Homeowner Help

How To Clean Your Own Gutters

Gutter cleaning is a necessary evil for many homeowners.  Gutter guards can be expensive, and are not always effective.  As a homeowner, if you choose to attempt cleaning your own gutters, it is best to be safe, and only do what you feel comfortable with.  There are countless accidents involving ladders every year, and some of those injuries came from homeowners trying to clean their own gutters.  If you are not comfortable on ladder, or if your roof is high and difficult to get to, it may be best to call a professional.

Equipment Needed For Gutter Cleaning

You will need a sturdy ladder that will reach at least a foot or more above the gutter.  You will also need a good pair of heavy-duty rubber gloves.  A bucket and/or tarp is optional.

Ladder tips

When setting up a ladder, make sure the ladder feet are on level ground.  Make sure the ground is firm so one of the feet won’t sink in, causing the ladder to tip to the side.  Make sure the ladder is set up at a proper angle so it won’t slide backwards as you are climbing up.  Once at the top of the ladder, don’t overreach.  If you lean too far to one side, the ladder could easily start sliding, causing a potentially serious fall.  Keep your body positioned in front of the ladder as much as possible.

Gutter Cleaning Tips

It would be wise to wear heavy-duty rubber gloves, especially if the gutter debris is wet.  Depending on how long it has been since your gutters were last cleaned, you may notice some rather disgusting waste in the gutters, so it is important to keep your hands clean.  You may encounter dead animals such as bats, birds, mice, and other rodents, mosquito larvae, ants, worms, along with various forms of animal excrement.  I don’t know about you, but that is not the kind of stuff I want my bare hands touching.  The bacteria and other microscopic creatures found in the animal waste and other decomposing leaves found in dirty gutters can cause numerous physical ailments, some serious, if you become infected.  Take precautions when handling the gutter debris.

Another reason to wear gloves is to protect your hands from cuts.  There are sharp edges on the gutters, screws and nails, metal flashing, and other roofing materials that can slice or pierce your hands.  I have had my heavy-duty gloves ruined because of sharp edges.  A cut hand could easily lead to an infection when dealing with the gutter debris.

While a bucket is nice to use, it is one more thing to hold when up on a ladder.  It would be safer to hold the ladder with one hand, and use your other hand to clean the gutter.  If you do not want to throw half-rotten leaves down on a beautiful flowerbed or shrubs.  You could lay down a tarp in the yard, or try to throw the debris in a pile that you can easily clean up later. how to clean gutters

Most of what is in the gutter is organic plant matter, that will biodegrade, it is not harmful to toss down into your shrubs and leave it there.  Be aware that along with the organic debris, you may also be scooping up nails, shingle granules, or other type of debris.  This may not be what you would want thrown down into your yard.  If you do need to throw anything into the grass, be careful to clean up afterwards to avoid injuries from stepping on nails.

Don’t forget to make sure the outlets and gutter elbows are clean.  Often a gutter will be clean, but the downspout and or elbows will be packed solid with waste.   If you encounter severely blocked downspouts, you may wish to call a professional for help, depending on how difficult it will be for you to dismantle and reassemble the elbows and downspouts.

You could test the outlets and downspouts for proper flow by using a hose if you wish.

While you are examining the gutters, check the seams to make sure they are properly sealed to prevent leaks.

Take note the time of year you are cleaning your gutters, and how full they were.  Depending on the location of your house, and the type of trees nearby, you may need to clean the gutters more than once a year.

The money you save cleaning your own gutters may not be worth the risk of serious injury or death from a fall.  Make sure you only attempt to clean your gutters after following every precaution.  Be Safe!

How Much Does Slate Roof Repair Cost?

A slate roof can be not only aesthetically pleasing, but also durable and and long-lasting if properly maintained.  Finding an honest roofer qualified in slate repair is essential in order to have your slate roof last as long as possible.  You will also need a slate repair expert to properly assess your roof and let you know when your slate roof can no longer be repaired, but may need to be replaced.  There are a number of factors that will affect how much your slate roof repair will cost including region, type of slate, roof height and pitch, and amount of slates to be replaced along with other considerations.  Here are five factors that will affect to price of your slate roof repair.

1. The amount of slates to be replaced.

This may sound obvious, but make sure when you are comparing estimates, that you are comparing apples to apples.  Price differences in the estimates simply be because one roofer’s count for slates needing replacement is different from another roofer’s count.

