All Roofing Contractors Suck
December 6, 2005 6:36 AM   Subscribe

I can't seem to find a roofer who is interested in working on my house, but there is water pouring through my kitchen ceiling!

I have a section of roof, approx 26 x 6, over my kitchen that needs to be repaired. Water pours through here in buckets whenever it rains. However, despite now having called some 27 roofers I can't seem to get anyone to come and fix it.

I've left lots of messages on answering machines, but they've never called me back. Several have told me "we don't do jobs that small, we'll only replace your whole roof". One actually told me "We never work on old houses." I've tried calling places that friends told me about, places who advertise in our local free weekly, places from the Yellow Pages - you name it. This situation is getting desperate, and its not a job that we can do ourselves.

How do I get a roofer to come and work on my house?
posted by anastasiav to Home & Garden (27 answers total)
try finding a handyman that can fix it for you.
posted by alkupe at 6:43 AM on December 6, 2005

Find a smaller contractor, not a roofer. It's not worth a roofer's time to replace your roof when he can make more money doing an entire house for someone.

Find a guy who works for himself or with a buddy. Ask around. Who installed the bay window in your friends house? Who installed the skylights for your neighbor? That's the guy you want.

Find out about liability though. There may be issues if a contractor's insurance doesn't cover roof work. You may have to accept that or work around it.

For small jobs you need a "handyman", not a contractor. Roofing isn't rocket science though so any good handyman should have no trouble with it.

Also, a smaller contractor might actually do better work, since he's (or she) will be trying to build a business.

Good luck.
posted by bondcliff at 6:47 AM on December 6, 2005

Thanks for the suggestions about handymen .... the problem is that this area needs a special "ice and water shield" in order for it not to start leaking again in six months or so, and all of the "handymen" I've talked to won't or can't install that special membrane. So the handymen all say "Oh, we can't do that, you need to talk to a professional roofer" and the roofers won't take the job.

In the meantime, my kitchen roof is caving in.....
posted by anastasiav at 6:53 AM on December 6, 2005

You don't need the ice shield; what you need is a roof over your head. Have a handyman fix the bad spot, and then next time you have the whole roof done they can add the shield.

/had new roof put on this summer and knows way too much about ice shields and roofers
posted by languagehat at 6:58 AM on December 6, 2005

I'm surprised they don't want to do it. It's just a layer of neoprene fabric and installation looks simpler than applying tar paper. I would ask them to explain the problem.

How about telling the carpenter or handyman that you will install the ice and water shield yourself when they get to that point? If you don't like ladders and hammers, maybe you have a friend who does?

Also, make sure whoever does the job knows they have to replace all your rotten decking too, not just the shingles. Watch them to make sure this happens.

In the meantime, have you considered buying a big blue tarp and tacking it up there so your whole kitchen doesn't get ruined?
posted by naomi at 7:11 AM on December 6, 2005

Ask for references at a local building supply house - at the "contractor's desk" if they have one. If I didn't live 3 hours away from you and if I wern't 10 years too old for roofing work, I would be your man. I call myself a carpenter and builder and I have installed many an ice and water shield and repaired many a roof. The weather is also not in your favor. In these temperatures, the self-adhesive qualities of the ice shield membrane are poor: The stuff won't stick to the roof. When I lived in Bar Harbor over 25 years ago, Maine was crawling with guys like me. Keep asking around, and best of luck. On Preview: ditto the Big Blue Tarp. A handyman ought to be willing to do that. But don't try membrane installation yourself.
posted by Hobgoblin at 7:14 AM on December 6, 2005

Yeah, what Naomi said. Get a big ass tarp to cover the hole. make sure it's big enough to hang over the peak of the roof so that you don't get water flowing down under it into the hole.

Also, it makes it easier for the contractors to find your house.

If the roof has been leaking for a while you're going to need more than just the roof fixed.
posted by bondcliff at 7:16 AM on December 6, 2005

This might sound a little out-there, but you might consider contacting your local TV news station and seeing if they might feature your plight as a human-interest story. "Local woman rebuffed by local businesses," sort of thing. I see reports like that on the local news all the time.

