Project #1: Roof
Updated: Aug 13, 2020
My husband met a contractor named Cliff (name changed) at a networking event a while back. He really liked him personally, so when we saw a half-renovated duplex come up for sale near our duplex in late 2019, Aric walked the property with him so we could see how much it would cost to rehab. Cliff’s estimate was $120,000, so we did not make an offer.
When we went under contract on our Tarpon Springs property (which, as a reminder, was a 1901 home being run as a Bed & Breakfast with two small units plus a trailer in the back), we met Cliff at the property during our inspection period. Again, we needed to know how much the renovation would cost so we knew whether to continue with the contract at the current price or to negotiate. He looked at the roof, kitchen, floors, paint/siding, and structure. Shortly thereafter, we received quotes for the roof, kitchen, and paint/siding. Since this post is meant to look back on the completed roof project, we’ll focus there.
We would have to decide between a shingle or metal roof, including or excluding the front porch and enclosed back porch (master bath and utility room). Since the front and back porches had roofs in decent condition according to our inspection report, we decided we’d only redo the main roof. Because our roof does not have decking, just spaced sheathing, the quotes were the same: $22,000. It might seem steep, however it’s not nearly as steep as the slope of our roof (even though the footprint of the roof is petty small). Between that and the complete removal of a chimney, this price passed the smell test.
We negotiated the price of the house down by the cost of a new roof. Since the house is a 1901 home, we chose the metal roof to keep with the look of the era. We informed Cliff of our decision and close date over lunch. He told us the roof could be done within a couple of weeks from close date. He assured us the roof would be completed within one month of closing. We started talking details about the kitchen as well. We consciously decided to trust him until we had reason not to.
Due to a deficient appraisal, then a re-appraisal, our close date pushed out two weeks. Unfortunately, the roof was literally uninsurable, so we closed without coverage on the roof on June 8th. Cliff met us at the property shortly after closing (primarily to talk about the kitchen), and we made our insurance situation incredibly, abundantly clear to him, and again he assured us the roof would be done within 30 days. Remember, this is Florida and hurricane season starts June 1. We were already carrying a lot of risk spending the first 4 weeks of hurricane season uninsured, but we didn’t have much of a choice.
We chose Cliff for a few reasons (1) his experience as a contractor managing large projects, (2) flexible payment terms, and (3) his company owned the roofing company. We figured if you own the company, you have more control over scheduling than a contractor who would just use subcontractors. We were surprised when we still weren’t on the schedule mid-June. Our renovation was on hold throughout June because we had prioritized the roof above everything else because of the insurance issue. Finally, we heard the roof would start no later than June 29th, and Cliff sent a letter to us on letterhead stating as much, which we sent to our insurance agent.
When June 29th rolled around, the materials hadn’t arrived. Apparently, the contractor hadn’t ordered them soon enough, which is pretty unbelievable given the incredible amount of lead time we gave him. We were again assured they would start the following Monday. We were so annoyed by the incompetence on display that we quietly started shopping the kitchen and the structure around.
The materials were delivered the week of July 6th, so once again we were caught off guard when the work did not start that week. It was around this time that we made the final decision on the structure company and were narrowing down kitchen contractors.
Finally, one week after the materials arrived and over a month after we closed, a roofer knocked on our door on Monday, July 13th. It was a subcontractor and he was NOT a part of the roofing company owned by the contractor (the company we had a signed contract with). Imagine our surprise when he informed us that he was doing our roof and had been scheduled to start July 10th (just the Friday before), but got rained out! Was the contractor’s roofing company EVER supposed to do our roof? Were we ever on their schedule? How did he sub the job out without telling us? Our blood was boiling at this point.
It’s good thing we were at the house when they started because they almost pulled the metal off the front porch – they didn’t know those weren’t included in the contract. We didn’t even have enough materials to get the porches done! They also were unaware of the one chimney removal (which they eventually did) and us wanting a cricket on the other chimney (which they never did):
Obviously, at this point we stopped being surprised. The contractor did not get us scheduled when he said he would. He did not use the roofing company we signed a contract with. He did not order the materials when he said he would. He did not inform the company he hired of the scope of the project. Recall again that this is hurricane season.
From July 13th until the end of July (that’s THREE WEEKS), we heard almost everything you could imagine:
“It rained.” (We heard this multiple times.)
Yes, it’s Florida and it rained for 20 minutes, why weren’t you here before or after that?
“There was a high chance of rain.”
Well, it didn’t rain.
“We live in Lakeland.”
Why did you take a job in Tarpon Springs?
“We can’t work alongside the guys working on your structure.”
Figure it out! They actually started when they were scheduled to. You’re the ones who are weeks behind schedule.
These 3 were back-to-back:
“We’re taking Friday off.”
This is what you do when you’re weeks behind schedule, my roof is uninsured, and it’s hurricane season?
“Our truck broke down.”
Rent another truck, guys! There’s actually a hurricane coming.
“Someone got hurt at another job site and we had OSHA training.”
OK, this one might be legit and I wouldn’t have been mad except that it came on the third sunny business day IN A ROW of them not working, meanwhile a HURRICANE WAS HEADED RIGHT FOR US AND OUR ROOF WAS NOT INSURED.
There was no sense of urgency from the contractor nor the roofing company. Despite us hearing “our guys are working from sunup to sundown right now,” the crew never started before 9 and they were never here after 6 (and often they were gone much earlier than that). It’s not that I think they should actually work sunup to sundown every day, however, if it’s going to rain at 3, they could start at sunup. If it’s going to rain at 10, they could work until sundown. Furthermore, except for day 1, there was only a crew of 3 people.
Along the way one of the men working on the roof asked in passing why we’d chosen the materials we did, rather than those with a hidden seam. There were two reasons for this. One was that Cliff was going to charge us $2,000 more for those materials. The second reason was that the porches did not have hidden seams and we figured they should match. The roofer informed us that the materials we had chosen were much more difficult to install. It turns out the labor would have been easier for the more expensive materials, which in theory should have balanced out.
Upon further investigation, we learned that our contract called for roofing materials with a 40-year warranty, and ours only have a 25-year warranty. Additionally, contractors must be the ones to apply for the warranty first. Upon speaking with the manufacturer of our roofing materials, they went so far as to tell us that we should not pay the full balance until the contractor applies for the warranty. By the time of completion, we’d only been required to pay 25% so holding out for the warranty wouldn’t be an issue. Upon speaking with Cliff, he said they just normally wait until there’s an issue to call in the warranty. There’s no way we could trust him to do that.
Luckily, the job was finally completed on July 31st, the day before Hurricane Isaias made landfall in south Florida. We were unable to insure the roof before the hurricane though; however, he stayed far east of Florida and we only received a few bands of rain.
In case you’re curious, the structure company started on schedule and that portion of the project was completed before the roof.
Going in we wanted to use a contractor to manage the renovation so much so that we were willing to pay the markup to have this expertise in our corner. It became clear quickly that Cliff was either unwilling or unable to coordinate all aspects of this renovation. To think that we were going to trust this man with the structure, kitchen, floors, siding, and paint in addition to the roof is just astonishing. It’s unfortunate that we had to struggle so much with the roofers, however, it’s fortunate we won’t have to work with this man ever again.
What’s next? We loved the structure company we chose, and we’re excited about our kitchen contractor as well!
Result: Nightmare, but successful in the sense we have a new roof.