2. The type and/or style of slate being replaced.

There are different types of slate that come from different regions.  A roofing contractor’s cost will be affected by how much the slate needed for repairs will cost.  Slate costs can vary by location and by supplier.  Reclaimed slate may possibly be an option to keep costs down, and is sometimes preferable as it will blend in better with an older roof.

If the slates will need to be cut into a specific design, labor costs may be slightly higher.

3.  Height and pitch of the roof.

The complexity of the roof and how easy or hard the roof is to access may affect the cost of the repair.  Some roofs may require scaffolding, a high-reach, or other additional equipment to complete the repairs that could greatly affect the cost.

4.  Regional factors.

The location of your property can affect your repair costs.  The repair costs in cities and higher income regions tend to be higher than in rural and low income areas.  While a roofer may provide free estimates, travel time may factor into the cost depending on where you are located in the contractor’s service area.

5.  The roofing contractor’s specialty.

Whether the roofer specializes in slate repair or not can possibly be a price factor.  How the roofing contractor plans to do the repairs may also factor into the cost.  Generally, a roofer specializing in slate repair will either use slate hooks, or attach the replaced slate in the seam and then flash the seam with aluminum or copper flashing.  Costs may be higher to properly repair a slate than a roofer that “face-nails” (attaches the slate with an exposed nail), or uses some other means for repair such as roofing cement.  On the other hand, some roofers may use repair methods not recommended and still charge higher prices.

The only way to accurately know what your slate roof will cost to be repaired is to get multiple estimates from honest, qualified slate repair contractors.  You can’t just ask your neighbor what they paid for their roof to be repaired, as your roof may be evaluated differently as detailed by the factors above.  As you have your roof maintained regularly, repair costs can vary not only because of the factors mentioned above, but also because of extreme weather conditions, tree damage or other unpredictable events.



How To Avoid A Roofing Scam

roofing scamsRoofing Contractor Scams and How To Avoid Them

Contractor scams are common, and roofing scams are often easier to pull off on unsuspecting homeowners.  With roofs being high and sometimes out of sight from the ground, it is easier to not complete work as promised by the roofer, because the homeowner will never see it.  Storm damage, which often requires rapid action by a homeowner to prevent further interior damage, often causes a frantic homeowner to make unwise decisions when choosing a contractor.

Here are a few different types of roofers who take advantage of homeowners, and how to prevent yourself from being ripped-off.

Fake Roofer

A fake roofer is not a roofer at all.  He is the ultimate scammer.  He poses as a roofer, but most likely has no roofing experience.  He will go door-to-door claiming he is working in the area and sees roof damage on your home.  He will offer a reduced repair rate, and try to get a downpayment (usually cash), promising to come back and do the work.  He may have fake credentials- or even use another roofer’s information in order to look legitimate.

Incompetent Roofer

This type of roofer isn’t necessarily trying to scam- he may be just a bad at business management and/or have poor roofing skills.  He may misrepresent his skills.  He may “talk big” about his experience, but in reality, he doesn’t know much about proper roof maintenance, repairs, or replacement at all.  The homeowner thinks they are getting a qualified roofer to fix a roof leak, but is “scammed” because the roof is not professionally repaired.

An incompetent roofer may possibly be doing roofing as a side business, and may not even be insured.  The incompetent roofer may possibly have personal debt.  He will sign up many jobs and use the downpayments to pay off previous debts.  He will then not be able to complete the work because of lack of funds.

Dishonest Roofer

A dishonest roofer will lie about the true condition of your roof.   He may not do the work as specified in the contract.  A dishonest roofer may substitute cheaper materials than specified in the contract.  A dishonest roofer may actually intentionally cause additional damage to your roof in order to get more work.  Typically, a dishonest roofer will over-promise and under-deliver.

Another type of dishonest roofer can often be a storm chaser.  A storm chaser is a roofer who uses the opportunity of storm damage to gain business.  A storm chaser will quickly canvass a neighborhood after a storm, looking for work.  Not all storm chasers are dishonest.  Many storm chasers are qualified, legitimate roofing companies, who work with insurance agencies.  They are aggressive because they are just trying to stay ahead of the roofing competition in the area.  On the other hand, some storm chasing roofers are only looking for a quick buck.  Some storm chasers may not be properly licensed, insured, or experienced.  A storm chaser may claim to be connected to an insurance company and try to get a downpayment, while promising that the homeowner will get paid back by the insurance company.  They may promise that you will pay nothing for your roof, and not even have to pay for the deductible.  They may do inferior work, or simply take the money and not do the work at all.  Some storm chasers may not be roofers at all, but may only be collecting jobs and passing them on to legitimate roofers for a finder’s fee.

