, salt-of-the-earth roofing contractor isn’t really in business to make money.  Why would he want you to think that?  Probably so you will trust him enough to give him the job out of pity and so you will never challenge any of his pricing.  Now he can overcharge you for materials and labor too.

But the worst part of this scam is that it is ultimately a ploy to get you to pay out 92% of the contract before the work is done.  You believe he is only make 8 percent so naturally the rest of the money you give him will be for hard costs.  He leads you to believe that he wont make a dime until the very end of the project.  But once he’s got your money, he may be hard to find.

How to avoid it:
Remember that his profit percentage isn’t your concern.  Even if he tells you he is doing your job at cost as a favor or just to take the work from his competitor, it has no impact on your cost or your finished project.  Get multiple quotes and award your job based on reputation, like work and price, not on which contractor has the most sympathetic story.  Also, get a “lien release” in your contract.  This will protect you if your contractor fails to pay his suppliers with the money you pay him.

Rule of Thumb – Any contractor that is trying to leverage your sympathy over his own reputation is probably deficient in the latter.

Roofing Scam #3 – Lost In Translation:
You sign a deal with a contractor and work begins on your new roof or repair.  On day three of the job you notice some new faces in the crew.  A few more show up on day four.  By the end of the week it seems like a completely different company is working on your job.  You call the original contractor and he explains that they got called onto a big emergency job and his friend, brother or cousin is helping out at your house.

About the time your second payment is due, the job has become much more involved and expensive.  The original contractor is missing in action and the friend, brother, cousin is explaining that the complexities of your repair are causing an unforeseeable cost overrun.  He can stop all work while you wait for contractor 1 to return and explain it or you can give him the extra money to keep the project rolling.  When you finally track down contractor 1 he says, “you shouldn’t have approved the extra work without notifying me.”  “But I thought he was working for you.”  You begin to feel like nobody is speaking the same language any more.

How to avoid it:
The best practice with any contractor you hire to work on you house is to demand proof of insurance and make sure it is part of the contract.  This requires your contractor to verify the names and status of every person who will work on your house before the job begins.  It is worth a phone call to the insurance agent to make sure everybody on your job is covered and that the policy is up to date.  Otherwise they are your liability if they get injured on your property.  Now, when the friend, brother, cousin shows up, you’ll have a really good reason not to let them on your property.

Rule of thumb – The only reason contractors use this ploy is to pass a gullible customer from one scammer to the next.  Always know who is working at your home.

Roofing Scam #4 – The Yard Sale
This is one of the most insidious tactics of all.  You come home from work on day 1 off your roofing project to find shingles all over your yard, in the bushes out in the street, covering your driveway.  There are also big pieces of plywood everywhere.  There’s a gaping hole in your roof and all your Christmas decorations are flagging in the breeze.  The problem is you signed on to have a minor leak repaired and now you are committed to an entire roof replacement.

The contractor tells you that he burned through the materials deposit paying for all the labor from the day’s activities.  He then informs you that he can “stop now” or start a new contract with an even bigger deposit.  You protest and say, “I thought you were just going to fix a leak.”  He replies, “that’s what I’m doing.”

How to avoid it:
Follow your contractor through the assessment inspection so you’ll see exactly what work must be done to remediate your roof.  Don’t agree to any nonspecific language in the contract like “patch hole” or “replace damaged sheeting.”  You contract should clarify “replace two 4’x8’ sheets of plywood and 64 sf of slate grey asphalt shingles.”  Your estimate should be very precise and your contract should stipulate that nothing beyond the approved scope of work can be performed without prior authorization in writing.

Rule of thumb – This scam is usually targeted at the elderly and the scammers are typically not with a local company.  Check for local references and for a valid business license issued by your city.

Roofing Scam #6 – Storm Chasers:
A tornado, severe windstorm or hailstorm can trigger a feeding frenzy among roofing contractors.  Unless you’ve been through this phenomenon you’d never believe it.  Like the Oklahoma Land Rush of 1889, roofers are flying from door to door trying to claim houses and hammer their signs into the front yard.  The method that they use to brand their conquests and signal to the other storm chasers that “this house is taken” is the ubiquitous blue tarp.