Another possibility would be to take out a small ad in the paper.

It's incredible that you have to go to such lengths to get someone to take your money, though. It's not like you're in Florida, where there are still blue roofs all over the damn place from a year and a half ago and the roofers just have more business than they can handle.
posted by Gator at 7:19 AM on December 6, 2005

I'm in Portland too, I am going to email you off-list. I might know some guys.
posted by miss tea at 7:27 AM on December 6, 2005

Roofers hire their crews by the day and HATE to risk losing a full day's work for a part-day project, since it's hard to fit in two.

Three possible solutions:

(1) offer to be a waitlist customer -- they can show up any day in the next couple weeks when they finish earlier on another job, or get a cancellation.

(2) offer to pay for a full day's work.

(3) be your own contractor. Roofing is the most basic of construction trades, and a lot of the guys who hang out at day labor sites are perfectly able to do the work with no value-added supervision.
posted by MattD at 7:30 AM on December 6, 2005

Why are you not having the whole thing done?

I know it costs way more, but really, if it leaks in one point it will soon leak in others. In the long run it will cost less.
posted by Pollomacho at 7:50 AM on December 6, 2005

This is the tail end of Hell Season for roofers. Everyone, in late September or early October, starts realizing that they haven't gotten the roof fixed. The roofers go absolutely crazy and stay absolutely jammed until the rains really start. (at least in California).

If your roof is leaking that bad, you might call up and ask for the whole roof to be looked at... if they think it might turn into a whole roof, they'll be more likely to come and look. With that severe a leak, it's entirely possible that you DO need a new roof. Getting some education is never a bad idea.

In Northern California, the buildings codes changed sometime in the last generation or so to require solid plywood sheathing... many older houses have spaced sheathing instead. So be aware that you may have to pay a lot for a full roof, on an old house. It's legal in that state to put up to three layers of roofing down without requiring a tear off and new plywood. But if you have three layers already, you'll be stuck with an expensive job.... a three-layer tear-off takes a long time and costs a lot, and then you have the plywood, and THEN the roofing.

If you can hold it together with a tarp or something for two or three more months, it's often fairly easy to get roofers out in March or April... they get pretty hungry that time of year.
posted by Malor at 7:52 AM on December 6, 2005

Note: the Katrina reconstruction has probably made building materials and roofers more scarce than usual, which might be part of the problem.
posted by Malor at 7:53 AM on December 6, 2005

How about this guy?
posted by poppo at 7:59 AM on December 6, 2005

In fact here is the portland criagslist services search for 'leak'

Seems like a lot of folks are looking to fix your roof leak
posted by poppo at 8:01 AM on December 6, 2005

Wrong Portland, poppo. anastasiav's in Maine.
posted by JanetLand at 8:03 AM on December 6, 2005

Whoopsy thanks for keeping an eye on that Janet!
posted by poppo at 8:06 AM on December 6, 2005

Um, same search in maine.craigslist yields no results. I shall return to the rock I crawled out from under.
posted by poppo at 8:08 AM on December 6, 2005

poppo, I'm in Portland, Maine, not Portland, OR. I don't think they'll travel that far. :-)

Why are you not having the whole thing done?

I know it costs way more, but really, if it leaks in one point it will soon leak in others. In the long run it will cost less.

The area that is leaking was just repaired 7 years ago (by someone now out of business) and is a flat roof section over my kitchen, not connected in any way to the roof on the rest of the house (the kitchen is a 1940's addition to the house). I expect this job to cost in the field of $700 - $1000 for the decking repair, shield, and re-roofing.

My house is a 1913 Gabled Roof Queen Anne. A conservative estimate to have the entire roof done (if it needed done, which it doesn't really) is $10,000. It would be cruel to lure some poor roofer out here to look at the whole roof when a) that's not the problem and b) I have no intention of having any work done to the rest of the roof.
posted by anastasiav at 8:08 AM on December 6, 2005

anastasiav: I found these two ads in Uncle Henry's -- you've probably called them but I'm posting anyway just in case.