How to minimize the chances of being ripped-off by a roofing scam

These tips won’t guarantee that you won’t be taken by a dishonest roofer, but may help minimize your chances of losing money to a roofing scam.

1.  Don’t be pressured to make an immediate decision.

Don’t be intimidated by a high-pressure sales pitch or a “special one-day only deal”.  Door-to-door sales is a legitimate method of advertising, but be wary of a roofer who comes to your door unsolicited, claiming you have roof damage that needs to be corrected immediately, or offering special cash-only deals.

A major roof leak or storm damage can cause panic, but don’t make a split-second decision due to your own desperation.

2.  Find out if they are a legitimate and legal business.

Not all roofers advertise on the internet, but most do.  Even roofers who don’t have a website will most likely have a Google business listing, or be listed somewhere on social media, or in an online directory, unless their business is brand new.  Many states have some form of contractor licensing or registration. Many states also require liability insurance. Ask for the roofing company’s credentials and verify with the proper agency.

3.  Check referrals.

Ask neighbors and friends who they recommend as a roofer.  If you feel unsure about a roofer, ask for a few referrals from your neighborhood.  Follow up on the referrals.  Check online for any negative reviews.  Keep in mind that not all negative reviews are legitimate, just as all positive reviews may not necessarily be legitimate.

4.  Get several estimates.

Don’t just rely on one estimate if you are unsure.  Get at least 2 or 3 estimates.  Don’t judge on price alone.

5.  Read the contract.

Make sure you are comfortable with the terms of the contract.  Ask for a warranty if the roofer hasn’t offered one.

6.  Only give a downpayment to a contractor you fully trust.  Don’t pay in full until the job is completed.

A partial downpayment for a larger job is not unreasonable.  One-third of the total amount is a common downpayment request.  This often gives a contractor reassurance that he won’t get scammed by the homeowner, and often provides funds to purchase materials.  If you feel uneasy about a contractor, don’t give him a dime.  Don’t provide full payment until you are satisfied the work is completed as specified in the contract.


When To Replace Your Slate Roof

How To Know When To Replace Your Slate Roof

A natural stone slate roof can be a long-lasting, aesthetically-pleasing feature of any home.   A slate roof can generally last at least 80 to 100 years, with many lasting much more than that.  There are a number of factors that will extend or limit the lifespan of a slate roof.  The type of slate, the quality of the slate, roof pitch, and weather conditions are some factors that can affect how long a slate roof will last.  These factors also may affect how much maintenance a slate roof will require.

A big question homeowners with slate roofs often have is if their slate roof should continue to be repaired, or be replaced.  Roofers will argue about when a slate roof has come to the end of its life.  Roofing contractors that specialize in asphalt shingles may be more prone to recommend a roof replacement sooner than necessary in order to get a roof job.  Home inspectors may also not be able to give a proper analysis about the true condition of a slate roof.  Inspectors tend to lean toward the negative when assessing a slate roof.  It is important to get an assessment from a qualified slate specialist to more accurately determine the condition of a slate roof.

Here are three basic ways to help in determining the condition of your slate roof, and to help decide if your slate roof needs to be replaced.

Are the rows straight?

Uneven, wavy rows, or a large amount of sliding slates usually show that the nails are failing.  This is generally an indication that steel nails were used.  Over time, the steel nails will rust and eventually break, allowing slates to become dislodged.  A slate roof in this condition can be possibly maintained, but there may be a tipping point when the amount of slates sliding doesn’t warrant repairs any longer.

Do you have excessive flaking and/or broken slates?

Slates can flake for quite a while without causing problems.  At a certain point, the slate will become too thin, and will either be porous, or easily break in poor weather conditions.

If you have many slates breaking at diagonal angles, you probably have “ribbon” slates.  These are a lower quality slate that have a “ribbon” mineral inclusion that weakens the slate.  These types of slate can often be spotted from the ground.  A ribbon slate roof is not necessarily a bad thing as the quality of some ribbon slates is better than others.  At a certain point in the life of a ribbon slate roof, the slates may start to break at a faster than normal rate.  This may be the time to consider replacement.

When to replace a slate roof

What are your maintenance costs from year to year?

Depending on the size of your roof, location, weather, trees, roof age, and other factors, you may be spending hundreds or thousands of dollars yearly or every other year in slate roof maintenance.  Several hundred dollars a year to maintain an older slate roof is to be expected.  When that number jumps to over a thousand dollars every year, you may need to consider the costs for continued repair versus the cost for replacement.

