Tips for hiring a contractor

It is always advisable to hire a pro rather than doing a project by yourself, especially for larger, more complex projects. What matters most, however, is the quality of contractor you are hiring, as selecting a shady contractor will trigger delays and sometimes even cause legal problems. Here are some tips that will help you choose a professional contractor and thus ensure a good business relationship:

Ensure that the contractor is bonded and insured

A contractor’s credibility depends solely on whether or not they are licensed and have insurance. The license proves that the contractor has taken the exam and knows how to build to code and all required processes. And, if the contractor is not insured, you could be the one responsible if someone gets hurt while working on your project.

Look for a contractor that suits your project

It is best to search for contractors who has expertise in the type of project you need completed. After all, you need a contractor who knows exactly what is required to complete a project. They should have the skills to address potential problems and perform work to your standards.

Create a detailed contract prior to starting any work

A contract is required to cover costs, and should include a complete set of drawings with written specifications.  It should also have a time table for when the work should be complete.

Give proper instructions prior to working

If you want your project to be completed by a specific date, talk to your contractor prior to hiring him. It then depends upon the contractor whether he wants to accept the job or not.  Go into as much detail as possible before work is started so you can avoid problems later on.

Have a look at their past  work

Consider the contractor’s past  work, which will also give you ideas for your own project. Samples are even more crucial than references and will let you check the quality of their work. Browse through their various designs to boost your own creativity.

If you are looking for highly-professional contractors for a variety of services, visit House at Work. Just add the details about your project and soon, accredited contractors will submit their proposals for your project. House at Work has its services available in New York in Rochester, Buffalo, Syracuse, Albany, and Ithaca.  For more details, please visit the website

Ep 11: Getting Ready for Fall and Winter

House At Work Home Repair Clinic

In episode 11, Jim and Peter discuss the different types of maintenance homeowners should undertake in order to get their homes ready for fall and winter.

Do you have a home improvement question? Email us at [email protected] and we will do our best to get it answered for you! Do you need help with a home improvement project and live in the upstate New York region? Go to and click “Find Contractors“.

Jim Salmon:                      Hello everybody, and welcome to the home improvement capital of the world, the Home Repair Clinic Podcast. My name is Jim Salmon along with the great Peter Schick. How are you?

Peter Schick :                    Fantastic.

Jim Salmon:                      You know what?

Peter Schick :                    Fantastic.

Jim Salmon:                      Winter is right around the corner.

Peter Schick :                    I hate hearing that.

Jim Salmon:                      Don’t hit me. Don’t hit me.

Peter Schick :                    ‘Cause it’s just getting towards the end of summer right now, and it’s … Right after Labor Day, it’s officially the start of fall. Unofficially, excuse me, and it’s just kind of a downer, especially for us who live so far north, ’cause it’s like, “Oh yeah, here comes the eight month winter.”

Jim Salmon:                      Well I like fall. Fall’s fun, but as a home repair guy, home inspector guy, and you as a real estate person, we all understand the importance of getting your house ready. All of a sudden, if it’s really cold out and the windows are open and all the other stuff you haven’t done … Cost you money to heat your house.

We thought we’d go through some of the winterizing type things that you should do.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, ’cause there’s a lot of things I actually notice is, once you start having the change of the season, this is when people start noticing, “Oh, my furnace isn’t working. Oh, I’m having these issues. Oh, I feel this draft of cold air because my windows aren’t closing completely, or there’s some other issue,” and I think that’s just one of those things that you could easily cut it off at the pass if you know what it is, and thought we should just go over it.

Jim Salmon:                      People are nuts. They’re nitwits, they’re dopes, they’re idiots sometimes, because you’re just pumping heat outside. There are many maintenance checklists that you can follow, and it all starts on the outside of the house, gutter cleaning and maintenance, make sure everything’s free flowing, windows, especially if you have older wood windows, [inaudible 00:02:00], glazing, and …

A lot of times window, the latches don’t work very well so you can’t really get the window nice and tightly closed.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, exactly, so it doesn’t really matter how well, if it’s multi-panes window or whatever, how well it insulates if it doesn’t close correctly or doesn’t have a good seal, and I think that’s one of those things that you have to take into consideration.

Jim Salmon:                      One of the things too, is that below 32 degrees, things freeze, and especially if you have an outside [inaudible 00:02:30] faucet, many of those now, all the modern ones of course, in the last probably 20 years, have been frost-proof type, but if you have an old one, it’s going to freeze if you don’t shut it off, so you have to deal with that. They make these little cover things …

I never quite was on board with how that all worked, ’cause it’s still zero out, and whatever, but … You have to pay close attention to that.

When you leave your hose attached to the outside faucet, it can’t drain properly, and it freezes and it ruins everything. It just splits the faucet. So never leave your garden hoses attached year round. Of course, unless you’re in Florida, maybe.

Peter Schick :                    Maybe down there you could get away with it.

Jim Salmon:                      Or if you’re listening to the show in Japan, whatever.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah.

Another thing I noticed, especially with the changing of the seasons, is you start seeing the mice and everything. They wanna find a warm place.

Jim Salmon:                      Mice are smarter than people.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah they are.

Jim Salmon:                      They know where they wanna be.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      And they know how to get in there.

Peter Schick :                    Yep.

Jim Salmon:                      Especially if you live in a wooded area or you’re out a little bit, doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the only time, but they’ll get in. You just can’t stop that.

Peter Schick :                    Like we discussed in our previous episode, the one where we talked about common household pests. This is usually the time where you start to hear about, “Oh, the mice are coming in. Oh, this and that.” It’s usually the mice, that I’ve heard, unless you’ve heard other things. Once it start’s getting cold …

Jim Salmon:                      Chipmunks, squirrels, bats, they all want to be warm, and it’s you versus them a lot of times. Baiting, traps, machine guns … As far as I’m concerned, you’re mowing them down by the thousands, and don’t send me any PETA email, but still.

Peter Schick :                    I’m gonna send you PETA emails now.

Jim Salmon:                      Just the heck of it.

Peter Schick :                    Now I’m gonna do that. I’ll put you on their email list.

Jim Salmon:                      Now do you have a fireplace in your house?

Peter Schick :                    Yes.

Jim Salmon:                      Gas?

Peter Schick :                    No, wood.

Jim Salmon:                      Oh, okay, good. Good for you.

Peter Schick :                    It has that old fashioned feel. I like that smell, especially when it’s a cold day out, you smell the fire burning …

Jim Salmon:                      Just puts you in a good mood.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah it does. It does.

Jim Salmon:                      Unfortunately they all need to be cleaned and maintained properly.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah they do.

Jim Salmon:                      I was in a house this morning, actually, doing a home inspection, and there was a gas log in the fireplace. It was a wood burning fireplace, but they had put a gas log in there, which many people do because they don’t wanna deal with the wood. And I look up in there, and that chimney is loaded with [inaudible 00:04:58].

Well first of all, that’s dumb on a couple of levels, because spend an extra couple hundred bucks, have your chimney cleaned before you put a gas log in there, so then over the next hundred years, all that stuff isn’t falling down in your nice gas log. Chimney fires, if you’ve ever been through a chimney fire, that’s a nasty thing, and they take off like a rocket.

Peter Schick :                    That’s something I really don’t wanna be … Have ever happen to me.

Jim Salmon:                      I remember coming home one night from work, I used to be in the home center business, so I closed the doors at nine o’clock at night and then it takes a half hour to get all the money put away in the safe, and then I’d drive home for an hour.

So I got home one night, I don’t know, eleven o’clock, and the house across the street had flames shooting out of the chimney 20 feet in the air. You know what’s going on [inaudible 00:05:46] banging on the door, chimney fire.

Fire department comes, the second they put water on that, the whole thing just went [inaudible 00:05:54] all the way down. You could see this crack from the top to the bottom. It was amazing.

Peter Schick :                    Oh jeez. That’s one of the things with maintenance with chimneys, especially of those of us who live further up north is the freezing of the water in the [inaudible 00:06:10] and everything starts making those cracks. That just extenuates it even more. That temperature difference, that temperature change, and how much you gotta look out for the smaller version of that, ’cause that’s just yearly maintenance.

Jim Salmon:                      The guys and gals that sell gas logs, gas fireplaces, they tell you that these things are very low maintenance, and they don’t put out any soot. All of those things are not correct. They put out soot, they require yearly maintenance.

We have a gas fireplace, free-standing fireplace in my sun room that’s called the Tree of Life. It has open glass on three sides, so …

Peter Schick :                    Oh, I know the one you’re talking about.

Jim Salmon:                      Beautiful, reflects through the glass in the sun room, so I love it, but it’s on all the time, and so I have it cleaned at least once a year. Sometimes I’ll even clean it in the February area,’cause it’s not going since October.

So anyway, the bottom line is, gas appliances all need to be cleaned and maintained periodically. If you’re in the heating business, you can do your own fireplace. If you’re not, you hire a ton. Fireplace companies can do it, your general heating contractor, a lot of those type folks will do it, and some appliance contractors will clean and maintain a gas log.

And then there’s the goofy stuff. The corn stove, the [crosstalk 00:07:34]

Peter Schick :                    The pellet stove, yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      I’ve had two pellet stoves in my life. Both of them I wanted to drag out into the backyard and shoot with a double barreled shotgun. The first one was horrible. It had to be-

Peter Schick :                    I’ve never worked with a pellet stove, so you need to educate me a little on this.

Jim Salmon:                      What happens, is you buy bags of pellets, and you pour it in this hopper thing, and then there’s this stainless steel auger deal that feeds it into the burning chamber, and you can set it for how much flame you want and whatever you’re supposed to do that. Well they get clogged up, the pellets are very susceptible to moisture, so you have to get good pellets and you have to store it properly, and sometimes the ash will build up in the front and the whole thing just smothers itself and goes out … It’s a mess.

Peter Schick :                    I’m a pretty simple guy, and I don’t understand … What would be the advantage to getting a pellet fireplace over just having a regular wood burning, simple …

Jim Salmon:                      When you get one that works, and works well, they’re wonderful. They put out a ton of heat …

Peter Schick :                    Oh, so they’re more efficient in terms of heat creation.

Jim Salmon:                      Yep. If you buy your pellets right, you buy a pellet, or pellets during the summertime when they’re three bucks a bag instead of five, or whatever they are … But if you get a good pellet stove that works, that only has to be cleaned maybe once a month, it’s a win, and you can vent them anywhere. They vent right out the side wall, usually.

Peter Schick :                    Interesting, okay.

Jim Salmon:                      It’s not without maintenance, but I had two that were horrible. And I think the research and development in the modern ones are a lot better now, and I would hope so.

Peter Schick :                    Nice.

Jim Salmon:                      But I was scared to death of them and I’ll never have another one, so …

Peter Schick :                    I almost feel like I’m making it too complicated if I get a pellet one. It’s like, “You know what? This thing burns wood, it works, and I know what is, and I don’t need to go buy this pellet of wood. I got a backyard that has some of it in it,” so there you go. I just try to keep it as simple as possible.

Jim Salmon:                      We were talking this morning about, or this afternoon or tonight or whatever day it is … We’re talking about how to prepare your house for winter. Now if we were in the spring, we’re talking about what damage happened to the top of the chimney over the winter time.

Peter Schick :                    The expansion of water [crosstalk 00:09:55]

Jim Salmon:                      Pu that on the list, too. If you haven’t checked your chimney, the top of the outside part of the chimney this year since last winter, check it now, because winter time can really accelerate frost damage, especially if you have lots of cracks in your chimney crown, and bricks that are loose and that kind of stuff.

Peter Schick :                    Just generally it’s gonna extenuate any sort of damage that’s already there. Whether it’s for your asphalt if there’s already smaller cracks, you can guess if you don’t have it sealed or something else, there’s probably gonna be larger cracks by the end of winter.

Jim Salmon:                      Absolutely.

Peter Schick :                    That’s one of those things that you wanna take care of before it starts getting too cold, and usually this time here up in New York state, that’s the time to really deal with it.

Jim Salmon:                      A lot of people have what are called foundation vents. They might have a crawl space that’s not an every day accessible area, and they have these little vents in there, and you loosen the screw and you can open or close the vent.

Peter Schick :                    Yep.

Jim Salmon:                      Well, leaving the vent open in the winter time is not sound thinking, so pay attention to that, make sure they’re closed. A lot of people don’t even operate those things, they’ve been closed for years, they didn’t even know that they could be opened. Any time you’re letting zero degree air into your crawl space area where there’s pipes and whatever, it’s not a good thing.

Peter Schick :                    Not good, yeah. Not good at all.

Jim Salmon:                      Stay out of that.

Then there’s the whole list of maintenance things to get ready to fight the bad weather. Snow plows, lubricating this, putting new gas in there, new spark plugs, all that, get all the equipment ready.

Every year I buy a new metal … I spend like 30 bucks on it, a new metal snow shovel. Now we have snow here, and if you’re listening to this podcast-

Peter Schick :                    I got one of those big … It’s like a silver, it’s like aluminum, it’s like the huge shovel. I’ve had that for a while, I have two of them now, but I’ve been thinking about actually upgrading to a snow blower, actually getting a snow blower.

Jim Salmon:                      Oh I think you should.

Peter Schick :                    I think right now is the time to do it. It’s still August. I think you could probably get a decent price. If there’s a blackout, you don’t wanna buy a generator when there’s a blackout when everybody’s trying to get them. You wanna get it before it actually happens, and have it ready to go.

Jim Salmon:                      Good point.

Now those of you that, maybe you live in the northeast where it’s a little cooler and you have a summer home in Utah or Florida …

Peter Schick :                    We have a lot of snow birds up here.

Jim Salmon:                      You’re somewhat transient, you spend the beautiful summers up here on the finger lakes and then you head down there where you don’t have to deal with snow, and you have a house here that, okay, do I heat my house or do I not? Maybe I’m gone five months, do I heat it?

Well if you have a house that was built, say, after the 1950’s where it’s pretty much exclusively drywall … Drywall doesn’t like temperatures below 55. Lot of cracking takes place when it gets cold like that. If you have fine furniture and baby grand pianos … Cold weather takes its toll on some of that stuff.

Peter Schick :                    You also have to take into consideration how warmer you’re gonna keep it. Are you gonna keep it at 45, are you gonna keep it in the 60’s, there’s obvious concerns with that in terms of utility bill …

Jim Salmon:                      My opinion is 55 degrees. I think that’s a good …

There are some houses where they’re older or they’re all wood inside, a log home, that people say, “You know what? I’m not gonna heat my house. I’m going away for five months. I’m going to hire a plumber and have it all winterized, and then I’ll give the plumber the key, and I’ll call him two weeks before I’m coming back, have him fire everything back up …”

The only risk on that, is … Some things don’t like cold temperatures, like we said, but it is … You can’t do that if you have a hydranic heating system. You have a boiler system, you can’t do that. Full of water, so you need to keep that up and running.