If you are a home owner who just watched you roof fly away, you may even feel lucky that someone cares enough about your family to come out in bad weather and stabilize your home.  The storm chasers want you to feel grateful and ultimately loyal to them for being there.  Their plan is for you to tell your homeowners insurance agent that you’ve already found a contractor so they can bypass the usual approval process.  Then they run up your repair bill and rip you off and your insurance company too.

How to avoid it:
DO NOT LET ANYONE ON YOUR ROOF AFTER A STORM.  First of all, the damage has already been done.  Second of all, you can’t properly vet a contractor in the lull between thunderstorms.  Third of all, what happens when you give a total stranger with no liability insurance permission to climb upon and ultimately fall off of your roof?  Call your insurance agent and tell him that you have visible damage to your home.  Your agent will have a pre-approved list of contractors and first responders that he will notify.  Your agent will tell you whom to expect.

Even if it’s a day or two after the storm and you get a knock at the door from someone offering to do a free roof inspection, don’t fall into the trap.   Call your agent first and get an approved contractor from him if you have concerns about your home and feel you should file a claim.

Rule of thumb:  Any contractor who comes directly to you after a storm instead of through your agent is probably not an approved resource for a reason.  Just because someone has a pickup truck, extension ladder and a tarp it doesn’t make them a certified roofing contractor.

Roofing Scam #7 – Your Lucky Day
Knock knock.
      Whose there?
Roofing scam artist ready to sell you a roof you don’t need for money you don’t have.
      Oh, come on in.

If only it was that easy to spot the roofing scammer.  But they usually have a little slier approach than that.  The “luck day” scam is designed to make you feel like you have the incredible good fortune to be at home when they knock on the door or call.  There are many different opening lines but all of them lead to you signing a contract for roofing repair or replacement that you may not need.  Here are some of the most common pitches:
  • There have been a lot of storms in our area and I can offer you a free roof inspection with no commitment on your part.  And if there is any damage I can file the insurance claim for you.
  • How would you like to get a new roof and have your insurance company pay for it?
  • My company is expanding into your area and we’re offering a promotional, free, 17-point roof evaluation.
  • It’s almost time to replace your roof.  Wouldn’t it be smart to extend your warranty?
  • I have a crew working in your neighborhood and we’ve got some material overruns that are already paid for.  I could have a technician replace your torn, curled and missing shingles as soon as this afternoon.
  • No matter what this guy has to say to get on your roof, the too-good-to-be-true offer will end up with the discovery of major damage and some arm-twisting to get you to hire him for more work.

How to avoid it:
Don’t agree to anything on your front porch.  Tell the salesman that you would like some information about his company and the promotional offer so that you can check them out for yourself.  Inform him that you will call to set an appointment if his references are satisfied and your insurance agent agrees that his company is reputable.

Rule of thumb – If a dentist knocked on your door and offered to look in your mouth for free you wouldn’t let him.  Door to door roofers know that the fastest way to your wallet is to climb on your roof.

The roofing business has been around as long as people have lived in houses.  Even though it is a very competitive category, most roofing companies are completely above board.  There are thousands of reputable roofing companies all across America that offer great service at fair prices and are completely worthy of your trust.  The companies that resort to the tactics you just read about tend to move around, change names and rarely last very long.

The roofing contractors referred on are pre-screened. You may have to wait 24 hours, but rest-assure - the roofers have been verified in having General Liability Insurance, Workman's Comp Insurance and Licensed (some states do not require Workmen's Comp or a License and, if that is the case, it will be noted in the referral statement.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Con Artists....

Scams in the construction industry, especially in the home improvement business, have become almost legendary in the last few decades. Con artists posing as qualified contractors, and often target the elderly, have made national news. Even so, unwary homeowners continue to be taken in by these pseudo contractors, who often promise unrealisically low prices or use scare tactics to close the deal. In these cases, the homeowner typically ends up with either an incomplete or a low quality improvement project - and several hundred, or even thousands of dollars less.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Roofing Contractor Warning Signs!

  • Unsoliciated phone calls or visits
  • High-pressure sales pitches or scare tactics
  • Large down payments
  • New verifiable address and phone number
  • Unwillingness to give you a price
  • Insurance or licensing information you cannot verify
Don't rely on a handshake!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Why should/should not a roofer have workman's comp?

Please let me know how you feel about roofers having workman's comp. I find many of them do not feel it is necessary. Does this leave the homeowner at risk??