shingle roof on townhome

The Ugly Truth That Contractors Know About Your Home

It was 1999 when the reality that homeowners don’t look at their own homes was illustrated to me in a potential dispute with a client.

The crew had just finished the roof on the small townhome and were sweeping off the loose shingle granules and cleaning up.  I had arrived to ensure the client was satisfied and to collect the final payment.

“How do you like the way the new roof looks, ma’am?” I asked.
“Well it looks real nice, but you guys messed up one piece.”  She replied.
Surprised, I queried, “What piece is that?” as I walked backwards into the street to get a better view of the front of the townhome.
She followed me into the street and pointed to the roof, “that part right there.  It’s all crooked.  It was NOT like that before, so YOU guys did it.”

It was then that I realized something, but rather than react I wanted to be clear about what exactly she was referring to.  So I called up to the foreman on the roof, Adrian Banks.  “Adrian, would you walk over and point to the flashing on the firewall for me?”

Adrian looked at me quizzically.  I knew what he was thinking but I didn’t want him to let the cat out of the bag by saying anything.
“Just humor me for a second!”  I yelled up to him, smiling (to put him at ease that I wasn’t accusing him of anything).
Adrian did just that and walked over and pointed to the flashing on the firewall.

“Ma’am, is what Adrian’s pointing to what you’re concerned about not being the same as it was before we started the roof?”

“Yes,” she said, “it’s all crooked now and I know it wasn’t like that before!”

As gently as I could, so as not to hurt her feelings, I explained, “Well, ma’am, that’s not your roof.  That’s your neighbor’s roof.  We didn’t work on your neighbor’s roof.  This is your roof over here where the guys are cleaning up.”

shingle roof on Yorktown townhome
Just a recent townhome that we installed a new roof on (for illustrative purposes). Not the one in the story. These aren’t the droids you’re looking for….move along….

She was embarrassed, there was no way around that part as she admitted, “Well, I guess it was like that before, then.”

 I had one thing in my favor during this exchange.  It’s an ugly truth that contractors know about your home that you may not believe.  The truth is that you rarely spend much time looking at the outside of your home…or even the inside for that matter.   We are so familiar with the homes we live in we do not look at them with a discriminating eye, we do not see how they’ve weathered or aged over the years.  We do not see where the maintenance is needed.  

So, when a third party is invited to come and inspect or to give an estimate of repairs or a proposal for improvements, what they see as a contractor may be very different than what we see.   The low cost of modern digital photography has all but eliminated the disputes contractors used to have with owners about “how it was before,” as contractors can take many documentation photos for no cost before the job is ever started.  

I often share my pictures that I’ve taken of the client’s home with them in our discussion of what needs to be done on the property.  All too often they are shocked at the things that I am showing them even though I can walk them right to the area and show them in person.  I’ve had several occasions where the homeowner didn’t realize I was showing them pictures of their house!  This speaks directly to the fact that we are so familiar with our own homes, living there day after day, that we don’t SEE the reality of what is actually going on right under our noses as they age and wear.

The bigger issue that arises from this fact however is unmet expectations.  Unmet expectations lead to friction and trouble.  If the owner is contracting a project with an inaccurate view of the current condition of the property, it may be possible that their expectations of the finished project may be inaccurate.  This is one of the reasons that it is so critical for the contractor to take the time to write a detailed scope of work in their agreement and discuss it with the owner to ensure that the picture in the contractor’s head is the same as the picture in the owner’s head of what is included in the agreement and almost as important, what is NOT included


roof hail

Client Questions: How do I Select a Roofing Contractor When I Have Hail Damage?

A storm of hail this size can devastate a roof
A storm of hail this size can devastate a roof

A friend recently wrote me a question about how to evaluate roofing contractors to determine who she should use to replace her hail damaged shingle roof: 

Hey Jim,

I have a question for you.

Our house in Colorado Springs needs a new roof due to hail damage. I contacted three Roofers and got their estimates.Two work with USAA and the other with the manager of our house. He has the lowest estimate 6.000$. The other two are the same….around 11.000$.
What do we have to look for when picking one of them? I know one roofer is going to use a thicker pad for underneath….but otherwise….

This is a great question! My response was as follows:

I would be cautious of a roofer with that low of a price. When it comes to hail damage, ensure that you are using an established local company that will be around for years to come after all the storm chasers leave town or you might find yourself paying for repairs in the future that should be covered by warranties of contractors who are no longer in town.

Due diligence:

  • Drive by the place of business and put your eyeballs on it. Is it a legit business? Will they be there in ten years?  You’re about to spend $11,000 on something, don’t you think you might want to visit the business that’s providing it?  Are you concerned enough about your home to knock on their door and ask to be shown around as a part of your process of evaluating contractors? Trust me, the legitimate contractor would jump at the chance to show you their office, even if it’s unannounced.
  • Get online and go to the website of the shingle manufacturer of the shingle they are proposing to use (Certainteed is my favorite). Are they listed as an approved installer? This isn’t a deal breaker but it does indicate how much support you can expect from the shingle manufacturer if there is a product problem. It also is a good indicator as to how committed they are to their trade.
  • In my opinion the BBB is less than worthless, but Angie’s List can be helpful. Also, don’t exclude Facebook or other social media! Put the names on there and ask if anyone has any experience with these roofing contractors. Use your network: it is the best and most honest source of unfiltered info!