Anybody that goes away for the winter should somehow try to figure out how to keep their house looking like somebody’s there.

Peter Schick :                    I agree. [crosstalk 00:14:04]

For security purposes, too. Not only for that, but, yeah, you don’t wanna be an easy target.

Jim Salmon:                      I think they have all these fancy new, and the technology changes about every week, all these fancy new alarm systems, and devices that’ll call your cell phone …

Peter Schick :                    If somebody’s at the door, or something like that, but that also means you need to keep the power on there. There are some secondary considerations for that, ’cause a lot of those are operating on the internet, you need to have that going the entire time, which means now you have to pay the bill for that, which means now you gotta have another thing running, and so there’s other considerations for those different security systems. You do have smart homes out there.

Jim Salmon:                      If you have an older furnace and you go away in the winter time, it’s imperative that you have a heating contractor come and do normal maintenance on it several weeks before you leave. I can’t tell you how many times people will hire somebody come and clean it, the next day they leave for Florida, something went wrong, and next thing you know the furnace is off.

Peter Schick :                    And now pipes are bursting.

Jim Salmon:                      Yeah, and those scenarios are not good.

Peter Schick :                    No, they’re not.

Jim Salmon:                      You should always turn the water off, drain everything down if you don’t need water supply. Like I said, if you have a hot water boiler, you can’t do that, but if you have a regular forced air heating system, then you just shut the water off and daring it down.

Chances are, if all the heat went off in your house, chances are that the incoming water service, which is down eight feet in the ground coming into your basement would not freeze, unless it got over the top crazy with …

One of the worse things that can happen to people is you go away to Florida, you come back, and there was a squirrel in your house, and it lived there, five months it lived there. It found the walnuts in the-

Peter Schick :                    In the kitchen pantry.

Jim Salmon:                      In your baking cabinet. It’s horrible.

Peter Schick :                    That would not be a surprise. You’d come home, okay, back up here [crosstalk 00:16:11] opened your cabinet, and a squirrel’s [crosstalk 00:16:14]

Jim Salmon:                      They took your five thousand dollar couch that you love, and they ripped all the stuffing out of it to make nests.

Peter Schick :                    Did this happen to you or did you hear about it?

Jim Salmon:                      No, this is the things that I’ve actually witnessed in my life.

Make your house unattractive to pests. You shouldn’t …

I was in a house this morning that the dampers been open. The people have lived there for 14 years. It’s a gas log fireplace since day one, and the dampers, you never shut-

Peter Schick :                    Oh, they kept it open.

Jim Salmon:                      Open all the time. And I’m thinking to myself, “14 heating seasons here in this part of New York state,” the furnaces are on from, what, October first let’s say, through the middle of April, right? Or maybe the end of April. So all the money that was pumped up that chimney with a forced air furnace because we just didn’t know that the damper was open.

Peter Schick :                    Yep, just little things like that add up over time.

Jim Salmon:                      Have a contingency plan for your house when you’re gone. The best thing to have, if you have a family member or a good trusted friend or neighbor that can go in once a week and just check stuff.

Peter Schick :                    I agree with that. You need that just to keep ahead of things, ’cause if you don’t, and you do say you have a pipe burst, or there is some critter in there, you could head it off at the pass before it could start becoming a real major issue.

Jim Salmon:                      Yeah, absolutely.

Peter Schick :                    That’s how I’d deal with it. I don’t have the privilege of being able to go down to Florida like a lot of other people do, but that’s how I would work [crosstalk 00:17:47]

Jim Salmon:                      Well you’re still young, you’re working on that.

Peter Schick :                    I’ll get there one of these days.

Jim Salmon:                      My wife and I are going to Hawaii coming up here in the next couple of months, and we’re going to Kauai.

Peter Schick :                    Where’s that?

Jim Salmon:                      I think it’s the big island.

Peter Schick :                    Oh, okay.

Jim Salmon:                      Kauai, whichever one that is.

Peter Schick :                    Kauai, maybe a place on the big island, maybe its own.

Jim Salmon:                      It’s 85 every day, that’s a win. By the time we go, it’ll be cold here, and all I’m gonna do is just sleep and take it all in. I can’t wait. I get yelled at by my wife all the time because I’ll walk into a place and I’m immediately looking up and she’ll yell at me, “Stop inspecting, we’re not inspecting.”

Peter Schick :                    You gotta turn it off, Jim.

You gotta take your mind off it and enjoy that beer on the beach.

Jim Salmon:                      That’s exactly right.

I am in the process of … Every other year or so, we go away for a couple weeks, but that’s usually about all. But still, there’s a lot going on at home.

Peter Schick :                    Who looks after your dogs when you do that?

Jim Salmon:                      Well, with have family members that move right in.

Peter Schick :                    Oh, okay.

Jim Salmon:                      And they stay there the whole time we’re there.

Peter Schick :                    We do a similar thing with us, ’cause that’s the main consideration is the pets. If we’re traveling somewhere like upstate New York or somewhere we’re driving, we’ll bring them along with. They’re fun to have along with. But if it’s, we’re flying somewhere, I’m not gonna deal with that. The dogs don’t wanna deal with being in a kennel in a plane and all that craziness. We’re gonna have friends or family come over, they stay at the place, and they walk the animals, and they pretty much have free rein in our house.

Jim Salmon:                      We have a rather unique ranch in western New York, you’ve been there. Everybody wants to go there and stay, so we don’t have a problem finding somebody to watch the place while we’re gone, so it’s all good.

I’ve always been a big advocate and really appreciated old cobblestone homes, and those of you that might be listening to this and as we discussed, prepping your house for fall and winter, is if you have a stone foundation, there’s lots of mortar joints there, a lot more than a concrete block or a board wall would be, and chunks of missing mortar, wind can blow all that way through that foundation all the way to the basement.

Peter Schick :                    The expansion of the ice would be the thing that really worries me with that, ’cause once you start getting a little crack, it’s gonna get bigger. You’re gonna have to take a look at that before it starts getting cold. You gotta put the mortar on that, let it dry, and take care of that before water has a chance to freeze, so you gotta do it while it’s still warm out.

Jim Salmon:                      My house is 150 something years old, and every year I have what I call a pointing party, and I get a few of my buddies over and we just go at it, mix up a bunch of mortar, and maybe we’ll do the front of the house this year and the next side …

Peter Schick :                    And you point out the different cracks, like, “Oh, heres an issue,” boom, take care of it.

Jim Salmon:                      I use it as an excuse to justify buying new tools, because …

Peter Schick :                    Or having a few beers with your buddies.

Jim Salmon:                      Oh yeah, that too. That goes without saying. But being able to buy new 20 volt ion technology [inaudible 00:21:15] cordless angle grinders, and [inaudible 00:21:18] and all that stuff, is wonderful. Well honey, I gotta have this.

Peter Schick :                    It’s funny, ’cause I actually used … I was tearing out a bathroom, and it had the surround was all … Beneath the tile, it had a bunch, it was concrete, so I was like, “Well how am I gonna get this?”

I got exactly that. I got the grinder to be able to help get that out with a diamond blade, and I was like, “yep, well, got another excuse to get another tool here.”

Jim Salmon:                      Especially if you’re into the whole do it yourself thing, and you flip houses and you’re in real estate, so you’re fairly handy, probably, is to get as many of the fun tools that make that job easier.

Peter Schick :                    Exactly, and you just acquire it over time. [inaudible 00:22:03] hold that in their back pocket, “Now I’m gonna use that grinder, I’m definitely gonna use it in the future. When? I don’t know, we’ll see.”

Jim Salmon:                      If you are unfortunate enough to have supply plumbing, and even some drain plumbing in an outside wall, that’s usually a mistake, and it’s …

Peter Schick :                    I’ve seen that. I’ve seen that with a washer that had the supply lines coming from the outside wall.

Jim Salmon:                      Frozen stiff.

Peter Schick :                    And it gets frozen. I have seen that time and time again.

Jim Salmon:                      Back in the day, well, what would the day be, back in the early 80’s, when we first bought our house, we’d just scraped up enough money just to buy the house, and it was, nowadays the trucks I buy are more than we paid for that house, but we didn’t have any money, we didn’t have any resources …

Peter Schick :                    You were gonna make it work.

Jim Salmon:                      Yeah, it was all different. But, I managed to scrape up enough money to buy a few tools and just start in mass and what I needed to put things together to make it happen, and then next thing you know, come down the line, I got people come over to borrow whatever they want ’cause they know I got it.

Peter Schick :                    Exactly. And you mass it over time, definitely.

Jim Salmon:                      I think if you’re going away for the winter, or just staying home but wanna prep your house, I think we pretty well covered all of that.

Peter Schick :                    Definitely have.

Jim Salmon:                      We do encourage emails here at the Home Repair Clinic website, or podcast. So Peter’s gonna tell you what the email address is, if you’d like to make a suggestion, or a suggestion for a show, or a specific question.

Peter Schick :                    You can contact us at contactus, yeah that’s repetitive.

Jim Salmon:                      I love it.

Peter Schick : [email protected]

Jim Salmon:                      Alright folks, have a great time. Keep your house safe, and we’ll see you down the line for the next podcast.

Ep 10: Roofing Considerations

House At Work Home Repair Clinic

In this episode, Jim and Peter discuss different types of roofing and considerations you should take for each.

Do you have a home improvement question? Email us at [email protected] and we will do our best to get it answered for you! Do you need help with a home improvement project and live in the upstate New York region? Go to and click “Find Contractors“.

Jim Salmon:                      Hello everybody and welcome to the home repair capitol of the world. This is the Home Repair Clinic Podcast. My name is Jim Salmon and you are …

Peter Schick :                    Peter Schick.

Jim Salmon:                      Good morning, or good afternoon, or good night.

Peter Schick :                    Good afternoon to you too Jim.

Jim Salmon:                      How are you?

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, good, good, good.

Jim Salmon:                      Today we’re gonna talk roofing, all things roofing. Everybody needs a roof if you live in a house.

Peter Schick :                    Yes you do.

Jim Salmon:                      There’s lots of different kinds, and we’ll go over the … maybe a little bit of how to hire a roofer, some of the things not to do, some of the things to do.

Peter Schick :                    Some common maintenance concerns as well that I know that you’ve definitely seen, and I’ve seen as well. Yeah, definitely the different types of roofs, too. Like what you would need, some of the considerations for that.

Jim Salmon:                      Part of what I do for a living is I’m a home inspector. You hire me to look in a house that you’re thinking of buying or whatever and write a report, whatever. But I also do a lot of workmanship investigation work. Unfortunately, roofing falls into that category a lot of times. So it’s important for the homeowners to be in control of the roof project, so you don’t wind up on the other end of something with an argument with your roofer and he’s already paid and all that. So we’ll get into that.

Peter Schick :                    Exactly. Now when you’ve had those workmanship investigations, what are some of the common things you’ve seen when it comes to roofs?

Jim Salmon:                      You mean problem wise?

Peter Schick :                    Yeah problem wise.

Jim Salmon:                      Yeah. Oh gosh there’s so many.

The instillation of shingles is pretty much foolproof if you follow a few little rules. But it’s amazing how many people seem to screw it all up.

Peter Schick :                    They just slap them on there.

Jim Salmon:                      High nailing. Every shingle has, okay, this is where you nail. If you high nail, the wind blows the tabs off.

Peter Schick :                    Yep, exactly. So it doesn’t actually go into a board is what you’re saying, when you nail it in.

Jim Salmon:                      Right, exactly.

Peter Schick :                    Okay I’ve seen that.

Jim Salmon:                      Transitions to other roofing. Like a flat porch roof then now transitions into a three in one tab or an architectural shingle and they had no idea how to do it and it leaks like a sieve.

Peter Schick :                    I see.

Jim Salmon:                      Where lower roofs transition into siding is a big thing. Say you have wood shingles on your house now. Your house is built in the 20s or the 1900s and you have cedar shingles. In our part of the world here in New York State you can’t go over that. The code calls for it a removal, a complete removal. So you’re taking out a half an inch of cedar shingles and it might have two or three layers of asphalt on there. So you’re taking out two inches of roofing and you’re going back with a quarter of an inch of roofing. So now there’s this big giant gap in the siding. Those types of things are all supposed to be dealt with.

Peter Schick :                    Now I know rules, we have rules here in terms of how many layers you can have on roof.

Jim Salmon:                      Right. You can have two, can’t have three, and you can’t go over wood shingles under any circumstances except one, and that’s certain types of metal roofing.

Peter Schick :                    Oh I see. Yeah cause I’ve heard of metal roofs going over asphalt shingles and you can also have them go over those kind of shingles as well.

Jim Salmon:                      Right.

Peter Schick :                    That’s interesting.

Jim Salmon:                      The absolute skunks in the insurance industry, in the insurance lobby got together and said, “Hey, wood shingles are like a tinder, they catch fire, they add to insurance claims.”

Peter Schick :                    Oh yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      “So we want the state of New York to take that out of there, we want them all ripped out.” Well, okay.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, I mean, well okay, what are you gonna do? The work’s already done.

Jim Salmon:                      Exactly, exactly.

Now most of the people, unfortunately in my opinion, most people are doing replacements with architectural asphalt shingles, which are a fiberglass mat with some oil on it and then some glue and some roof aggregate in various colors. It’s actually, architectural shingles are a laminated shingle. There’s another little piece on top of it glued down. It makes it look like the wood shake look. You can get those that look like slate and a bunch of different –

Peter Schick :                    Yeah I’ve seen actual slate roofs before.

Jim Salmon:                      Those are beautiful.

Peter Schick :                    They are. I can’t even imagine trying to install those, how that even works or how that even begins.

Jim Salmon:                      Each piece of slate has two holes in it. Each hole has a piece of copper wire, or a copper nail rivet looking type thing that goes through that and into the roof deck.

Peter Schick :                    Oh really?

Jim Salmon:                      So now, some of these roofs I’m on, and a rule of thumb is you don’t walk a slate roof, but some of them I’m on from the turn of the century or the 20s or whatever and all these copper rivets are now all worn cause they’ve been moving around.

Peter Schick :                    Oh jeez.

Jim Salmon:                      When a piece of slate comes off of a roof, and it’s [crosstalk 00:04:45]

Peter Schick :                    That’s a falling hazard.

Jim Salmon:                      It’s like hatchet, you know?

Peter Schick :                    Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      I’ve done some church work lately. We inspect churches too because the boards can’t ever get along cause they want everything to be free. So they hire somebody like me and I come in a help them sort it out. Well this one church had like a 9/12 pitch roof all slate, beautiful, beautiful, but it was right in the same plane as the sidewalk out front.

Peter Schick :                    Oh yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      So you get one of those things loose and it’s sliding down the roof –

Peter Schick :                    Yeah you have a big liability issue right there.

Jim Salmon:                      At a hundred miles an hour and it’s like, you know.

Anyway, slate is a thousand dollars a square right now. A square of roofing, and that’s how they measure roofing, is ten foot by ten foot. That’s one square roofing and that’s generally how it’s priced and whatever. So a thousand dollars just for a ten foot by ten foot section of slate.

