Saturday, November 26, 2011

Put a Lid On It!

Entries to this blog normally revolve around food, but I am going to from time to time report on the doings of my various home improvement projects. This stems partly from the fact that these projects have taken away from my time in the kitchen, but also that many people who are interested in cooking also like old houses and often work on them.

By New Orleans standards, our 1928 Craftsman bungalow does not qualify as an "old" house. I read somewhere that the average age of occupied houses in Orleans Parish is around 100 years. But in the objective sense - wear and exposure to the tropical elements of the region - the house is not exactly new. We moved into the Fontainebleau neighborhood in October of 2009. Although we are enormously happy with our home, part of town, and our incredible neighbors, there were a few surprises about this place that have reinforced the legal maxim of caveat emptor.

We knew after a few months that our roof definitely leaked, but we weren't sure how much. For a long time, it seemed that the leaks were just here and there, something that could be easily fixed. In retrospect, I should have been suspicious of all of the shiny new radiant barrier that the previous owner had tacked up in the attic. Maybe he was mostly interested in insulating the house and that it hid all the roof leaks was just a side benefit. Then came Tropical Storm Lee. The random leaks had converged into a full-fledged sprinkler system.

It seems that after Katrina, there were a lot of unqualified and downright dishonest workmen repairing roofs, and ours was one of their work sites. A worthwhile tip to anyone buying a house in New Orleans: don't rely on your inspector to be very knowledgeable about a roof. We used a national home-inspection company that sent out someone who seemed to have been on the job for less than a month. A better idea is to pay a reputable roofer $100 or $125 to come out and do a specialized roof inspection. Had we done this, we would have known then that the post-K roof had been installed with an especially high degree of ineptitude.

We had an incredibly positive experience with our Realtor, Joey Walker, when we bought the house, so we turned to him for a few recommendations for roofers. We braced for how expensive this might be, but remained hopeful that with the slow economy we might find a deal. The first quote we got was for a whopping $15,800, which did not include some of the repair work to visible rot. Needless to say, we were taken aback by what I call this "born yesterday price." The second company that came out, however, quoted us $7,765 plus repairs, which were estimated to be $980. This was better!

In researching online, we found very little information about what to expect when putting on a roof, which has been in some measure, the main inspiration for sharing our experience. We signed a contract with Schwander-Hutchinson Roofing, Inc. in mid-October, and by mid-November had a new roof. What happened in between was a reassuring process.

It took about three weeks for the company to schedule our re-roofing. You need to be a little patient, after all, roofers cannot change the weather! The project began at 7:30 AM with the delivery of a dumpster, followed shortly thereafter by the removal crew. Schwander-Hutchinson's men worked like dogs for the next three days, repairing an enormous amount of rot and putting on a nice looking water-tight roof.  Even though they encountered A LOT more rotten wood than we had anticipated, the total bill for roof and repair came in at $9,440, which struck us as a good deal. They left our yard spotlessly clean and on time. It poured the very next day, but not a drop fell in our attic.

See ya' leaky old roof!

Moral of the story? Shop around. We could have paid twice as much for the roof we ended up getting. But even more so, don't rely on a regular home inspector when buying a house. Of course, there is still plenty of plaster to repair because of said roof, but that is a tale for another day.

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