I would be less concerned about the felt paper used and more concerned (especially in Colorado) if they are installing ice and water shield at the eaves and valleys. I would also ensure they are removing and replacing all old flashing with new flashing (don’t fall for the “there’s nothing wrong with it” argument- nails don’t go back in the same holes. ) Also: all vents should be replaced, for the same reason as the flashing.

Here are some more articles I’ve written that discuss the technical side in more depth:

Should Flashing Be Replaced When Installing a New Roof?

Should you add a Ridgevent when you have a new roof installed?

Selecting Shingles for Quality and Price

What will it be like when they replace my roof?

Why is checking out roofing contractors so important, especially when it relates to hail damage?

There is an entire contractor industry that is devoted to chasing hail nationwide. Most companies are based out of Texas and have computer monitoring systems that they pay for that alert them to any and all reports of hail nationwide. I have met many of these contractors and their logistics are quite impressive if you can get past the fact that so many of them are scam artists.

YouTube video

YouTube video

YouTube video


new copper valley on slate roof in norfolk, virginia

Slate Roof Repair in Norfolk Virginia

Slate roofs can be beautiful and last for over 100 years! But NOT if you repair then with tar and improper flashing. Most shingle roofers have no idea and don’t posses the proper tools to service slate roofs. We do!

Not too long ago I answered the question if you should replace your slate roof in Norfolk or Newport News here: Should you replace your leaking slate roof?

These pictures show the story of the leaking metal valley on the slate roof that caused all the interior damage and how it was replaced by a new copper valley.  No roof replacement necessary, just a proper repair!

Here are some more articles on roofing:

Selecting Shingles for Price & Quality in Hampton Roads

What will it be like when they replace my roof?

Should I get a ridgevent?

A new roof in the Kiln Creek neighborhood

How to find a roof leak

Should you replace your leaking slate roof?

Only the lucky people see the leaks

damage from leaking valley on slate roofleaking valley on slate roofleaking valley on slate roofvalley metal being replaced with copperslate installed after valley metal has been replacednew copper valley on slate roof in norfolk, virginia

Buckingham Slate Roof in the Ghent Neighborhood of Norfolk

Does Closing the Bedroom Door of an Unused Room Save Energy?


Actually, it may also lead to additional health risks, according to Home Energy

Your home’s heating and cooling system is designed to keep your entire home at a constant temperature.  If you close a bedroom door, that puts that space under pressure and the system will be forced to draw air in from other areas.  These types of air leaks are what can be found with a home energy audit. You can find some more Energy Saving Tips here:

Want to learn more about a Home Energy Audit?  check out the video!

YouTube video


Kitchen Island Cooktop in Newport News Virginia

New Kitchen Island Granite Countertop with Cooktop

The cook top was as old as the house. The house was built the same year she had graduated High School: 1986.
She loved to cook and for her it was a labor of love for her family. She had invited her in laws and parents and extended family from Virginia, North Carolina, New York and Missouri to come to Thanksgiving Dinner.
And that’s when the burner died… And then the second burner died (they say these things come in threes… and she wasn’t interested in what was next)
Jen needed a new cook top and she needed one fast! After exhaustive research and a couple favors, Jen decided upon a Kitchenaid Glass top gas cook top with a telescoping downdraft. She also found a beautiful granite remnant at the local granite fabricator that was just right size.  The key to selecting a piece of granite is to see full size slabs: NEVER select your granite from small samples (see video below).
She explained to the fabricator that she wanted the the new granite countertop to extend 8 inches more on the left side of the island and 20  inches on the right side with a flared diameter to give her more food prep area. To do this, the fabricator installed steel braces to support the weight of the stone overhang.
The house had gas service but the original cook top had been electric. Jen very much preferred cooking with gas and so a new gas line had to be run to the new cook top.
In the end, everyone was thrilled with the results and Jen maintained her status as everyone’s favorite Chef in the family!
New Kitchen Island Countertop in Newport News Virginia

New Kitchen Island Countertop in Newport News, VA





YouTube video

Granite Slab in Custom Tiled Shower Remodel in Yorktown, Virginia

Granite Slab in Custom Shower Remodel

Stewart Diesel of York Granite shared this picture with me as he was putting in a new countertop for the kitchen island and gas cook top with telescoping downdraft I was installing for my wife.

Granite Slab in Custom Tiled Shower Remodel in Yorktown, Virginia
click on the picture to see full size

This is a full slab of granite as the back wall for a custom shower. Fantastic!