Peter Schick :                    Oh wow.

Jim Salmon:                      Pretty cool.

Peter Schick :                    The thing with slate roofs too, I see that, and it makes me think that weighs so much more and that’s going to put so much more, I guess, it’s gonna take more of a toll on the structure itself just because of the weight that’s being put on that.

Jim Salmon:                      Pretty heavy.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      For years and years and years and years, one square of asphalt roofing weighed about 210-235 pounds, ten by ten section.

Peter Schick :                    Yep.

Jim Salmon:                      Slate, 800.

Peter Schick :                    Oh wow, okay.

Jim Salmon:                      That’s a lot.

Peter Schick :                    That’s a significant difference there.

Jim Salmon:                      Sometimes on a slate roof I’ll find the rafters are a foot on center instead of 16. Or I’ll find that the roof decks beefed up to full three quarter tongue and groove or something like that rather than plywood or whatever.

Peter Schick :                    That would make a lot of sense to support that. Cause that’s a significant increase in weight right there.

Jim Salmon:                      One of the things that is making an inroad in the roofing business, especially in the Northeast is stone coated steel. Stone coated steel roof is a roof tile about the same size as an asphalt shingle, but it’s made out of an alloy, it’s called Galvalume. It’s a combination of galvanized steel and aluminum. They make them in various different patterns and looks: slate, flat shingle, shingle, rough hand split shingle type thing, but it’s all metal and it has roof aggregate on it. It has stones on it.

Peter Schick :                    Interesting.

Jim Salmon:                      The difference in that is that the stones don’t come off like they do on asphalt shingle. They don’t wind up in the gutter because there’s hardly ever any aggregate loss. Stone coated steel roofs are permanent. I mean, I don’t know, I’m 62, how old are you?

Peter Schick :                    I’m 34, so yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      Even in your life, you’d never do another roof if you did it in stone coated steel.

Peter Schick :                    Definitely, well even a metal roof itself, that’s a complete lifetime piece. You’re never gonna have to replace that. Whereas with a lot of other roofs, once you start getting towards fifteen years, you gotta start looking for a replacement or doing some significant maintenance on that.

Jim Salmon:                      Anybody can install an asphalt roof and sometimes anybody does, but metal requires a little bit more artistry. It’s a … career isn’t the right word. It’s a … I’m not sure what the word is I’m looking for.

Peter Schick :                    It takes a little more talent.

Jim Salmon:                      Yes, it’s an art. Cause good metal roof installers were siding guys maybe in the past that took aluminum trim on a break, cause there’s a lot of that with a metal roof. But it’s definitely an art and once you learn it, it’s a great living, I mean, if you’re in the roofing business.

Peter Schick :                    Oh yeah, I believe it. I guess my concern is, say if I am a metal roofer and obviously there’s a big difference between … My value propositions big, where it’s like, “Okay, I do a metal roof and it’s going to last you a lifetime.” That’s a huge value proposition. But there’s also a large increase in price in that as well.

Jim Salmon:                      There is and that’s the drawback. But, now plug in a couple of things into the scenario. Let’s just say for the sake of it, your asphalt roof is $10,000. You’ve got a 2,500 square foot house and you gotta little couple of valleys or whatever. It’s ten grand. So if you have two layers it’s a tear off, so you’ve gotta go in and tear it off and then replace the roof. With stone coated steel it’s gonna be 18 to 22,000, so it’s twice that.

Now, one scenario would be is, say a roof over at your house is going to be ten thousand, but if, okay I have one layer of wood shingles and another layer of asphalt, you can’t go over the wood shingles, so now it’s a tear off. Then there’s a gap between the boards there so we have to deck it with wafer board or plywood. So now we’re into the 14-5 range. So now that you don’t have to do that tear off of the wood shingles with metal, so now the stone coated steel at 18 is like, “Wow, I can have a permanent roof that I don’t have to do in twenty years.” You know? That’s just-

Peter Schick :                    That’s definitely a big consideration, it’s really, how long am I going to be living in this place is probably the biggest concern. If it’s like, “Hey I’m going to live here til I’m old and gray and I die.” Okay then makes sense. Might as well get a metal roof. Or it’s, “Okay, I don’t necessarily have the … If I have the money on hand to be able to do it, okay that’d be a consideration.” But, yeah. I think those are probably the two differences.

Well, I’d also say it’s also kind of a stylistic kind of thing, whether you actually like the metal roof. I think a lot of people do like the kind of traditional shingle look. If you’re in some neighborhoods, maybe it doesn’t look right to have a metal roof. I could see if I had a cabin or something it would make a lot of sense, you know most of those do have metal roofs and stuff.

Jim Salmon:                      Well, you know what, it’s all about the money.

Peter Schick :                    It is. It boils down to that at the end of the day as far as I’m concerned.

Jim Salmon:                      A lot of people are not staying in their houses as much as they were years and years ago. People are transient. They move and whatever or they move up.

Peter Schick :                    Yep. They upgrade to another house. Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      But there is a good selling point when you sell your house. You have a stone coated steel cause nobody ever has to worry about a roof again.

Peter Schick :                    Oh yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      Which is a good thing. I think that investing in a metal roof, by the time you add up the 10,000 that you’re spending on the asphalt roof and you have to do it again in 20 years, so now it’s at 20,000. It’s not unusual to have people live in a house for twenty years.

Peter Schick :                    Oh yeah, that isn’t. Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      So now you’re up to what stone coated steel would be.

Peter Schick :                    Exactly.

Jim Salmon:                      Especially if you’re like me. I’m 62 now and I’m doing all my roofs in stone coated steel, when I’m 85 I don’t want to mess with roofs.

Peter Schick :                    Exactly, you’re not at the age where you want to have to deal with that. You’re gonna be retired Jim Salmon doing his thing, you know?

Jim Salmon:                      That’s right.

So a few things to kind of be careful about when you’re hiring a roof project, the number one thing is stay in control of the money.

Peter Schick :                    Yep.

Jim Salmon:                      Now, in our area there are many companies out there that don’t charge anything upfront.

Peter Schick :                    You shouldn’t. This circles back to our episode about finding a contractor.

Jim Salmon:                      Yeah.

Peter Schick :                    Where you’ll have these guys where it’s like, “Oh I need all the money up front.” No. That is big, huge. That is the red flag.

Jim Salmon:                      That’s right.

Peter Schick :                    If people get anything out of anything we say, they can ignore everything else we say, but if a contractor asks for all up front, go the other direction.

Jim Salmon:                      We have this thing going on this week down in Texas with hurricane Harvey.

Peter Schick :                    Yep.

Jim Salmon:                      One of the things, my own personal policy that I learned a long time ago was, I never buy anything at all from what I call a storm chaser, somebody that comes to the door.

Peter Schick :                    Yep.

Jim Salmon:                      Driveway sealer, roofing, painting, barn painters, I just don’t deal with that. If you don’t deal with somebody coming to the door, it’s a win for you because you’re never going to get in trouble. You have to go out and find your own contractor, get plenty of estimates on things you’re doing, be in control of the money and –

Peter Schick :                    Totally agree with that.

That’s actually, we had issues with individuals who were putting asphalt, or sealing driveways. That was one thing I’ve seen a lot or I’ve heard a lot around here. Individuals like, “Hey, we got some tar left, we’ll do it for this cut rate price and give me it all up front,” and then they never do it kind of deal.

Jim Salmon:                      I wish I had a dollar for every time somebody came up to me and said, “Oh I’ve got a bad roof, my roofer, I paid this guy and he put it on, it’s horrible, can you come over and look at it.” I get there and, “Oh wow, what happened here?” “Well, I hired a handyman to do a roofing job. Guy was pretty handy, said he’s done roofs before.” Okay, this is where the system broke down.

Peter Schick :                    Yep.

Jim Salmon:                      Experience gets you two things, it gets you a professionally looking roof and it gets it done in timely fashion.

Peter Schick :                    It gets it done right the first time, too.

Jim Salmon:                      I wish I had another dollar for every time somebody says they’ve been working on this roof for four weeks.

Peter Schick :                    Four weeks.

Jim Salmon:                      Craziness.

Peter Schick :                    Four weeks.

Jim Salmon:                      It’s nuts.

Peter Schick :                    I can’t imagine what would take four weeks.

Jim Salmon:                      I was on a roof job, workmanship investigation last week and the back of the house, a big old gable roof, and the back one roofer in the roof crew, one guy started on the right hand side, another guys started on the left hand side and when they met in the middles they were weaving the shingles together. So it looks like the head of a dinosaur coming down the middle.

Peter Schick :                    Oh boy.

Jim Salmon:                      I mean like a ridge. It’s horrible.

Peter Schick :                    A ridge in the center. Oh no.

Jim Salmon:                      Just don’t hire somebody … I mean handymen are good and they can replace a lock here and there –

Peter Schick :                    I think a lot of homeowners, their main incentive for going the handyman route, it’s like you said, it’s all about the money. It’s like, “Oh I’m gonna do it for half the price.” We also talked about that correlation between a quality and price. There’s always that, “Hey you’re not gonna pay a lot but you’re gonna get …” If you don’t pay a lot, you’re not gonna get a lot of quality.

Jim Salmon:                      You’re a professional real estate person and you know the worst of the worst deals are where a family member is selling something else to a family member.

Peter Schick :                    Oh yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      The same thing goes with roofing.

Peter Schick :                    Oh yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      When it comes to installing a roof, having Uncle Joe do it at half-price or, “Oh my kid needs the work, can he do it?” and whatever. It’s always screwed up, it’s always a mess, and now you’re dealing with family member versus family member.

Peter Schick :                    Now you got all these emotions involved and everything else. No, I’ve heard that story plenty of times too. Plenty of times.

Jim Salmon:                      You know, there are some advertising gimmicks that go along with the roofing business sometimes. “We have this special thing that lifts the shingles up.” Or, “We do it this way.” Or whatever, I mean, “These shingles we use are the ones that are on the White House.”

So you have to be careful for the gimmick things, cause some of those larger companies, you end up paying a lot more than you need to just because the overhead, that fancy bucket thing they’re lifting the shingles up with costs 80 grand and now you have to get more money for it.

Peter Schick :                    One thing I have seen also is financing for a lot of roofing projects. I’ve heard about that as well and I guess to a certain extent that can make some sense, if you are short on cash, but in the long term, it’s probably going to cost you a lot more.

Jim Salmon:                      Lot more.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah. Cause they’re making their interest on that. I’ve seen that a bunch of times with some of the bigger roofers, honestly, I see with that, but I’m always a bit skeptical. I’d always look into the terms with that. It’s like, what kind of interest rate are you charging?

Jim Salmon:                      Yeah. Check that all out.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, cause if it’s like, only 20 dollars a month you’ve got to pay us for this brand new roof. How long am I going to be paying this off? Like 20 years? You know?

Jim Salmon:                      Some of the mistakes homeowners make when they’re hiring a roofer is not taking them up in the attic and letting them look around up there and saying, there’s no cracked rafters here.

Cause you know what? They pick up those bundles and they walk them down to the edge of the roof and they throw them down on the roof deck. Once in a while there’s a cracked rafter of a split out hunk of roof deck or whatever. So then it’s always a, well, pissing match between the homeowner and the roofer. “Oh that was there before.” You know, so if you take the roofer up there and say, “Okay look, no cracked rafters.” Also discuss with them about clean-up. You know, where does the –

Peter Schick :                    That definitely –

Jim Salmon:                      Clean-up every day or after the job’s over?

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, coordination of cleanup, but also if you’re tearing off, where are you gonna put that dumpster, throwing things down. If you’re going to be having your family and stuff walking around, these guys are going to have to be considerate of where they’re throwing all of these shingles and all of these boarded nails and everything else. Yeah, the clean-up piece with that. There’s gonna be nails and other things that they’re gonna have to … Just one of those things that has to be covered in the very beginning.

Jim Salmon:                      I think we might have talked about this before in another broadcast, but roofers are notoriously tough on gutters, fascias, siding, bushes, ground cover, plants and whatever. So the chronology of things should be, before you do siding projects, before you do gutter projects, you should always do the roof as close to first as you can. Actually, you do any chimney work first, then the roof, then anything down below.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, kind of work your way, start at the top, work your way down.

Jim Salmon:                      It’s kind of heartbreaking sometimes when you have a nice new gutter system and then when the roof replacement is over with it’s all scythed up and there’s holes in it. It looks like [crosstalk 00:18:08].

Peter Schick :                    It’s like getting your driveway sealed or getting it paved or something and that being the first things, it doesn’t make sense, that’s like one of those things that you do last. It’s the same thing with flooring, you don’t want to put this beautiful flooring in and now they have to tear down a bunch of walls and do all this other work and now you just caused all these other secondary and tertiary issues because you didn’t do the order of operations correctly.

Jim Salmon:                      Now I have it on good authority that coming in the future are roof shingles that have solar panels in them.

Peter Schick :                    I’ve already heard of that. That’s already here. Future is here Jim.

Jim Salmon:                      Yep. Future’s here.

You’re younger than I am so take it away. No I mean, I think that eventually there will be new houses built with solar panel roof shingles all connected into a central –

Peter Schick :                    Like battery hub.

Jim Salmon:                      System within the house, a battery hub or in our area they use smart meters and my solar panels go back int through the meter.

Peter Schick :                    I would even take it a step further. I would say not only the shingles, would those be solar powered, but even your windows. Where like the light going through helps power your house and the windows. That’s already something that I think already exists, I think it’s just a matter of getting the cost down. I think that’s how it is with those solar paneled shingles. It’s, okay it’s at the very beginning, it’s at the infancy of its existence.

Jim Salmon:                      Yeah, right now they’re 25 bucks a piece.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, a shingle. Now they have to kind of work down the price to where it’s like accessible not to just super rich people but everyday folks who can actually use that.

The other issue with that is actually integrating that now with your own house. Say if I wanted to have these solar powered shingles, I mean what I need to have a battery system. I know you, do you have any solar powered stuff? I mean –

Jim Salmon:                      I bought an 8kW solar powered system on a building that I have, on my play barn.

Peter Schick :                    Oh, okay.

Jim Salmon:                      Man cave extraordinaire. Mm, mm, mm. It generates about $950 worth of electricity a year. It’s not connected to a battery system, it’s not like that. It generates power and it feeds it back into the grid.

Peter Schick :                    Oh.

Jim Salmon:                      So I get credit for it.

Peter Schick :                    Okay your grid’s connected.

Jim Salmon:                      I get credit from the utility at cost, not at what the delivery and the retail price would be, but it is –

Peter Schick :                    Okay that kind of integration seems much, much more easier than say if it was an off grid situation where it’s like, okay I have my solar powered roof and now I have to store it in the batteries and everything else. Okay.

