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How To Choose The Right Contractor For The Job


How To Choose The Right Contractor For The Job

When choosing a contractor for any project around your home and office, there are a few things to ask for and to consider. Please don’t be shy if you are inviting a company to work on the largest investment you may have; you need to be firm but bold in your inquiries. If those bells start going off and something doesn’t feel right – run in the other direction!

Here is what you need to ask for:

  1. Proof of insurance for the type of work the contractor will be doing: watch out for exclusions such as working with an open flame.
  1. WSIB coverage for the work performed: ensure the contractor is in good standing and paid up to date.
  1. Licenses and certifications if the work dictates: electricians, plumbers, engineers etc.
  1. References: these should be reasonably current; no older than a year of two at most. They should be for work similar to what you want done.
  1. HST Number: if you are claiming the tax for any sort of government rebate program you will definitely require the contractors HST number.
  1. How are payments to be handled? Deposits? Draws?

Things To Consider:

Ask if the contractor has had any problem jobs and how they resolved them. A company that has been around for a while will have had problems and an honest answer will center around their customer and service departments.

  1. Ask who would be the likely Foreman in charge and what is their experience.
  1. Do they have a service department as well as after hours service; if this is an appropriate question.
  1. How do they set up their jobs? e.g. Tarps to protect plantings, space for trailers, storage for materials etc.
  1. The biggie; what about clean-up and disposal?
  1. What kind of “feeling” did you get when you called the office? When you spoke with the sales staff?
  1. What do suppliers say about this company?

While not every one of these points is a deal breaker necessarily, you will need to weigh the answers as a whole. But and this is a big BUT, there are two things that cannot be compromised on; Insurance and WSIB!

God help the home owner where an accident happens on their property where there is no coverage – it could ruin them financially.  Even your own insurance can be void if a licensed contractor is not used.

Choose wisely and you can greatly minimize your exposure to risk, and your risk to high blood pressure caused by a silly contractor.

What is Ice Damning & How Do You Prevent It?


Ice Damning

While it’s in the 80’s F (30 C) and sunny….Why talk about a phenomia that only occurs in the winter? Simply because re-roofing is the only time you can effectively address its damaging effects.

Ice damning occurs when snow is warmed, by the sun or heat loss from your home, and melts and runs down the roof until it hits an unheated overhang or dead valley where it re-freezes and starts to form a ridge or dam.  Subsequent freeze-thaw cycles can create large dams that hold back hundreds of litres of water. This allows the water to create very powerful hydraulic pressures that can force water back under the shingles with potentially damaging results.

The best way to prevent this is to make sure your roof is constructed for this harsh onslaught of ice and snow.  Here are a few tips on what should be included in your roofing estimate – starting at the eaves and working our way up to the ridge. 

  1. Dripedge – usually a piece of aluminum bent in an “L” shape that protects the edge of the plywood and directs the water into the eavestrough. 
  2. Ice and Water Shield – this is a black “sticky” paper that is used to protect the eaves area from ice buildup (into a dam) which in turn allows snow melt to be forced under your shingles and into your home – not cool.  Ice and Water Shield should also be used in other vulnerable areas where snow can accumulate such as valleys, skylights, dormers, low slope areas, chimney’s and pipes to name a few. The principle here is straight forward added protection to vulnerable points in your roof.
  3. Underlayment (synthetic is best) to the balance of your roof. This layer provides a second line of defense against ice, snow and wind driven rain. 
  4. On very low slope or flat areas the only effective protection is to use flat roof membrane (E.P.D.M. or T.P.O.) that is designed to have snow or water actually sit on the roof. When “tying into” a shingle roof; the flat roof extends under the shingles by 36” or more. (More on this in a future article)
  5. Historically lead and copper were also used in low slope areas as well. These are still excellent options but somewhat pricey and usually reserved for institutional work or the well-heeled with a classic style of architecture.

Here’s the main point – the time to protect your home from ice damming is when you are re-roofing or building new – everything is open and easily accessible for these various techniques to be deployed. Please make sure your roofing contractor is aware of any trouble areas and has an effective strategy for protecting them.  If they minimize any of your concerns around ice damming find a new company that is focused on prevention.

We’ll discuss heating cables, snow rakes and when to call a contractor to remove excess snow in a future article.

What are the main maintenance items on my flat roof?

  1. Drains, drains and more drains – they absolutely need to be cleaned at least once a year; twice if you have trees near by
  2. Caulking – at sheet metal and roof fixtures as this is where all the expansion and contraction occurs – every year is nice but at least every second year
  3. Blisters and cracks in membrane – these need to be addressed ASAP otherwise they become big problems quick. Regular maintenance can extend the life of a very expensive flat roof for years
  4. Tree branches – these need to be trimmed back so that they do not “scrub” and wear the membrane
  5. Debris – needs to be cleaned off to protect the roof membrane – over the years I have seen bottle cans, wood, metal beams, dead birds and even a crashed R.O.V!
  6. Limit who goes on your roof and make sure they use walkways
  7. Clean light coloured membranes to help extend their working life
  8. Finally, don’t be penny wise and pound foolish – I have seen large corporations spend many hundreds of thousands of dollars on a new roof and struggle to authorize spending a few hundred dollars on annual maintenance

Flat roofs are very dynamic systems with lots of movement and stresses – easily one of the most important systems on a commercial building. Regular maintenance is inexpensive insurance – get some!

What’s the best way to update a tired exterior on a fixed budget?


In my experience – it’s colour! As a home gets older colours fade and tastes change. Lots of times if we have lived in a home for several years your husband remembers when that last renovation was “just done”. By changing a little bit of siding to a more current colour and style you can update your home by 20-30 years for a few thousand dollars. Add to that some trim to fascia and eaves in a complementary colour and you have a makeover that even “Ty” Pennington would be proud of! Simple yet cost effective and usually done and cleaned up in a few days.

When is my shingle roof due for replacement?


Sometimes this can be difficult to know. But here is a short list of things to look for:

  1. Curled shingles – edges lifting
  2. Cracked shingles – splits that go through to the deck below
  3. Loose granules – they show in eaves and on the ground
  4. Cracked or missing caulking – usually around vents, pipes, sidewalls etc.
  5. Missing shingles – wind and age are the culprits here
  6. Valleys – usually shows up as cracks or curling in this area
  7. Flashing – this is the metal at dormers and sidewalls, it may be missing, or the caulking cracked
  8. Water entry – is the obvious one, but not always – sometimes it shows up as peeling paint, a dark spot or a damp odor. Quite often it is sporadic which usually means it is wind driven and directional (more on this in a future article)
  9. Missing vents or turbine caps – sometimes the top literally blows off allowing water entry
  10. And finally – “I don’t like colour or style of shingle”, time to replace!

While there are many other more technical things to look for – these ten are things a home owner can look for without climbing on their roof. Safety must be foremost in your mind. When in doubt call an expert, who has all the safety equipment to perform an evaluation on your home.