Slate can be quite expensive compared to shingles, although a new slate roof will last much longer, and be more aesthetically pleasing, and complement a historical home much better than shingles.  If you wish to keep slate on your roof, but the high replacement costs are a factor, one cost-effective option may be to replace a failing slate roof in phases.  Concentrate on the worst side first.  Replace other areas as the budget allows.

Looking for a trusted slate roofing contractor?  CONTACT US!

How Much Does It Cost To Repair A Shingle Roof?


Factors Affecting Shingle Repair Costs

Shingle damage can happen a from high winds, a falling tree, a hail storm, or a number of other various and often bizarre ways.  Sometimes the damage is enough to involve your insurance company.  Other times, the damage is minimal, won’t reach your insurance deductible, and can just be handled through a roofing contractor.

There are a number of variables that will affect how much a shingle repair job will cost.  There is not one set price.  Here are some ways that a roofing contractor will come up with a repair cost for your damaged shingle roof:

Extent of the damage

The amount of shingles damaged will be an obvious factor.  Since many roofers have a minimum service charge, you may have to pay the same price for repairing just a shingle or two, as you would for 10 or more, depending on the roofer.

If the roof deck has been compromised, the repair costs will also be affected.  Once again, different roofers will handle a damaged roof deck in different ways.  Some may charge to replace a full sheet of plywood for a small puncture due to a falling tree.  Others may recommend just a spot repair to the deck for damage that small.

If one section of approximately 20 shingles is blown off, a roofer may charge less to fill in that section, than if 20 shingles were randomly blown off across your roof.  Less labor is involved in repairing one section consisting of 20 shingles, than in repairing 20 individual shingles scattered across a roof.

Roof Pitch and Height

The steepness and height of a roof will affect the cost of a shingle repair.  A ranch style house with a roof 10 feet off the ground will most likely get a lower repair estimate than a 3 story steep-pitched shingle roof.  The amount of difficulty to access the damaged area may also increase the repair cost.


In regions with a higher cost of living, you can expect to pay more, while in areas where the economy is struggling, most likely your shingle repair costs will be lower.

Competition/Going Rate

Depending on how many roofers are in your area, you may either benefit with a lower shingle repair cost, or be subject to a higher cost.  Sometimes competition drives prices down, while other times roofers stick to a going rate in the area, or will charge more if they are busy and don’t really need the work.

Materials Cost

Most asphalt shingle roofs are either 25-year 3-tab, or 30-year architectural.  If your asphalt shingle roof consists of a different style, or an odd color, your shingle repair cost may be more.

So, what will MY shingle repair costs be anyway?

Because of the factors mentioned above, it is impossible to give an actual cost that you will pay for a shingle repair.  You can’t trust online articles that show national averages, because there are just too many variables when it comes to estimating a shingle repair.  The national and local averages you find online may be more accurate for full shingle roof replacements, but not for determining how much your shingle repair will cost.

Your best option for finding how much your shingle repair will cost is to get multiple estimates (make sure they are free estimates) from reputable roofing contractors in your area and weigh your options.  Keep in mind that most roofers will have a minimum charge no matter how many shingles need to be replaced.  This minimum charge may range anywhere from $75.00 to $250.00.



How To Find A Good Slate Roofer – How To Choose a Reliable Slate Repair Contractor

Finding a reliable roofer can be a difficult task.  Finding a reliable slate roofer can be even more frustrating.  There are many roofing companies that offer slate repair services.  That does not mean that they will do the slate repair correctly.  That does not mean they will be able to properly evaluate your roof.  Some roofers, who specialize in shingle replacement, will falsely tell a homeowner that their slate roof needs to be replaced (with an asphalt shingle roof, of course) just to get a shingle job.

Slate roofs do need regular checkups and repairs.  It is important to select an honest and reliable slate roof specialist to maintain your roof.  Here are some tips on how to find the best roofer to evaluate and repair your roof:

 1. Check with your neighbors.  If you have a number of slate roofs in your neighborhood, see which ones appear to be well-maintained and ask the homeowner who their roofer is.   Alternatively, you can ask a roofer for references from his slate roof customers in the area.

2. Ask friends and family.  Ask friends, family, and co-workers for any recommendations for slate roofers.  Be careful here.  You may possibly get a referral to someone’s Uncle Joe, who may possibly make a mess of your roof.

3. Get multiple estimates.   Unless you feel very confident with a neighbor’s or friend’s recommendation, get at least 2 or 3 estimates.

4.  Don’t choose a roofer by appearance.  Appearance is important, but just because a roofer is well-dressed, and has a fancy truck, does not mean he knows how to repair a slate roof properly.