Jim Salmon:                      Almost anywhere in the country can be profitable for solar. Now, I know there’s a lot of politics on it right now cause it’s subsidized like crazy and mine was subsidized and whatever. Okay, so maybe eventually it will get to the point where it’s not quite that bad.

Germany has the largest percentage of solar power in the world.

Peter Schick :                    Oh yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      Their climate is worse than ours as far as clouds and rain and so forth. In this part of New York –

Peter Schick :                    They have it on almost every roof there.

Jim Salmon:                      Right, right.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      So it’s viable here, we just need to figure out how to make it as cost effective.

Peter Schick :                    I think it’s viable at scale. Yeah. Once you start getting scale it’s kind of a chicken or egg thing. It’s okay, well it becomes much more viable when everybody has it, but how do you get everybody to have it if it’s really expensive kind of deal.

Jim Salmon:                      I went over to, where was it, Ireland, last year. Went to this one place and there’s a guy up on a thatched roof and it was straw, and he’s taking it and he’s building this roof. I’m thinking to myself, “Wow, the three little pigs would love this one.”

Peter Schick :                    Oh yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      Cause it … in the 80 mile an hour wind we had here in march in our part of the world here, there would be nothing left there.

Peter Schick :                    There’d be nothing. I’d be concerned –

Jim Salmon:                      There wouldn’t be one single straw.

Peter Schick :                    I’d be concerned if somebody was like having a fire or something, or somebody like flicked a cigarette and it accidentally got up there and now it’s like, “Aw geez.” Yeah, gone.

Jim Salmon:                      You know, a couple of things too about hiring roofers. We live in this world where the lawyers are coming out of the woodwork. I mean, you know, where’s that ambulance. I shouldn’t be like that. Shoot all lawyers except mine.  [crosstalk 00:22:28]

Peter Schick :                    You would say that, you would say that Jim.

Jim Salmon:                      So here’s the thing. People sue people for anything. Somebodies working on your house and he’s got a kid helper, right?

Peter Schick :                    Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Jim Salmon:                      And its not his own kind but he’s a kid helper and he’s up on the roof and he falls off and he breaks his leg. Or worse, right? If that person isn’t in the system, and in particular in New York State, there’s workman comp laws in roofing. I mean you pay through the nose to be a roofer you’ve got to be properly insured.

Peter Schick :                    The thing is with a lot of those roofers they don’t necessarily say they’re roofers a lot of the time because of that insurance, because the insurance premiums they have to pay.

Jim Salmon:                      That’s right, that’s absolutely right.

So he falls off and oftentimes the homeowners liable. “Oh my gosh the gutter was too loose, or the whatever, you made an unsafe environment, and now I want X.” There’s always a lawyer out there wanting to take that kind of stuff.

Peter Schick :                    Oh yeah, the injury law, yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      Making sure that whoever works on your house has a certificate of insurance and workman’s comp is just good practice. Now, because I’m inherently skeptical on everything, I don’t trust anybody, whatever, because that’s what I do for a living is figure these things out. I will always call the insurance company. Somebody can give you a certificate, which they got in 1993 and they just whited out the number, made the date, and put in another copy of it, and handed to the homeowner. I always call the insurance company. Now they’re not gonna tell you the specifics because that’s none of your business, but they will verify that yes, he has –

Peter Schick :                    If indeed they have that.

Jim Salmon:                      He has in place an active insurance. So it’s just worth doing. Just to stay out of trouble.

Peter Schick :                    I agree, I agree. I’ve heard all sorts of stories with that where a roofer may say they have insurance but it’s insurance for a landscaper, because landscaping insurance is very low, very low premium that has to get paid. Whereas with the roofers, it’s significantly higher.

Jim Salmon:                      Everything’s 20 feet down.

Peter Schick :                    Yep. That’s right. If you fall, you’re breaking something more than likely.

Jim Salmon:                      So you know, stay in complete control of that.

This year has been a wet year.

Peter Schick :                    Oh yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      I mean off the charts for us. So many roofing projects going on. I mean, the roofers are just blasted with work.

Peter Schick :                    They are. Actually, they’re super busy.

Jim Salmon:                      Because of these winds we’re having.

Peter Schick :                    They’re actually, I’m still hearing about guys who are still doing projects from that windstorm, and that windstorm was what? Five months ago?

Jim Salmon:                      Yeah.

Peter Schick :                    There’s still work being done with that. I still see tarps on top of some of the houses here.

Jim Salmon:                      That’s the key, right there. I was on a house the other day that had so much massive dry wall damage, water coming out of the light fixtures, cause the guy was doing a tear off, he got way ahead of himself, there wasn’t enough people there, the tarps weren’t readily available when the downpour came, and then next thing you know there’s all kinds of … You want to have that conversation up front, especially if they’re doing a tear off on your roof.

Peter Schick :                    Oh yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      You want to make sure that they have some tarps, they don’t have to run over to the big box and get tarps when it’s pouring rain.

Peter Schick :                    Go to Home Depot, get tarps, then do that. You want to try to be a proactive as you can with a that. That’s definitely something that’s foreseeable. It’s not like, “Oh jeez, you know, what am I going to do once the roof is torn off?” No, you gotta be able to have that plan in place. Gotta know what you’re doing with that.

Jim Salmon:                      When you do a roof tear off, you find where you didn’t get it done before. You find where the leaks were, you find where the carpenter ants got in. Oftentimes there’s roof deck plywood or even tongue and groove that’s all rotted and you can’t put a new roof on that.

Peter Schick :                    No you can’t, that’s gonna have to be replaced.

Jim Salmon:                      You have to pull that out of there and replace it.

Peter Schick :                    Yep.

Jim Salmon:                      So on most roofing written estimates, is how much per sheet of plywood if we have to replace that stuff. Now I was in a house, this lady called me she said, “I don’t know about this. They said they used 54 sheets of plywood and that’s at 50 bucks a sheet. That’s another 1000 dollars.”

Peter Schick :                    Wow. 50 sheets, wait? How big are these sheets?

Jim Salmon:                      Well they’re four foot by eight foot.

Peter Schick :                    Okay, that’s pretty big, that’s pretty big.

Jim Salmon:                      54 sheets. She said, “Can you come over and look.” So I climb up there and I’m in the attic with my little piece of chalk and I mark off all the new sheets cause you can see them.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, you can look right at it.

Jim Salmon:                      19 sheets.

Peter Schick :                    Oh jeez.

Jim Salmon:                      19 sheets. So I said to the roofing contractor, “Alright, where do we come up with 54?” “Oh, I don’t know, that must have been a mistake.” Well yeah, that was a big mistake, 25 extra hundred dollars or whatever it is on top of that cause you’re putting in all –

Peter Schick :                    Yeah you’re paying, now this homeowner is paying for supplies that aren’t even being used on their house.

Jim Salmon:                      Absolutely. Right. That’s a lot of money.

Peter Schick :                    That is. That’s a lot of money.

Jim Salmon:                      So anyway, the bottom line is, stay in control of things, use your head. If that little devil pops up on your shoulder, move onto another roofer guys. Get plenty of estimates, don’t pay a lot of money down, and stay in control.

Peter Schick :                    Exactly. [crosstalk 00:27:26]

Jim Salmon:                      Have we exhausted this subject?

Peter Schick :                    I think we have.

Jim Salmon:                      Alright.

Peter Schick :                    I think we have.

Jim Salmon:                      Folks I’d like to take this opportunity, on behalf of Peter Schick and yours truly, Jim Salmon, thank you for joining us for this Home Repair Clinic Podcast. We’ll see you right down the road for the next one. Stay tuned.

Avoid the uncomfortable situation of considering a pipefitter as plumber

Being a plumber or a pipefitter requires a lot of skill and knowledge. They are highly-trained professionals who have spent years of training in their jobs. People often think these two job titles are the same, which isn’t true. There are some important differences between plumbers and pipefitters. Let’s have a look at the major differences that make the two jobs unique:


Piping material

Pipefitters are usually involved in more demanding jobs that require pipes made of special metals that can handle high pressure. If you need piping such as PVC, copper or galvanized steel, you should hire a plumber. Pipefitters are trained to deal with more specialized piping such as high carbon steel or stainless steel.


Work environment

Plumbers usually work privately, either for large or small companies. Pipefitters, on the other hand, are often needed in the industrial field, and thus they work with larger companies. You will find plumbers in industries that deal with HVAC, waste disposal, and potable water while pipefitters are usually found performing work on both residential and commercial appliances.



Both plumbers and pipefitters need to be able to determine the best materials and equipment required for the job. They perform inspections, and install and repair piping systems and fixtures. However, plumbers work with gas and water lines that are connected to appliances like dishwashers and bathtubs, while pipefitters work with complex piping systems such as refrigeration and hazardous gases.


Manufacturing often requires both plumbers and pipefitters. If you are looking for highly-professional contractors for a variety of services including plumbing pipe installation and plumbing pipe repair, visit House at Work. Post the details about your project and choose the services you need. Soon, accredited contractors will submit their proposals. These services are available in Rochester, Buffalo, Syracuse, Albany, and Ithaca, New York. Hurry and choose the right contractor for your bathroom remodeling services at House at Work.

Tips for choosing your exterior paint

It can be very difficult to determine which color will suit best for the exterior of your home. It’s a fact that exterior hues can affect the curb appeal of your house and thus making it very crucial. You need to take care of landscaping, hardscaping, and roofing to make your exterior more attractive. Here are a few tips that may help:

Go for historically accurate color scheme  

If you are thinking of painting your home, you should definitely go for a historically accurate color scheme. So what does that mean?  If able, try to use a color that your house has been in the past.  To help you with this, you can also contact a professional to analyze the old paint chips and then recreate the original color.

Should complement the roof color

Check what type of material your roof is made of.  Is it asphalt, shingle, metal, terracotta, slate or clay?  All these roofing colors have their own textures and considerations. It is not necessary that your exterior siding paint color matches the roof, rather it should harmonize with it.

 What is not going to be painted

Sometimes you cannot paint the exterior especially when your home is brick, stone, associated with a dominant chimney, vinyl windows, natural wooden door.  Take the color of these into consideration when selecting a paint color.

Accents and architecture

Look for an accent color that contrasts with the background. Acknowledge the architectural details of your house. Check for any brackets, imposts, swirls and dentil molding. You can also check for any missing architectural details that should be replaced before you start painting. You can also color your siding by selecting accent colors for shutters, moldings, doors, brackets and porch decks. Beware that too many colors can overwhelm your house.

Besides these tips, if you are looking for highly professional contractors for services such as interior or exterior painting visit House at Work. Just post the details about your project and contractors will come to you with their proposal for your project. These services are available in Rochester, Buffalo, Syracuse, Albany, and Ithaca, New York. For more details, please visit the website

Ep 9: Landscaping Considerations

House At Work Home Repair Clinic

Jim and Peter discuss common pitfalls and solutions to landscaping your yard.

Do you have a home improvement question? Email us at [email protected] and we will do our best to get it answered for you! Do you need help with a home improvement project and live in the upstate New York region? Go to and click “Find Contractors“.

Jim Salmon:                      Now live from the home improvement capital of the world this is the home repair clinic podcast. My name is Jim Salmon and his name is Peter Schick. How are you today?

Peter Schick :                    Fantastic. It’s a beautiful day today. It’s a really nice day.

Jim Salmon:                      Now are you a millionaire?

Peter Schick :                    No. No, nowhere near?

Jim Salmon:                      Well, today’s subject folks going to be talking a little bit about landscaping and how to improve the curb appeal of your house. You were just telling me the story of how did you say it? It was so thick with leaves and stuff that it looked like a-

Peter Schick :                    We bought this house, well, we got it … so I’ll tell the story. Initially this guy, he wanted to list this house and, well, the thing was he had a, it was what do you call it, it’s where you have permission to do the actions on behalf of someone else? A power of attorney, yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      A power of attorney.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, there you go. I don’t know why I couldn’t get that out, so he had a power of attorney for his mom. His mom was getting old and he pretty much just wanted to get rid of the house and so he came to us. He wanted to list it. I start walking through it, and it was in really rough shape, everything, but you saw the potential. Yeah, I saw past it because the thing was the big pieces were there, like a good furnace, good water heater, good roof. Those are the real-

Jim Salmon:                      That’s the holy grail right there.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, if that’s all aligned you could pretty much do some of the other cosmetic stuff and make it work. One of the things that was in really, really bad shape was the lawn. It was in horrendous shape. It was just mud. It was literally in the back yard I remember having the flooring guy come in. We were getting some new flooring in the kitchen and bath and he just looked in the back yard, “Oh my God!”

Jim Salmon:                      What a mess.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, he just looked through the window and then he did this double-take, like, oh my God. He said that-

Jim Salmon:                      What did you do? Rake it out and seed it or-

Peter Schick :                    Well, yeah, and the thing was you could tell it hadn’t been raked in years. This was an archeological dig with the leaves. You’d see there’s different layers from different years and it was still wet-

Jim Salmon:                      Oh, what a nightmare.

Peter Schick :                    … and it was really bad. It was easily two feet. There’s this one part in the back yard where there’s this blue stone kind of patio area and I didn’t even know it was there until we got all the leaves off.

Jim Salmon:                      It’s a bonus. You’ve got a patio.

Peter Schick :                    Oh, wow, here we go. Look at this, this is beautiful, sweet. Yeah, we had to get rid of all of the leaves and then it was just pretty much mud. Because it was really shaded, there’s a lot of trees in the back yard. We needed to get a certain kind of seed to put down.

Jim Salmon:                      That’s tough to do, yeah.

Peter Schick :                    The thing is you can’t just use any seed because it’s a very heavily shaded area. If you used regular seed it’s going to come in all patchy. It’s not going to really work out. You have to get a special kind that’s made for being in a heavily shadowed, like an area with a lot of shadows. It came in beautifully. It came in really well, and had to do a lot of work, too. We put in a bunch of perennials, too. This is a debate. Some people like the annuals because they have a lot of really nice color, it’s really boom, there’s the color. Then you have to do that every year. Perennials, it’s just hey, fire and forget. There you go. I put it in and-

Jim Salmon:                      It keeps coming back.

Peter Schick :                    … you know, it does its thing. It just does its thing. I prefer those. Yeah, a little more expensive. Usually towards the end of the summer, like right now it’s August, maybe right after Memorial Day, well, you’re playing with fire with that if you start planting right after that. You’ll know if it’s actually going to take or not before it gets cold, but you can usually get some deals from what I’ve seen.

Jim Salmon:                      That’s great. Flipping a house is a lot of fun. It’s not for everybody.

Peter Schick :                    No, it’s not.

Jim Salmon:                      I hear horror stories all the time about people lost everything they have.

Peter Schick :                    Here’s the thing. This is me and my wife. If we can’t, we’re just going to live in it for a little while, so that’s how we look at it. I looked at it like, “Hey, Babe, if we wouldn’t have a problem living in this if we can’t,” so it’s really not a big deal in terms of us.

Jim Salmon:                      [Crosstalk 00:04:14] cash out of it it’s all good, too.