"chimney care, lawn care, handyman, Have work will travel FREE est, chimney re - lines cleanings caps & more, roof & gutter repair, roof snow removal, preshure washing, spring - fall clean UPS, stump grinding, hydro - seeding, junk removal, more. portland & area Portland, ME
Call 207-409-9451"

"All your handyman & remodeling needs. siding, roofing. decks, windows, drs, sheds, drywall, painting, plumbing & elec, repairs. Greater Portland area call Don. Buxton, ME
Call 207-929-6579"
posted by JanetLand at 8:13 AM on December 6, 2005

Janet, this is good ... for some reason Uncle Henry's has not crossed my radar, although it should have, since I have a car for sale in it right now. Thanks!
posted by anastasiav at 8:15 AM on December 6, 2005

Is this a normal asphalt shingle roof or is this a builtup/hot tar roof? In either case, you might just want to request an estimate for a reroofing/roof replacement. That at least gets someone out to the site and then you can pepper him with questions about your specific problem. Also, if your roof is leaking in one place, chances are it may have additional problems.
posted by electroboy at 8:16 AM on December 6, 2005

Not sure if this will help that much given you've already tried a bunch of suggestions, but the website seems to work pretty well. You basically fill in a description of the work you require, and they then provide a list of people who would be willing to do the work. One thing I like about the site is it gives you the chance to read reviews about previous work done by the contractors in question. Personally speaking, I've had a variety of jobs (incl. roofing repair) done by contractors that this site referred me to and was pretty pleased with the results (btw - I'm not affiliated with it at all). For what it's worth....
posted by Mave_80 at 10:53 AM on December 6, 2005

I've never used them, but Rent-A-Husband (tall, dark and handy, or so they say), claims to do roof repairs.
posted by SteveInMaine at 11:41 AM on December 6, 2005

Steve, I've used Rent-A-Husband for other small tasks, but I've called them today to check and they "don't do roofing jobs that big" (urgh!!) But the woman who answered the phone took pity on me and put me in touch with another roofer who is at least coming to look at the job tomorrow (although he doesn't think he can fit me in until after Feb 1st for the actual repair).

But RAH is a great, quality outfit.
posted by anastasiav at 11:45 AM on December 6, 2005

Have you considered the possibility that they are right in not being willing to do a repair vs replacement?

The area that is leaking was just repaired 7 years ago

Meaning that the roof itself is older than that. Perhaps my perspective is colored having grown up in hurricane country, but while 20 years is a good term to get out of a roof I wouldn't be too shocked to need replacement in the 10-20 year range. Flat roofs are also more problematic, at least in my experience with a couple of houses that had both types (because of expansions).

It would be cruel to lure some poor roofer out here to look at the whole roof when a) that's not the problem and b) I have no intention of having any work done to the rest of the roof.

That's not cruel, that's part of their job. Any roofer is going to go on 5 visits at a minimum for every 1 s/he lands, it's just part of the gig. If you'd let them come out and justify to you why they should replace that whole section rather than just do a repair perhaps they'd have a good reason. It may also be that they're not getting a clear picture of your situation on the phone - I think I understand what you're describing but I might not be. Maybe they're not either, so they're giving you this answer because they think you're going to be a problem customer who's gotten a lowball price image in her head that they can never meet.
posted by phearlez at 12:08 PM on December 6, 2005

If you'd let them come out and justify to you why they should replace that whole section rather than just do a repair perhaps they'd have a good reason.

Let me clarify again -- "repair" = strip off the entire 26 x 6 area, replace decking as necessary, add ice and water shield, then reshingle. I've been pretty clear about my needs with everyone who has wanted to speak with me at any length on the phone.

I think it would be cruel to lure them out there to give me an estimate on the entire $10,000 9 gable roof when I just need this smaller (not attached to the rest of the roof) section redone, though, don't you?
posted by anastasiav at 2:52 PM on December 6, 2005

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