5.  Don’t choose a roofer based on price.  Depending on how you budget your money, you may either be inclined to choose the cheapest, or most expensive roofing estimate you receive.  Slate roofing is a specialty.  You can expect to pay higher prices for a specialist, than with a jack-of-all-trades roofer.  This doesn’t mean you should choose the highest price, or only choose the “specialist”.  Take time to consider which roofer will do the best job for the best price.

How To Find A Good Slate Roofer
Very Sloppy Slate “Repairs”

6.  Ask questions.  Find out how the slates will be repaired.  There are basically 2 preferred methods of slate repair.  One is to use slate hooks.  The other method is sometimes called “blind nailing”.  It requires the slate to be nailed in the seam, and then flashed with aluminum or copper flashing.  A roofer who is planning to “face nail” (attach the slate with an exposed nail head) or use roofing cement to do his repairs should be avoided.  Using roofing cement for slate repairs results in a very ugly roof.  Using tabs is not recommended as the tabs tend to bend down (sometimes from snow and ice), allowing the slate to slide out.

7.  Be wary of the “roof-replacer”.  There is certainly a point when it is no longer cost effective to maintain a slate roof.  The argument between roofers will be at point the roof actually is in need of replacement.  Many roofers (and even home inspectors), either by inexperience or greed, will quickly recommend that a slate roof be replaced.  Roofers who specialize in asphalt shingles may be particularly hasty to state that a slate roof is beyond repair.  Multiple estimates from qualified slate roofers will help you decide the best course of action.

Need help finding a trusted slate roofing contractor?  CONTACT US!

How To Find A Reliable Roofer

Finding a reputable and reliable roofing contractor can be difficult for a number of reasons.  In general, roofers tend to be rough around the edges, and often are known to have a shady reputation.  Some roofers avoid standing by their work.  With the customer often unable to see the roof, a roofer has an opportunity to be dishonest about the repairs he has done.bad chimney flashing job

While there are some roofing contractors performing shoddy work and/or trying to scam customers, there are many more honest roofers, who will provide quality roofing services and products along with standing by their work.  The difficult choice for the homeowner is deciding who to trust.  Here are some ways to help choose a good, honest roofer when you need a leak repaired, or are ready to get a new roof:

-Get referrals and recommendations. 

You could ask the roofer for references of work he has done in the area.   You could also simply ask friends, neighbors, and relatives for their opinion on roofers who did work for them.  Don’t forget to check online for reviews.choosing a roofer

-Compare estimates carefully.

Try to get a few different estimates if possible.   This isn’t just to avoid being ripped off.  There are many different roofing options available and you may be missing out if one roofer offers a unique roofing system that another doesn’t.  When looking over multiple estimates, you may find a large difference in price and options.  When comparing estimates, don’t make your decision based on price alone.  A high price doesn’t always mean quality, and a low price doesn’t necessarily mean shoddy work will be done.  Different roofers may price their work in a different way, or may be using different materials or installation techniques.  Make sure you are comparing apples to apples.best asphalt shingles

-Ask questions. 

Ask questions on how the roofer will do the work, and what materials will be used.  Keep in mind that just because a roofer knows technical roofing lingo, doesn’t mean he will do honest, quality work.

-Don’t be fooled by appearance.

A shiny truck with a fancy logo doesn’t always equal a quality roof from an honest roofer.  While outward appearance may be one of your determining factors when selecting a roofer, keep in mind that sometimes appearances can be deceiving.

-Find out who is actually doing the work.

how to choose a good roofer

Some roofers will use subcontractors, instead of doing the work themselves.  Subcontractors are not necessarily a bad thing, it is just helpful to know who will actually be doing the work on your roof.

-Find out about guarantees and warranties.

Ask your roofer if he offers any guarantees or warranties for his work.   Ask about his policies regarding any problems after the work is completed.

-Find out if the roofer has insurance and is properly registered/licensed (if applicable).

Make sure the roofer is fully insured.  Many states require contractors to register as contractors.  The registration process usually requires the contractor to provide proof of insurance.

-Be wary of door-knockers and unsolicited calls.

While it may be possibly true that the roofer “is working in your area” and “noticed damage on your roof”, make sure you get a second opinion on what roof work needs to be done before signing any contract.

-Don’t pay in full up front.

Many roofers will ask for a deposit on larger jobs.  This is often 1/3 to 1/2 of the total job cost.  Be wary of a contractor that asks for cash and/or the full amount before the job is completed.