Peter Schick :                    Exactly, so that’s how I look at it as well.

Jim Salmon:                      One of the biggest expenses nowadays in landscaping is the walkways, patios, and so forth.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      Old concrete, stone, even the blue stone is old technology.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      Now we’re into these beautiful modern pavers. There’s hundreds of them, different colors, different designs, and a lot of landscape folks also do hardscape.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      Oh gosh, there’s a science to that and they’re so much to learn about that.

Peter Schick :                    Yes there is.

Jim Salmon:                      It’s all about the base.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      I had a paver driveway installed and the base is 20 inches thick.

Peter Schick :                    Really?

Jim Salmon:                      Yeah, they excavated it out-

Peter Schick :                    Oh, Jesus.

Jim Salmon:                      … and then they bring in this approved sand and then it’s tamped.

Peter Schick :                    I didn’t realize there was that much work with it.

Jim Salmon:                      Well, the driveway may be different than say a front walkway, that might-

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, because the driveway’s taking a lot more weight and it’s going to settle over the years, so I can understand you got to have the different layers with the sand and everything and put drainage and the settling. Yeah, I can see that. Coming after five or 10 years if you don’t do it right, you’re going to notice it.

Jim Salmon:                      Spending money on a paver or a concrete block-type retaining wall or things like that that modern pavers bring to the table are absolutely gorgeous. They add value, they bring the house into the 21st Century. You can still find masons that will pour you a sidewalk, but for the curb appeal and if you were into the whole outdoor kitchen thing like I am-

Peter Schick :                    Like you are, yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      … oh my gosh, it’s over the top.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, it is. That’s beautiful what you’ve got, yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      I still love it. We had an annual concert out at the Salmon Ranch where I live a couple of days ago and we had a 10-foot bonfire in the fire pit, which is eight feet in diameter, and it fell over onto the patio. It was a great time, great time.

Peter Schick :                    It sounds like it. You were mentioning with retaining walls. That is a really expensive … That could become a nightmare really quickly from what I’ve heard in terms of … We had one where it was right on the property line so the city had to take care of the retaining wall and thank God.

Jim Salmon:                      That’s a win.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah. Thank God they did because I wouldn’t want … It was getting to the point where it was we were going to have to replace it, but since the city had it, they took care of it.

Jim Salmon:                      We have had in the past couple years some unbelievable storms and copious amounts of rain and hundred-year rains we get every three years and that kind of thing. We have an area around here called the Finger Lakes in New York; Canandaigua Lake, Keuka Lake, Cayuga Lake, Seneca Lake, and these are all glacier formed back a hundred million years ago or whatever it was. The banks and the mountains above all of those lakes are made out of a shale/clay mixture and it’s extremely powerful. It’s a hydraulic pressure you can’t even imagine. Many of these folks have had lots of problems with these storms and areas eroding away. The landscape contractors are just going crazy installing retaining walls to try to keep those mountains away from the cottages and so forth around the like.

Peter Schick :                    Oh yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      These walls are all engineered. The company that sells the products to the landscaper, there’s a design staff, engineers, that design each one. Okay, you got to do it like this, and if you do it like this we back it, and our products, we back that up. Those walls are ungodly expensive.

Peter Schick :                    I can only imagine.

Jim Salmon:                      It’s the way to save your property.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, you get put in this really tough spot and it’s probably one of those things you’re not thinking of when you buy a cottage on one of the Finger Lakes. Thinking, aw, awesome lakefront, this is great. Little do you know, you got to put God knows like I don’t know, what would it be like, $50,000 or something for one of those retaining walls? I can only guess.

Jim Salmon:                      Oh, yeah. That’s sometimes that’s just getting started.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, I can imagine. Even the cost of the house could be … to just have the retaining wall, yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      I teach continuing education for home inspectors. New York State requires a certain amount of education every couple of years and when you renew your license and one of the courses I teach is home inspector safety. In the wintertime yards are like a minefield. You don’t know what’s under there. There’s a woodchuck hole over here. One of the things I cannot stand the most are yard ponds. Now some people love these things. You can go out and buy all kinds of configurations of these black plastic ponds and get them in there and whatever. Of course, some people try to leave them in over the winter with the pump [crosstalk 00:09:27]-

Peter Schick :                    [Crosstalk 00:09:27] water flowing, yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      It’s nuts, it’s ludicrous. These things I’m always stepping in them in the winter because you don’t see them if there’s two feet of snow. Then there’s the goldfish in there.

Peter Schick :                    Oh, yeah. I have a great story.

Jim Salmon:                      It’s so much work.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, I was taking a client around. She was interested in buying a house around the [inaudible 00:09:51] area. We go to this one and we come in and it looks nice. Then we go in the back yard and it’s like this several ponds with all these koi carp and a waterfall and all this. Of course, it takes your breath away. It’s like, oh wow! It has a bridge going over the pond. Then you start thinking and reality starts setting.

Jim Salmon:                      Yeah.

Peter Schick :                    How much does it cost to maintain this?

Jim Salmon:                      This homeowner lady doesn’t work. She’s home all the time. Her passion is plants and ponds and all this stuff and there’s 10,000 different kinds of plants out there. She looks at them and weeds them and she trims them. People come to look at this house and they go, “Oh my gosh, this is absolutely beautiful.” Then like you said, reality sets in. Who’s going to maintain this? It’ll be overgrown in a giant mess that you’d have to mow with a brush hog in no time if somebody wasn’t putting their time to it.

Peter Schick :                    Exactly, because that’s the first thing I think of when I see some beautiful landscaping or like you said, the ponds. The ponds almost scare me because it’s you got to filter that water. You got to feed these fish. Some of those fish they get really big. At this particular house I was showing a client, they were big. They were easily over a foot and there were 10 of them. I don’t know how they survive in the winter. Do you keep it heated? Now you have to pay for the heat for these ponds. Now especially up here, I could see that … That’s like keeping your windows open in your house in the middle of winter and still keeping the heat revved up. It just seems like you’re throwing money out the window.

Jim Salmon:                      Sometimes I’ll come to a pond, I’m inspecting a house in the winter. I’m walking around the house and you walk up to the pond and there’s the fish, frozen solid like an ice cube, frozen stiff, froze stiff.

Peter Schick :                    I guess it wasn’t deep enough.

Jim Salmon:                      No, it probably wasn’t. I’m always complaining about trees and bushes that touch or hang over the house. When it comes to landscaping your house, young couples, unless they had parents that had them along with doing that stuff, they really don’t know a lot about that. Your air-conditioner compressor cabinet, for instance, I find those things … Where is it? It’s over there and it’s in the middle of an arborvitae and most people like we said in other podcasts think that air-conditioning somehow magically makes cold air and blows it into your house. What it’s actually doing is taking the heat out. If that compressor cabinet is where it’s trying to give off that heat is all packed solid with growing stuff, it can’t happen, it can’t function. It’s very inefficient that way.

Peter Schick :                    When you’re discussing the branches overhanging a roof, that could become a pretty significant issue because if you start having a windy day, say a windy day comes, now you have this branch scraping against your roof.

Jim Salmon:                      Yeah, nothing worse than that.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah. Now it starts scraping against your roof shingles come off. Shingles come off now water is going to get in. Water comes in now, it compounds [inaudible 00:13:02]. It goes from a minor concern to a very major concern very quickly. I’ve seen that. I almost had that. It started to and I just got to bite the bullet and get it cut.

Jim Salmon:                      There are many houses here in New York State where we are right now that still have aluminum siding on them from the ’50s and ’60s. It was real popular in the ’60s. If a bush is up against that, there’s a little half moon streak about two feet long of tin foil and it’s perfectly polished. Obviously, it’s ruining your siding. No plants or trees should touch or hang over the house. I happen to love pine trees. As a kid I spent a lot of time up in the Adirondacks and mountains north in New York State. Today when I drive up there and I get past the tree line, I just love it.

Peter Schick :                    You’re going into a different world. I always love that.

Jim Salmon:                      Another great world.

Peter Schick :                    Like I just went out West or something when I go there.

Jim Salmon:                      Absolutely, but the problem is pine trees are filthy with stuff. They have lichen and moss growth and roof algae.

Peter Schick :                    You could maybe verify this. This is a rumor I heard. Are their root systems weaker than say an oak or anything else?

Jim Salmon:                      Well, I don’t know. Well, yeah, the wood-

Peter Schick :                    [Crosstalk 00:14:32].

Jim Salmon:                      The wood of the root is the same thing as the wood of the tree. It’s a fairly soft wood, but the root structure of pine trees from my experience don’t go down very far. That’s why every once in a while you’ll see a two-foot diameter [crosstalk 00:14:46] foot tall tree.

Peter Schick :                    This is getting my memory jogging with the wind storm back in March we had here.

Jim Salmon:                      80 miles an hour.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, back then we didn’t have trees on any … Excuse me, we didn’t have leaves on any of the trees, but the pine trees, they’re evergreen so they caught that wind a lot better than say a normal tree. Because they’re evergreen, it acts like a sail when you have the wind during those times.

Jim Salmon:                      They were hundreds of them on their side.

Peter Schick :                    I would say three out of four of the trees that fell, that I saw that fell, they were pine trees, yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      Yeah. Well, it makes good firewood. It’s a shame, especially if the tree is a really nice tree, it’s well maintained and it’s not all lopsided or whatever and you like it. It’s a shame when they go, but that’s what you have your wood stove for.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, exactly.

Jim Salmon:                      There’s another tree at the nursery you can maybe change it up a little bit and plant an oak tree. Now I’m 62 and when I bought my house in 1985, we planted some two-foot-high pine trees which are now 102 feet.

Peter Schick :                    Really? That’s pretty cool.

Jim Salmon:                      If I’m planting an oak tree today, I’m not going to be around to see it.

Peter Schick :                    You’re not going to see that, yeah, or your kids when they’re your age, yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      I did make one big landscaping mistake. My mother about, I’m thinking it’s got to be 15-18 years ago, gave me a beautiful red maple tree, which I love. The leaves are not green, they’re just purpley-red, it’s a beautiful tree, and I planted it in my front yard. When I planted it it seemed like the right spot, but now the thing is a foot and a half in diameter and it overhangs the front porch and it’s too close to the house. Now, I’m not going to cut it down because I love the tree and mom’s gone.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, exactly.

Jim Salmon:                      It is a beautiful tree, but it’s too close to the house. What it does is it produces a fair amount of dirt and leaves and extra gutter cleaning and maintenance from me, but it is what it is. The bottom line to that is think that out where you’re putting it. Just because it’s two feet today doesn’t mean it’s going to 102 feet.

Peter Schick :                    It’s going to stay that way, yeah. No, very true.

Jim Salmon:                      That’s a tough one. I love to do my own landscaping work although I’m getting older and when it comes to mulching I have 20 different beds that need to be mulched every year and they look so beautiful after that happens.

Peter Schick :                    Then a few weeks later the grass starts coming.

Jim Salmon:                      Yeah.

Peter Schick :                    It’s a never-ending battle is one of the things I’ve noticed.

Jim Salmon:                      I hire my local landscape guy and he comes over with 15 yards of mulch and a pickup truck and they have four guys and they weed everything, they mulch it, and you pay them and you’re done.

Peter Schick :                    Bing, bang, boom. There you go.

Jim Salmon:                      Every year at the Salmon Ranch we have some kind of a giant party or a wedding, so I always hire them again to come and do a tuneup so it has to be perfect when all those people are there.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      Landscape guys are really good and quick at that and I’m finding it a little more difficult to bend over all day long and pull weeds and stuff, so …

Peter Schick :                    No, no, that’ll get old and the thing is it never ends. What you do today you’re going to have to redo three weeks from now, especially in the summer and warmer climates.

Jim Salmon:                      When it comes to relandscaping your yard or maybe making some changes, I’m always saying this statement to people that I’m walking around the house doing a home inspection and I quote, “Nobody ever rips out their 50-year-old shrubs.”

Peter Schick :                    Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      Now, their shrubs have overgrown. They’re halfway through the sidewalk. It’s time. You can’t cut them back because you would have then firewood that would be visible, so it’s just time. You get a good four-wheel drive pickup truck with a chain and yank them out. Go to your local nursery. These folks know what grows well here in our area and is it on the north side of the house? Is it shady? They know what grows.

Peter Schick :                    That’s a very good consideration, like I was alluding to earlier with the grass selection for the back yard at that place and, yeah, the shade is going to be a big portion. Like I said, a plant that thrives in the shade, does it need constant sunlight? There’s a lot of different considerations for that, like if it’s a vegetable garden, there’s going to be different considerations for that than say a perennial garden. You’ve got to think that out. A lot of time what me and my wife will do is we’ll just okay, we’ll draw a picture of it. Okay, this is what we want to have here, here, here, and this looks like it’s more shaded on this part of the plot and this one’s a little more sunny. Now you can plan it out. You can start figuring out, hey, how are we going to attack this and make it so it’s sustainable, too? What I mean by sustainable is I don’t have to keep replanting every year year after year. Like I said, that’s why I’m a big fan of perennials. You plant it and then it does its thing.

Jim Salmon:                      All you need to do maybe is an occasional trim or whatever-

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      … and, yeah, that’s good. Well, I used to have two big cedar trees outside my front door and we chopped them down to put in an extended porch out there at one point. I remember when we ripped them out of there, there was a pretty significant negative grade the first three or four feet that sloped towards my foundation. I used that as an opportunity to bring in a couple of yards of dirt. I don’t want to use cocoa shells or pine bark nuggets because water penetrates that. You need to put soil in those areas to reslope it away so you maintain a good slope away from the foundation. Keeps a dry basement and crawl space.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, we were discussing that some during our wet basements episode, I believe. We discussed that. Now you mentioned the cocoa shells. I’ve used those before. Now it wasn’t in the same way that you did it where you’re concerned about the water penetration. Have you ever used them before?

Jim Salmon:                      When I was a little kid one of my worst memories was I was forced to help my parents spread cocoa shells, because that’s what was used back then back in the late ’50s and 1960s into the ’70s. Cocoa shells were in abundance. I don’t know, Nestle’s Quick maybe or whatever it was, but they were these giant burlap bags of cocoa shells and we’d spread them all out and I had to do that. At some point mulch and pine bark nuggets took over, so I don’t …

Peter Schick :                    Did you hate it because of the smell or did you hate it because you just had to do it?

Jim Salmon:                      [Crosstalk 00:21:45] labor.

Peter Schick :                    Oh yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      No, I actually liked the smell and we would use those, as little kids, we’d use those burlap bags. We’d cut eye holes in them and put them over our heads. It was great. We’d run around and scare everybody in the neighborhood.

Peter Schick :                    It’s funny that you mentioned the cocoa shell piece because my parents, they live in Wisconsin, and they had cocoa shells in their garden. Then my wife sees that and she’s, “Peter, I want that. I want that.” Of course, they don’t have any of those around here.

