Experts say to set aside about 1% of the purchase price of your home each year on maintenance costs. This year, we set aside a lot more than that.
About a year and a half ago, we noticed that our shingles were curling. Every so often, we’d look at our patio and see bits of asphalt from the shingles littering the concrete. We did some research, and found out that our house had been roofed with a type of shingle that was failing across New England. Many homes in our small town had been shingled with this particular company’s shingle, which, unfortunately, were not holding up in New England’s severe winter weather.
No problem, we thought. Shingles have 15-year warranties, so we’ll just look into that. Well. Turns out, our shingles did have a warranty, but like many things in life, there were caveats:
- The warranty was pro-rated, meaning that if the shingles failed in Year One, they would be completely covered. But if they failed in Year Thirteen, as was the case now, they would only give us a portion of the money we were owed.
- There was currently a class-action suit in place against the shingle company, so the chance of us receiving any money was slim to none.
- The warranty was transferrable in the event the house was sold, but it had to be done within one year of the house sale. We received no information or paperwork to this effect when we bought the house, so we had no idea this was the rule (and we didn’t know to ask! Lesson learned!).
We were paying for a new roof out-of-pocket.
We spent the school year saving up, and had $7000 by the end of the year. We didn’t think it would be quite enough, but hoped it would be close.
In May, we began getting quotes from roofers in Staten Island, NY. The first quote we got was from a contact we had through our church, Nate. After visiting our house and measuring our roof, Nate sent us an estimate that included:
- The removal and disposal of old shingles and roofing
- Installing an ice and water shield (this is necessary in New England roofs because of the freeze/thaw factor during the winter. Icicles form on the edge of the roof and you don’t want that water to get into the wood in your roofing and leak) plus a roofing underlayment above the shield
- Installing metal in all valleys
- Installing architectural shingles
The total was $14,000.
This was a lot more money than we had expected to pay! We were pretty disappointed. We had liked Nate and hoped to work with him. But he was charging a fortune!
Next, we reached out to about five other roofers. Three we found online. I called each online company and of the three, two only installed standing seam (metal) roofs and one was booked until 2018.
After that, we reached out to our contacts. Mr. ThreeYear had a colleague at work who had used a local roofer for her roof, Jim. We got his phone number and I called him. I think I left about five messages, and he kept calling me back and couldn’t reach me, either. Finally, we connected, and he made a plan to come out and see the roof “next week.” He told me he would call me.
Meanwhile, we found a third roofer, Jeff, through a friend who made an appointment to come and measure the roof at 10am on a Saturday morning.
Both roofers missed their appointments. Boy was I annoyed at this point. We couldn’t even find roofers to estimate a job for us!
It turns out that there is a shortage of roofers here in New England. For whatever reason, there’s a dearth of young men (and women) who are willing to work fifteen-to-eighteen hour days for a few weeks in the summers and fall installing roofs. Hey, I don’t blame them. But because there is such a shortage of qualified roofers, they make a ton of money doing it! It’s an excellent job for a young person with no college experience, or even for someone who’s working their way through college.
Back to the story. Finally, I got in touch with both Jim and Jeff, and we rescheduled our times for them to estimate. I never actually saw Jim. He told me that he had come by the house during the school day when I was at work the following week. After another week of me bugging him for the estimate, we got estimate #2. His estimate included:
- Removal and disposal of existing shingles
- Lift rental
- Removal of siding for new flashing/reattach siding
- Replacement of ice &water shield
- Installation of new architect shingles, color black
The total? $22,500!
At this point, I was so annoyed, I started calling everyone I could think of and asking them if these prices sounded ridiculous. Where I’m from, in the Southeastern US, new roofs cost more like $8000-$10,000. So we were having major sticker shock!
I texted a friend of mine, who is also from the South. She flips houses in a neighboring town, so I figured she’d have a handle on roofing costs. She did. “For your house, I’d say you should expect to pay between $12,000 and $18,000 for a new roof” she told me. Because of the higher cost of labor, shorter installation time because of our long winters, the extra ice and water shields needed, and the lack of competition in a small town, roofs were way more expensive to install in Northern New England. She also told me the second estimate was bogus. “That guy’s smoking crack,” she said, never one to mince words.
Roofer #3, Jeff, was scheduled to come over that weekend. He was very nice, and apologized for missing the previous appointment. “I never do that,” he explained. “My dad was hospitalized and honestly, everything left my head when I drove down to go be with him.” He came and looked at the roof and spent some time talking to us about the warranty of a roof. He told us it that the shingles he used came with a 30-year warranty that could be transferred to the next owner. He sent us an estimate about a week later. His estimate included:
- Strip and dispose of existing roofing on all current shingle areas
- Install Ice and Water Shield to all eaves (6 feet–this was 3 feet higher than other estimates) and valleys (9 feet)
- Install synthetic roofing underlayment to remainder of roof
- Install new white aluminum drip edge to all eaves and rakes
- Install new shingles to all currently shingled areas
- Complete cleanup and disposal of all debris
The total for his job was $14,900.
I liked Jeff and thought his estimate was good, but in the end, we decided to go with Nate. His estimate was the cheapest and we had a glowing recommendation from a church member (and we knew his future in-laws). Plus, he could get started on the replacement sooner than Jeff could.
After talking with my friend, I knew Nate’s estimate was in the ballpark, so we told him we were contracting with him.
He requested fifty percent payment up front (which were similar to Jeff’s terms) so we sent him a check for $7000! That was not a fun check to write.
He sent an email about a week later, letting me know he received the check and that he would be delayed, due to rain, on starting our house until the week of July 10th. Mr. ThreeYear would just be getting back from the beach then, and could work from home and oversee the process, so we agreed that Monday, July 10th would be the start date. The kids and I would still be in South Carolina, so we would miss all the fun.
On Sunday, July 9th, Nate and his crew brought over the lift and the staging, and got it set up all around the house.
The next day, Mr. ThreeYear called and told me the guys had shown up at 6:30am. There were two of them that day. The ended up working all day, with very few breaks, until 8:30 at night!
They told Mr. ThreeYear that since they had such a limited window of time to get work done in the summer, they had to work like crazy to take advantage of the good weather.
The next day, another roofer joined them, and all three men worked the next couple of days to finish the roof. Mr. Three Year sent me pictures of their progress. He worked from home all week, listening to the banging and hammering. I’m so glad I wasn’t there and he was to oversee everything!
He even had to deal with an anonymous neighbor of ours, who called the police TWICE! Apparently, she complained that our roofers had left nails in the road. This was patently untrue–Mr. ThreeYear said they were careful, and he even checked the road–there was nothing. We do have several temperamental neighbors, so I’m not surprised! Mr. ThreeYear calmly talked to the policeman who came out. He even dealt with the fact that the man thought he was a roofer and not the homeowner! Hispanic men deal with a lot of prejudices, let me just say. Luckily Mr. ThreeYear just laughed it off.
Finally, on Thursday, the roofers finished. We asked them to also power wash the house, so they did. They had a really hard time getting off years of grime from the vinyl siding, but Mr. ThreeYear bought Magic Erasers for them, and that worked. They even removed two defunct satellite dishes from the roof that we no longer used.
When we saw the “After” pictures that Mr. ThreeYear sent, we were amazed! The house looked brand new! We wrote Nate a second check for a little more than $7000 (because of the power wash) from our savings account.
This year, our home maintenance costs were a lot more than 1%. But I’m very glad to have a new roof and a clean house. I’m also glad I was out of state during the project. And we’re more knowledgeable about the process than before. When we sell our house in a couple of years, I hope the new roof will be a draw.
How about you? Have you had any major home improvement projects lately?