Jim Salmon:                      Well, you could probably get them, but they’re probably pretty pricey.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, they are, but in Wisconsin for whatever reason they weren’t very … It was $8 or something a bag at this one place. We’re, okay, so we bought a few bags of it.

Jim Salmon:                      You brought them back here?

Peter Schick :                    That’s what she wanted. I was, “All right, we’ll do that. You want it, Babe.”

Jim Salmon:                      Peter, you’re not a dope. You know what the priorities are.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      Happy wife, happy life.

Peter Schick :                    That’s right. Yeah, we brought those back and we put them in and after the first rain you could just smell it, you could smell that cocoa smell and it’s looks really nice, too. I like how it looks, too, because it matted down. It’s not like with a lot of the, say you get like a black mulch or the brown mulch, it kind of has that color. It maintains the color for a while, the cocoa shells do, and I like the look of it. It’s an acquired thing, too, the smell. I think people either hate it or love the smell from what I’ve heard.

Jim Salmon:                      I can’t even talk to somebody that says I don’t like chocolate. That just doesn’t work. One of the issues though with mulch and pine bark nuggets, and I had to do research on this to find this out, are an entity called projectile spores.

Peter Schick :                    What?

Jim Salmon:                      You know the speck that a fly leaves when they poop on something?

Peter Schick :                    Really?

Jim Salmon:                      You know what a fly speck is?

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      Well, the projectile spores leave just about an identical thing on your siding and whatever as a fly speck would, maybe just a hair smaller in diameter. They come out of certain mulches. It’s a spore that just goes pfft. There’s like 20 of these little things and they stick to the siding and they’re very difficult to get off. You have to use a bug and tar remover to get them off.

Peter Schick :                    Huh, now is that different from the fungus where if you hit it it shoots out all those spores? It looks like a ball and it’s different than that?

Jim Salmon:                      It’s different than that, yeah.

Peter Schick :                    It’s different than that, okay, because that’s what was in my head when you were describing it.

Jim Salmon:                      Projectile spores.

Peter Schick :                    Projectile spores.

Jim Salmon:                      I go up to the house and inveritably maybe my client will be standing there by me and he’s looking at all those specks. Wow, they have a lot of flies here. Ah, projectile spores. That’s pretty funny.

Peter Schick :                    Interesting.

Jim Salmon:                      Well, you can improve the look of anything with some ground cover stuff like mulch and-

Peter Schick :                    That gives it some renewed life, but, of course, that lasts a few months until it starts wearing off.

Jim Salmon:                      I brought back some good old sort of memories there.

Peter Schick :                    Good old memories of manual labor that Jim had to do.

Jim Salmon:                      It was tough back then. I was into building things when I was a little kid, too. In fact, I might have been eight or nine years old and we didn’t have electricity in the detached garage. It was a one-story garage, maybe 25-

Peter Schick :                    You had to manually open it and everything?

Jim Salmon:                      Yeah.

Peter Schick :                    Okay.

Jim Salmon:                      There wasn’t power there. I asked for permission from my folks to see if I could run power out there. Somehow I got some wire, I don’t even remember if it was UF wire or not, I dug a trench, and I got about halfway out and, of course, the wire wasn’t long enough so I spliced it together. Now I’m eight or nine or 10 years old maybe.

Peter Schick :                    I’m surprised they let you do that.

Jim Salmon:                      Yeah, my folks didn’t pay much attention to me.

Peter Schick :                    They’re just like, “Yeah, Jim. You just do whatever you’re going to do.”

Jim Salmon:                      You know what it was like. Well, maybe you don’t because back then we weren’t worried about being abducted every five minutes. We left in the morning and maybe we came back when they yelled and screamed for us at night.

Peter Schick :                    Oh yeah, I tinkered in stuff. I built tree forts and stuff. I wasn’t wiring electric to my garage.

Jim Salmon:                      What I did was, and this is pretty good ingenuity for 10 years old, I took a can and I cut the bottom off of it, maybe a dog food can or a soup can. I think it was probably a Campbell Soup can because we used a lot of that when I was a little kid, and I put the can over the wire and I wired it together with some wire nuts. I wrapped the whole thing with electrical tape and then I ran the can up to where the splice was and I electrical taped it, put it in, wired the garage, and everything worked fine.

Peter Schick :                    Oh wow.

Jim Salmon:                      Now, that garage is still there. Now that would have been maybe 1963, ’64-

Peter Schick :                    Right after the Cuban Missile Crisis or something.

Jim Salmon:                      Absolutely, John Kennedy and all that.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      Well, how long is that? Almost-

Peter Schick :                    A long time.

Jim Salmon:                      It’s a long time.

Peter Schick :                    It’s a long time is what that is.

Jim Salmon:                      That garage is still there and I’m dying to stop at that house someday.

Peter Schick :                    Just knock on the door and be like, “Hey, I want to see-”

Jim Salmon:                      Just say, “Hey, underground here in your landscaping is that.” It’s pretty funny.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, you jerry-rigged the electric to the garage.

Jim Salmon:                      That garage-

Peter Schick :                    If it’s still running that would be-

Jim Salmon:                      That would be a feat right there.

Peter Schick :                    You need to check this out [crosstalk 00:27:41].

Jim Salmon:                      That garage is still there and I remember this just like it was yesterday. We were sitting in the kitchen and there was a bay window there, and I’m a little kid, right? You look out and you see the garage. My grandfather was there and the window was open and a rat came out from underneath the garage and my father handed my grandfather a double-barrel 12-gauge shotgun and my grandfather aimed that thing out the window and shot that rat dead right then and there at the kitchen table. That was the funniest thing I’d ever seen in my life. Ol’ pop got that rat.

Peter Schick :                    Boom.

Jim Salmon:                      It was great. Things are a little different now. In the middle of the city we don’t shoot rats.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, you can’t discharge firearms in the middle of the city, but yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      That’s too funny. Well, I think we’ve talked a pretty good talk on landscaping today, folks.

Peter Schick :                    We have.

Jim Salmon:                      If you have a suggestion for a show you’d like to hear or you’d like to weigh on this topic, Peter’s going to tell you how to get a hold of us on email.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, go ahead and email us at [email protected]

Jim Salmon:                      Well, thank you for listening to this home repair clinic podcast. We’ll see you on the other side with another fine broadcast and we’ll see you then.

Ep 8: How To Select A Contractor

House At Work Home Repair Clinic

Jim and Peter discuss ways a homeowner can safely and effectively select a home improvement contractor for their projects.

Do you have a home improvement question? Email us at [email protected] and we will do our best to get it answered for you! Do you need help with a home improvement project and live in the upstate New York region? Go to and click “Find Contractors“.

Jim Salmon:                      And now, live from the home improvement capital of the world, this is the, home repair clinic podcast. My name is Jim Salmon and he is …

Peter Schick :                    Peter Schick.

Jim Salmon:                      Morning sir, or good afternoon, how are you?

Peter Schick :                    Good, good, good, good, just another day, you know?

Jim Salmon:                      Another day in paradise and I love doing these podcasts, they’re a lot of fun.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, I like it too.

Jim Salmon:                      Today’s subject you picked, which is great, how to hire a contractor.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, how to select one, kind of go through the entire process.

Jim Salmon:                      Yeah.

Peter Schick :                    I think because home improvement projects aren’t something that you undertake on a fairly regular basis, its not like I need to replace my roof every few months. It’s usually something you do it once, its like selling a home, you’ll do it every few years or something a lot of the time. It’s something that a lot of people don’t necessarily know a lot on.

Jim Salmon:                      Good point, and that’s the key right there. You’re a good real estate guy. The next guy’s a good accountant, the next lady’s a good factory worker, but when it comes to remodeling your house, that’s the guy you want and you don’t know that world so it’s important to do your homework.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, your average homeowner doesn’t necessarily know exactly what to look for and that’s why we’re having this.

Jim Salmon:                      I make a living, I don’t know if I should say this, but I’m gonna do it anyway. I make a living helping people who have had or are in the process of having a problem with their whatever.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      Their roofer, their remodeling guy, their wet basement guy, or whatever and I have these conversations with people all the time. The number one first thing is to select the right guy or gal.

Peter Schick :                    Yep, it’s the personnel piece. That is the biggest piece, that’s the biggest decision point as far as I’m concerned.

Jim Salmon:                      Nobody that I know of proactively checks people’s references. They might go on the internet, they might-

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, that’s actually a good point-

Jim Salmon:                      Go to the Better Business Bureau or something like that but nobody really calls people. “Hey, Joe Smith did your roof, he used you as a reference. What do you think of him?”

Peter Schick :                    Well, let’s say for a roof, though, say they could be like, “Well, we did the roof at this address.” You could even drive by and be like, “Oh yeah, you know, that doesn’t look bad.” In terms of exterior work like that, I mean, you could almost, it’s visible from the street a lot of the time.

Jim Salmon:                      We have this world now that we’re in where communication through texting, through emails, Facebook, Instagram, all that stuff, is all good but when you’re hiring somebody to doing something at your house, you wanna look ’em in the eye.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, I agree.

Jim Salmon:                      You wanna meet with them at the property, you should like the people that you’re dealing with you.

Peter Schick :                    You should get a good vibe off of them. I think that’s a very important thing too. You initially meet with them and I think you could get a lot more of a feeling for somebody, like you said, if you meet ’em in person instead of just doing everything on the phone. To be quite honest, if they’re not giving you a quote, if they’re giving you a quote without seeing it, chances are it’s going to be very inaccurate.

Jim Salmon:                      Yeah.

Peter Schick :                    They’re more or less rolling the dice.

Jim Salmon:                      There is a relationship between quality and price.

Peter Schick :                    Yes.

Jim Salmon:                      A big one.

Peter Schick :                    This is a big thing that most homeowners don’t realize.

Jim Salmon:                      If you are the type of person that is always looking for everything down and dirty, the cheapest thing you can get, you’re into screwing people. You want the lowest that’s what you get.

Peter Schick :                    That is exactly what you get. Actually, that is one of the prime complaints I get from contractors when they actually interact with homeowners.

Jim Salmon:                      Yeah.

Peter Schick :                    There needs to be some way of educating them to understand, “Okay, if I want low price, I’m gonna get, of course, correspondingly lower quality. If you have a higher price, you’re gonna get, of course, correspondingly higher quality. That is one of the things when I talk to contractors that are on house at work or just in general, that is one of their chief complaints, is this education process with the homeowner, is being able to explain that or articulate that in a way that they’re actually gonna understand. I don’t know if anybody, it’s really, that’s a sales pitch to be quite honest. That’s all how the contractor really pitches themselves and shows their value proposition to the homeowner.

Jim Salmon:                      We’re sitting here in Rochester, New York, right now. We’re in New York state. New York state does not license contractors, which kind of boggles my mind because they love to license everything.

Peter Schick :                    That’s actually very interesting. Even across the country, there are only a very few municipalities that actually do that.

Jim Salmon:                      Right, right.

Peter Schick :                    I think you can see some. I think GC is licensed, I wanna say, in New York City. Maybe certain cities have that-

Jim Salmon:                      Well, yeah, there are certification processes in certain cities but as far as the state is concerned, I mean anybody can show up.

Peter Schick :                    No, they don’ care.

Jim Salmon:                      Like if you’re out in the country or whatever, there are no rules.

Peter Schick :                    No. Oh, no.

Jim Salmon:                      New York state does have a very specific contractor agreement between contractors and the homeowner or their client. It’s very clearly spelled out. It has to contain specific information about the job and the payment scale.

Peter Schick :                    Yup.

Jim Salmon:                      It has to have a start and stop time, a completion date to it.

Peter Schick :                    The state actually has a form contract that is supposed to be used. Is that what you’re saying?

Jim Salmon:                      No. They don’t do that and that would be a good idea, in my opinion, but they don’t.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, because real estate agents have that.

Jim Salmon:                      Everybody makes up their own-

Peter Schick :                    Real estate agents have that with purchase agreements and stuff, where it’s like, Greater Rochester area realtors, there is a purchase contract that everybody uses.

Jim Salmon:                      Everybody used the same one. Right.

Peter Schick :                    Yup. That actually would make a lot of sense for a contractor.

Jim Salmon:                      It would. Everybody, every contractor, has their own little bid sheet, contract, invoice, or whatever you wanna call it. It has their name and address on it. It’s supposed to. Some of the more unscrupulous contractors have just a phone number, no address, so people can’t find them.

One of the things in New York state, too, is that when you write a check to a contractor, it has to go into an approved escrow account.

Peter Schick :                    Yup.

Jim Salmon:                      They can’t just take it and cash it and spend it.

Peter Schick :                    That is actually one of the things that I’ve heard the most from homeowners. When you hear about, “Oh, homeowner X gets scammed,” It’s usually, “Oh, but I paid it all upfront and then they disappeared.” [crosstalk 00:06:36] Have you ever watched that show, American Greed, on CNBNC?

Jim Salmon:                      Oh, yeah, I know, yeah.

Peter Schick :                    One of the things you always hear on that is, “Okay, I gave everything I have, all of my money to this guy and then it disappeared.” No, you can’t just give everything up front. You can’t do that.

Jim Salmon:                      Recovering it or getting it back-

Peter Schick :                    Clawing it back won’t happen.

Jim Salmon:                      It is so difficult and so expensive. Once thing gets into the legal world, you know the lawyers are winning.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      You certainly try to stay in the driver’s seat on the money. My own personal policy is I don’t put any money down for any project under 20,000 dollars. All the roofing companies that I know of-

Peter Schick :                    If they can’t sustain that, initially-

Jim Salmon:                      Right!

Peter Schick :                    They have some financial issues to begin with.

Jim Salmon:                      There’s two big red flags on that. “I have to have money to pay my people and I have to have money to buy materials.” If you’re dealing with a contractor that needs the money you’re paying him right now to go buy the stuff for your job, run! Run in the opposite direction!

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, there’s an issue right there. I always use that as kind of a- That is a huge red flag, if they can’t sustain that kind of financial, if they don’t have the finances to be able to cover that initially, that’s a problem.

Jim Salmon:                      Across the country, there are some accreditation organizations that provide a standard of practice and some training and things like that, certification in certain things like ADA compliant bathrooms.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      There’s all kinds of training like that. When you’re getting ready to hire a contractor, you look at all those little abbreviations after their name and ask them, “What is this stuff?” “What do you, you know-”

Peter Schick :                    Yeah. You gotta ask ’em, kind of dig into it. You can’t just take it as surface value, whatever they say.

Jim Salmon:                      The NAHB, National Association of Home Builders, is a big one.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, they are. They’re all about education.

Jim Salmon:                      Absolutely.

Peter Schick :                    From what I understand.

Jim Salmon:                      Whenever they went in the toilet, in 2008, and all the home builders in the country were saying, “Okay, what are we going to be doing the next year, too?” A lot of those folks shifted over to doing home remodeling. Then the word “staycation” came into play.

Peter Schick :                    Yup.

Jim Salmon:                      Now, obviously things are better than they were back then, now, and they’re building houses like crazy again. Some of those organizations provide some excellent training and those are good things to look for when you’re trying to hire somebody.

Peter Schick :                    Definitely agree. Definitely agree.

Jim Salmon:                      Everything you do with your contractor should be in writing.

Peter Schick :                    I agree.

Jim Salmon:                      First of all, there’s a contract to begin with that spells the scope of the job.

Peter Schick :                    Yup.

Jim Salmon:                      One of the big complaints I get as a home inspector, is when a system breaks down, people say, “Gee, he gave me another bill for all these things and it’s not itemized or whatever.” That’s the time, at the beginning, to get as specific as you can.

Peter Schick :                    Yes. Especially if there’s gonna be a change in scope. This is something that you see either with new home construction, you’ll see this a lot, where somebody will be like, “Okay, yeah, we agree on the plans,” and now all of a sudden, “Oh, I want a different ceiling fan or I want these different light fixtures or no, no, no, I want the switch here, not here.” Those little things start to add up and it starts to become a change in scope eventually.

Jim Salmon:                      Every one of those things need to go on an official change order.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      Every contractor should have that form. I can’t tell you how many times, at the end of the job, somebody would say, “My contractor gave me another bill for 1,171 (eleven hundred and seventy-one) dollars for all this stuff and I didn’t know anything about it.” There wasn’t any change order that went along with these things. That whole system wasn’t created at the beginning.

When you’re sitting, negotiating the initial job with your contractor, any changes, and changes happen-

Peter Schick :                    Yes, they do. There’s things you can’t foresee, especially with remodeling some of these older homes. They don’t have X-ray vision to see through the walls. Once they broke open that wall and they see some wiring that’s all jacked up-

Jim Salmon:                      Yeah.

Peter Schick :                    It’s a lot of the time, it’s incumbent upon them to fix it.

Jim Salmon:                      Right.

Peter Schick :                    That’s something that needs to be taken into consideration. They’re not just trying to, in a lot of the cases, it’s not, because it’s starting to go over price for whatever reason, it’s not them just trying to twist your arm. Sometimes it is a very legit thing that popped up on the job that couldn’t be foreseen.

Jim Salmon:                      I talked with a lady yesterday. Peter, you’re gonna love this story. She hired a window company and a lot of window companies do siding projects too.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      She hired a window company to replace the windows on her house and to replace the rear siding of her house. Apparently, she had done vinyl siding on the front and the sides and not the back.

Peter Schick :                    Really?

Jim Salmon:                      Now, which, you know, whatever, money drives this stuff.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, that’s very true.

Jim Salmon:                      She had a contract, the salesman came out. They were ordered all up, removed the existing siding, replaced it, do the windows, trim the windows, whatever. The dumpster comes and the people are there, they’re getting ready to do it.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      All of a sudden, the guy says, “Well, wait a minute. I think there’s asbestos in that siding back there.”

Peter Schick :                    Ooh.

Jim Salmon:                      Then they had to have it tested and yes, it has asbestos. Now they want her to pay six thousand more dollars.

Peter Schick :                    Ahhh, geez.

Jim Salmon:                      She called me and I said, “Absolutely not.” The salesman came out and sold you and wrote right on there and you paid him.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      The foreman came out and measured the windows and he could’ve seen it at that time. It’s their job to pull that siding off and replace it. I don’t care how much it costs them because they made the mistake. These things happen all the time.

Peter Schick :                    Yes, they do. Yes, they do especially with it. Aww, that almost feels like, that almost feels like-

Jim Salmon:                      It’s horrible.

Peter Schick :                    That they kind of almost engineered that, that almost sounds like.

Jim Salmon:                      That is a classic bait and switch, in my opinion. That’s what it smells like. It might’ve been some kind of-

Peter Schick :                    It could be incompetence because I’ve seen stuff with incompetent, where it’s like, “Okay, we’re agreeing upon this price for this scope,” and then a week before it’s done, “Oh, yeah, we’re still within scope, we’re still within price,” then you get the bill and it’s double.

Jim Salmon:                      Yeah.

Peter Schick :                    What ended up happening, it’s the GC was not keeping track of costs. He didn’t have a handle on his subs and the subs just ran crazy. He didn’t have any mechanism of control or accounting. That’s another thing. It’s a piece on organization as well. If they’re not organized, you could be the one paying for that.

Jim Salmon:                      Sure.

Peter Schick :                    It’s not always nefarious, it could just be flat out incompetence perhaps.

Jim Salmon:                      Another scenario I see every once in a while, this is the homeowner that has 30 grand to spend.

Peter Schick :                    Yup.

Jim Salmon:                      They meet with their contractor and, “Okay, we wanna remodel our kitchen and oh, we want this, we want that. This cabinet, that countertop. All this stuff.” Well, now it’s 50,000. The hard part of that is sometimes you sign on for 30 and you add on things and you get to 50.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah. Well, they add on to, yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      You have to know, you have to be careful and stay within your budget.

Peter Schick :                    Yup. That’s kind of a double edged sword there because the homeowner, when they initially agreed to something, I can see them being like, “Okay, this is what I want.” Then as the project goes, they could kind of start seeing it unfolding and they start seeing, they start getting the vision of what it really could look like.

Jim Salmon:                      Yeah.

Peter Schick :                    Now they start changing their minds.

Jim Salmon:                      Ugh.

Peter Schick :                    Now it starts being all these other change orders. Maybe the GC doesn’t know to say, “Hey, look, this is gonna cost more. Hey, look, this is, we’re starting to get to the edge of your budget at this point.”

Jim Salmon:                      One of the things that contractors dislike the most is homeowner indecision.

Peter Schick :                    Yes. Yes.

Jim Salmon:                      You know, and gosh, I can’t tell you how important it is to have a good relationship with your contractor to try to figure out as much as you can about everything upfront.

Peter Schick :                    Yup.

Jim Salmon:                      The other big problem that arises is many jobs require building permits.

Peter Schick :                    That is true.

Jim Salmon:                      A deck. A swimming pool.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      You’re changing a door opening or you’re adding windows or you’re moving a wall. All of these things-

Peter Schick :                    Yup. We’ve discussed this piece about windows before with certain historical areas, right?

Jim Salmon:                      Right.

Peter Schick :                    You can’t just replace the windows. You need to keep the original windows, the lead stained glass ones or whatever. Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      One of the systems that breaks down is the permitting process.

Peter Schick :                    Yup.

Jim Salmon:                      The best thing always is for the contractor to obtain the building permit then he or she is responsible for compliance, staying within the budget of it, and doing what’s right and having it inspected and signed off by the town.

Peter Schick :                    Yup.

Jim Salmon:                      What happens many times is the contractor will say, “Nah, you get the permit,” and then the homeowners involved.

Peter Schick :                    They don’t necessarily know what they’re doing.

Jim Salmon:                      Right, then if there’s an impasse between the homeowner and the contractor, the contractor can walk away, and the homeowner is still responsible for everything to be in compliance. Sometimes these things can cost a lot of money to make it right.

Peter Schick :                    Oh yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      It’s always best to have the contractor get the permit.

Peter Schick :                    Yup.

Jim Salmon:                      There are people that do things without permits. Now, I won’t say that I’m one of them.

Peter Schick :                    Uh-huh.

Jim Salmon:                      I like to keep the government out of my life as much as possible.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, you don’t wanna give them an excuse to start putting their nose in your business.

Jim Salmon:                      Yeah but if it’s a safety thing, like wood stove installation, things like that. It’s very important to be done professionally.

Peter Schick :                    I agree.

Jim Salmon:                      And signed off on.

Peter Schick :                    I think a lot of people are sometimes reluctant to get permits because they feel like it’s a tax grab.

Jim Salmon:                      Mm-hmm.

Peter Schick :                    It’s kind of the way the city is now going to be able to reassess the work you’ve done and now they could reassess your property at a higher value. Higher value means higher taxes.

Jim Salmon:                      I know.

Peter Schick :                    Higher taxes, more money out of your pocket.

Jim Salmon:                      You gotta think that out.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, I think that fear that a lot of people have with the permitting process. But like you said, when it comes to the safety piece, that’s really what a lot of it is for, is the safety piece.

Jim Salmon:                      Right. Right. May not just be for that homeowner. You sell that house, you take a wall out, you don’t put the right beam in there, somebody else buys the house, moves in and the wall falls. That kind of stuff happens.

Peter Schick :                    Well, it could hurt you also when you try to resell it, when you try to sell it after you’ve done that work. It could come bite you in the butt.

Jim Salmon:                      There are four kinds, in my experience, there’s four kinds of homeowners that hire contractors.

There’s the person that says, “I don’t care much about anything. You just do your job, just do it, and whatever, I’m happy.” Then there’s the homeowner in the middle, “I wanna make sure I’m getting a good value, I wanna make sure that it’s being done and whatever.” And then there’s the picayune person that’s, “Wait a minute! There’s a nail in the driveway! Wait a minute! There’s a little part of this dry wall that wasn’t finished right.” And then, number four, is the insane person who is hovering over con-

Peter Schick :                    You will never make the insane person happy.

Jim Salmon:                      Oh my God!

Peter Schick :                    In business, I’ve had them, as far as a real estate agent, I’ve had those.

Jim Salmon:                      Oh, yeah?

Peter Schick :                    I think that’s just business in general, I think you could probably break it down into those four different categories.

Jim Salmon:                      Madison Avenue says that, in New York, that’s where all the advertising agencies are, they say that there’s seven percent of the people that hire people to do work that you can not satisfy under any circumstances whatsoever.

Peter Schick :                    Yup. That’s why a lot of companies when they say, “Hey, we shoot for 90 percent satisfaction rate,” and they say, “Hey, if we try to do 95 percent satisfaction rate, the juice isn’t worth the squeeze.”

Jim Salmon:                      Right. Yeah.

Peter Schick :                    It’s gonna cost all this money to just get that extra five percent and what are you really getting out of it? Yeah, no, I totally see that.

Jim Salmon:                      One other aspect too is that, all right, say you have one of the nitpitcky wives that are living in this house.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      Okay, and we’re doing, I don’t know, let’s just say we’re doing a kitchen remodel, okay. She’s not prepared for it, never been through it. She’s not prepared for drywall dust, stuff on the floor, I mean she’s an immaculate house keeper.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, once you actually start getting into it, she’s blaming you.

Jim Salmon:                      Right. She’s pulling her hair out ’cause her house is a mess. It might only be for two or three weeks while they’re doing a project. You have to really do your homework on that stuff as homeowner. You have to know that there’s going to be plastic hanging on your walls. It’s somewhat obtrusive, especially in the demolition phase.

Peter Schick :                    Yes. That’s very true. The homeowner needs to understand that but also the contractor needs to explain that, too, kind of walk through the process and understand, I would say almost in a way, they should have an idea that this person is probably picky to begin with. You should know within the first ten to fifteen minutes of talking to them. Heck, five minutes. I could tell when I’m talking  to a potential client, within five minutes I’ve a pretty good idea.

Jim Salmon:                      You’ve got a good idea.

Peter Schick :                    I’ve a pretty good idea what kind of person you are, like if you’re gonna be a pain in my butt, what the expectations are. I’ve a pretty good idea. I’ve sized you up. I think the contractors needs to do that as well. If they start seeing, hey, picky person, hey, you need to saturate them with information. You need to cut it off at the pass and make sure they fully understand the scope and everything else like you were discussing.

Jim Salmon:                      Some homeowners are just badgering their contractor get started. “Let’s get started! Let’s get started!” Okay, fine, we don’t have the cabinets in yet but we’ll be over and tear your house apart and do the demolition and now we’re sitting for three weeks. Use your head on that stuff.

Try not start that demolition until you have all the pieces ready to go.

Peter Schick :                    Exactly. There’s a reason for it.

Jim Salmon:                      And some of the stuff is custom ordered and you have to wait for it and whatever, you know.

Peter Schick :                    You have to look at it from the GC’s perspective here. They have a lot of moving parts they have to coordinate. It’s like an orchestra essentially that they’re trying to make happen. That comes down to just discussing the timeline. I totally agree. Somebody that’s impatient, they don’t totally understand all the pieces that actually go into that process.

Jim Salmon:                      I had a, I helped a friend of mine paint his house. I happened to have one of those old time Wagner power painters, right? This was just a little rental house, and it was a little ranch. He got five or ten gallons of just cheap house paint or whatever. I went over there to help him and we loaded it up, started spray painting. The wind was blowing fifteen miles an hour.

Peter Schick :                    Oh.

Jim Salmon:                      Lincoln Continental in the next driveway.

Peter Schick :                    Oh no! I see where this-

Jim Salmon:                      Spray paint all over, right? Be courteous to your neighbors when things are under construction.

Peter Schick :                    Yes.

Jim Salmon:                      Especially if you’re doing a landscape job or something.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      Go talk to your neighbor and say, “Hey, this guy’s gonna be running around my house, regrading with a Bobcat. If we get a little bit on your lawn, I want you to know we’re gonna seed it and we’ll take care of it and whatever.” Be courteous to [inaudible 00:21:54]

Peter Schick :                    I wanna hear what happened about this paint issue.

Jim Salmon:                      I got in the car and ran. No. We wiped it right off. It took some mineral spears and wiped it right off.

Peter Schick :                    Oh, wow. You noticed it right away.

Jim Salmon:                      Oh, yeah.

Peter Schick :                    It wasn’t like the neighbor came to you like, “What the heck, Jim?! What are you doing?”

Jim Salmon:                      No. It was one of the biggest cluster f’s in my life. It was really funny.

Peter Schick :                    That’s great. That’s great. Oh boy.

Jim Salmon:                      One of the biggest mistakes, and I know I’ve said that like forty times already, ’cause there’s so many mistakes you can make.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      If you’re a homeowner and you hire a project done, especially building a new house, you have to be there and look at things.

Peter Schick :                    Like supervise.

Jim Salmon:                      Yeah, well, a lot of builders don’t want you involved in saying, “Hey, what’s with that?” Or “How come that’s there?” They don’t want you micromanaging it but if you aren’t there and observing-

Peter Schick :                    Observing. Observing.

Jim Salmon:                      Yeah. If you’re not there and keeping an eye on things then when a problem happens, you don’t get to see things.

Peter Schick :                    Yup.

Jim Salmon:                      I’m a firm believer in taking pictures every day of a remodel.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah and just ask a few questions. Don’t be intrusive. You still have to hold them accountable to a certain, to the timeline and to the scope and to kind of like, “Explain to me.” I always try to have it where it’s almost a Socratic method, where I just ask questions, then they explain and I ask another question then another question. Then if I get kind of the warm and fuzzy, like okay, you know, they seem to, things seems to be handled here. Okay, cool, and then I’ll walk away.

Jim Salmon:                      And number forty two of things that happen …

Peter Schick :                    Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      We’re almost to the end of the project. There’s twenty things that you don’t like and that the contractor didn’t do right.

Peter Schick :                    The punch list, yep.

Jim Salmon:                      Yeah. He didn’t finish this or than and the other thing. Now he’s coming at you and he wants to be paid. Standard, always owe as much as you possibly can-

Peter Schick :                    Towards the end.

Jim Salmon:                      At the end.

Peter Schick :                    Yep.

Jim Salmon:                      That way, in a nice way, you can walk through and take a little roll of that blue or green frog tape and you put a little piece here. This is missing, you need to work on this and you work the punch list and you get it done.

Peter Schick :                    Yup. I think that is the best way, you keep a certain amount towards the end. I can’t emphasize that enough because it’s not gonna be perfect. If you pay them everything before you’re fully satisfied, you’re not gonna ever be, chances are you’ll never be fully satisfied.

Jim Salmon:                      Right.

Peter Schick :                    They’re not gonna come back and do those. Always gotta hold a certain amount, as much as possible that you could agree upon towards the end.

Jim Salmon:                      If things become contentious between you and your contractor, here’s a couple of good suggestions. Never, ever meet him or her by yourself. Always have somebody else there.

Some of these guys are very good at what they do. They can rack stuff, they can rebuild it, they can build beautiful things but they have people skills that aren’t as good as they could be.

Peter Schick :                    Now, this is a big thing, yeah. A lot of contractors I’ve worked with, they might not be the best salesman but they’re awesome craftsman. That’s the thing. Sometimes the person who’s very technically inclined isn’t necessarily gonna be the person who’s awesome at pitching and selling something and vice versa. The person who’s awesome at pitching and selling something might not be the best craftsman, might not have those technical skills.

That’s why you see some of these guys who have salesmen, who take care of the issue, like you were talking about with the siding thing. The salesmen, they close it, and the craftsmen come in and they execute it accordingly.

Jim Salmon:                      I think there’s once in a while, there’s a situation that comes up where a contractor gets in your face. It happens a lot. I hear about it all the time.

Peter Schick :                    I hear about that.

Jim Salmon:                      “He scared me. He came at me and said that I need to write him a check right now.” Sometimes the people just do it just to get him away. That’s why you should never meet if there’s any contention at all, any friction between you and your contractor, you should always, always, always have somebody right there with you.

Peter Schick :                    Yup, have a disinterested third party.

Jim Salmon:                      It could be a friend or family member or something like that just so that you aren’t mistreated and it happens.

Peter Schick :                    It does.

Jim Salmon:                      Once that becomes an issue, you should immediately just ask the people to leave and work it out later.

One of the things that happen with people though is they’re not happy with the workmanship, they have a contract with the guy, and they say, “Outta here! I don’t want you here.” Okay, what you just did is you broke the contract because you have a contract between the contractor and you. The first thing they’re gonna say is, “Well, wanted to finish but they wouldn’t let me back in to do it.” So don’t do that kind of thing. I mean, if he gets physical or there’s a big problem, that’s another matter.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      And then you need an attorney to help you sort it out. We do a lot of these workmanship investigations and sometimes that kind of stuff comes up.

Peter Schick :                    You’ve done some inspections that were part of like workmanship kind of pieces?

Jim Salmon:                      Oh, hundreds.

Peter Schick :                    Really?

Jim Salmon:                      Hundreds. I mean-

Peter Schick :                    What’s the most common thing you usually see? Is there like a theme in terms of- What was the thing that was done where that typically was being investigated? Or?

Jim Salmon:                      Um, a lot of roofing.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, that’s, that’s [crosstalk 00:27:27]

Jim Salmon:                      Anybody can be in the roofing business-

Peter Schick :                    That’s very true.

Jim Salmon:                      Because there’s no licensing.

Peter Schick :                    Yup.

Jim Salmon:                      There’s no certification.

Peter Schick :                    I always say, I always say this. A hairstylist needs a license to operate in New York state but a roofer doesn’t.

Jim Salmon:                      Doesn’t.

Peter Schick :                    For whatever reason, I don’t know why but that’s how it rolls.

Jim Salmon:                      There’s some specialty roofing out there like stone coated steel metal roofing.

Peter Schick :                    Metal roofing, yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      There are some giant companies out there that are hard sell companies and they broker these out to various metal roof crews that are not metal roof crews and they’re hatchet men. They’re absolutely horrible. There’s jagged edges and cuts.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      They leave ’em open at the bottom for bees to get in. You really need to know-

Peter Schick :                    They sub it out to the cheapest guy and the cheapest guy, like we were saying before, you have of course, bonding amount of quality for what’s being spent there.

Jim Salmon:                      This particular situation, the company is, the salespeople are salespeople extraordinaires. They’re not roofing folks, they’re professional sales people. When you call, say you call, and then say, “I’d like to get a price on a roof,” and they go through, “Okay, I can do it at the time, whatever. Now, you’re both going to be there right?”

“What do you mean?”

“The husband and the wife will be there at the same time ’cause we’re not gonna me with you.” They don’t want you to be able to say, “Okay, well, I’ll think about it.”

Peter Schick :                    I’ve got to talk to my spouse about this.

Jim Salmon:                      And that’s one of those little red flags that should go up. It’s important to do your homework.

The internet is a wonderful thing for negatives.

Peter Schick :                    It is. Now, we were talking about those four different types of customers. The person, that’s why you have to take some of the reviews that you see with a grain of salt, especially some of the negative ones.

Jim Salmon:                      Exactly.

Peter Schick :                    You have to put in a little more perspective ’cause sometimes it’s gonna be that fourth type of customer  we’re talking about that’s never gonna be happy and is just a hater.

Jim Salmon:                      Well, everybody can figure the seven percent. So, you know …

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, so, if you’re reading it, just try to take it with a grain of salt. See, hey, you know what, is this person just one of those seven percent that we’re talking about or does this actually sound legit? If your contractor actually gets a review like that, respond to it. Put it into context so when there is somebody who is reading that, they can kind of see the other side of the coin there. I see a lot of guys who don’t do that and that is actually critical to respond to negative reviews as well as positive reviews.

Jim Salmon:                      One of the most troubling situations that I run into is older folks trying to navigate the contractor world.

Peter Schick :                    Oh.

Jim Salmon:                      It’s very easy to be taken advantage of.

Peter Schick :                    Oh, yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      I don’t want to assign an age to it ’cause everybody’s different. Certainly if you’re older and you live alone and you need something done, you should really involve an advocate person with you, too. There’s lots of them out there, free, or with a very small fee, or nothing be able to help you navigate the contractor world and stay out of trouble.

I did an investigation of a siding job a couple of years ago. The gentleman that sold the job is well known as one of the original Tin Men. You ever seen that movie?

Peter Schick :                    Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      He’s about as close to a weasel and a woodchuck as you could possibly get.

Peter Schick :                    Oh, wow.

Jim Salmon:                      He sold this eighty five year old gentleman, living by himself, this siding job. He would show up every few days and try to get another 5,000 dollar check from him. He wound up getting like 25,000 dollars on a 14,000 dollar siding job.

Peter Schick :                    Ah, geez.

Jim Salmon:                      The guy gets confused a little bit.

Peter Schick :                    Is it because he’s an older guy?

Jim Salmon:                      That’s what this situation was.

Peter Schick :                    Ah! That’s-

Jim Salmon:                      Most older folks- and I’m getting older too, I’m sixty.

Peter Schick :                    When were you born, like in the 50’s?

Jim Salmon:                      In the 50’s! Yes!

Peter Schick :                    Eisenhower was president!

Jim Salmon:                      Everybody wants to think that they can still drive their car and they can manage their affairs on their own. They don’t want their kids involved in their finances and I get all that.

Peter Schick :                    It’s a pride thing.

Jim Salmon:                      Right. It is. It is very much a pride thing. When it comes to this kind of work, it doesn’t hurt to have a second opinion or someone to help advocate for you. We do a lot of that in my office.

Peter Schick :                    I agree. I think that’s a big piece, that’s a really big piece there. Especially if you’re older, having a family member there like your kids or whoever there as well.

Jim Salmon:                      You think we’ve covered this?

Peter Schick :                    I think we have.

Jim Salmon:                      It’s a great topic.

Peter Schick :                    It’s a really important topic.

Jim Salmon:                      If you’d like to weigh in or send us an email on it, Peter’s gonna tell you how to get a hold us of here at the Home Repair Clinic Podcast.

Peter Schick :                    Please email us if you have any questions, comments, or any suggestion at [email protected]

Jim Salmon:                      Another Home Repair Clinic podcast in the can. We’ll see you next time right here.

Get Your Air Ducts Cleaned For Cleaner, Fresher Air

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Quality of indoor air

The quality of indoor air is one concern that homeowners have when investigating air duct cleaning. Air ducts work by pulling contaminants out of the air such as dust and chemicals, and then re-circulating the air 5-7 times per day. This re-circulation generally causes the build-up of the contaminants in the duct.

Energy savings

A large amount of energy that is used for heating or cooling a home is often wasted when the air ducts are not clean. The contaminants present in the air duct make it work harder and will shorten its life. When the air ducts are clean, it will not have to work as hard to maintain the temperature  you desire.

Air duct cleaning refers to the cleaning of various heating and cooling systems that include the supply and return air ducts, grilles and diffusers, heat exchangers, and heating and cooling coils. If these air ducts are not properly installed or maintained, they become contaminated with dust particles and pollen. And, if moisture is present, there might also be mold growth which can release harmful spores into the home’s living space.

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Ep 7: Rental Property Considerations

House At Work Home Repair Clinic

Jim and Peter discuss common problems experienced by owners of rental properties.

Do you have a home improvement question? Email us at [email protected] and we will do our best to get it answered for you! Do you need help with a home improvement project and live in the upstate New York region? Go to and click “Find Contractors“.

Jim:                      Hello everybody, and welcome to the Home Repair Clinic podcast. Jim Salmon here along with …

Peter:                   Peter Schick.

Jim:                      How are you today?

Peter:                   Doing good, doing good. Another day, another day.

Jim:                      You know, we were going to talk about rental … We’ve dabbled in it, a little bit. About rental property and the landlord business. Everybody in America wants to be a landlord.

Peter:                   Yep.

Jim:                      “Oh, instant millionaires!” You know?

Peter:                   Yeah, everybody says that but there’s a lot more to it, and we’re gonna get into that. There’s a lot more that goes into being a landlord, buying rental properties. Some of the considerations you have to take. I’ve had some as well, I don’t know about you, Jim.

Jim:                      I have one rental property right now. I have divorced myself of that whole business.

Peter:                   (laughs)

Jim:                      But I have one. And okay, the tenants been there forever, and they pay.

Peter:                   Yeah, why not?

Jim:                      And I did all the modernizations years ago, so I’m good. I make money on it. But it’s not for everybody.

Peter:                   No, it’s not.

Jim:                      As a home inspector, I do a lot of inspections on doubles, triples, four families, big apartment complexes.

Peter:                   Yeah, big commercial complexes. Yeah.

Jim:                      And even, like, a double. People don’t realize the minute they buy that house that has a tenant in it, they’re responsible for a hundred things. The locks on the door, for instance. You know, when a house changes hands …

Peter:                   You’ve gotta change the locks!

Jim:                      You change the locks. If you don’t, you don’t know who has keys.

Peter:                   Exactly.

Jim:                      I mean, that’s a no brainer. If somebody breaks into somebody’s house, the day of closing, you now own it. They’re suing you for five grand, for their stuff is gone. And, you get into court and the first thing the judge says is, “Well, did you have control of the keys?”

“Well, no. I was gonna get to it.”

Boom, done. You’re guilty.

Peter:                   Yep. Boom.

Jim:                      And the same thing goes for safety issues. How many times every year do you see a video of a house fire where they’re going through, and the smoke alarm is hanging down?

Peter:                   Yeah, they don’t check the fire alarms, or the smoke alarms, or even something as simple as people slipping on the sidewalk. Or on the stairway, or something. Anything like that you can be held liable. Well, not trying to scare anybody from it, but just realize there’s risks associated.

Jim:                      No, we’re just trying to lower the price of property so we can buy them.

Peter:                   Yeah, exactly.

Jim:                      One of the things too, that I tell all my clients buying rental property is that, well, first of all smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors. And there should be a fire extinguisher mounted to the wall in every kitchen.

Peter:                   Yep. I provide that for each one of the units, is they have a fire extinguisher. Say, “Hey, keep this in the kitchen here.” I should have a wall mount for it, but typically I’ll come and visit them every now and then, and I’ll see it in there. They’re usually pretty good with it.

Jim:                      You know, I love it when I’m going through and inspecting a building that’s a rental property, my client buying it is there, and typically the person… Sometimes the person that’s selling, not the real estate agent, but the guy that actually owns it now that’s selling it is there too. And you walk into a house where the utilities are half separated. The people pay for the gas …

Peter:                   (laughs) They’re paying for somebody else’s!

Jim:                      Yeah, they pay for gas, heat for their furnace. But the electrical isn’t separated, so it’s electrical for the whole building. Landlord pays electrical.

Peter:                   So, it would be … I’ve seen it where you have, say, it’s a duplex. And then you have the electric separated quote, unquote. But, you’ll have one of the units have electric that has like, plugs that’s attached to the other units.

Jim:                      The other side, that’s shared metering.

Peter:                   Yes.

Jim:                      And that can be an expensive proposition.

Peter:                   Yes, it can.

Jim:                      To change, or if somebody discovers it, how do you litigate who owes who what?

Peter:                   Exactly.

Jim:                      But the one that I love the most is that the gas is separated. So, there’s just … Say, it’s a double. There’s two gas furnaces, two gas meters. So everybody pays their own. But there’s one electric service for the house, and the landlord pays the electric as part of the rent. So I go in there and on one side, there’s five electric wall heaters plugged in.

Peter:                   Oh, yeah, and the windows open.

I mean, you’re setting yourself up as a landlord to just get screwed over if you are the one whose paying the electric, or even sometimes the heat. Like, “Let me turn the heat all the way up to 80 in the middle of the winter, and then leave the windows open and everything else.”

Jim:                      Yeah, people just … when they’re not responsible for the buck, they don’t give a rats rear end.

Peter:                   Yeah, they don’t care. They will just totally, yeah. You’re paying for it, so they could care less as far as they’re concerned.

Jim:                      The other thing with being a landlord. Do you allow pets, or don’t.

Peter:                   Yeah. That’s actually and interesting question, because I’ve had it where I’ve allowed pets, and there’s been times where it hasn’t been an issue. And then there’s been times where I really, really, really regretted it. And it’s kind of a case by case basis.

And the reason it’s case by case, usually I meet … It’s really how I feel about the tenant, like what the price point is for the apartment. If they’re somebody who seems responsible, who has a good job, who … It’s not a puppy, that’s a big thing. Like if it’s a puppy, or a young animal. A kitten or something.

And guess what, it’s gonna learn how to get housebroken in your place. And that’s gonna cause issues.

Jim:                      You don’t want that.

Peter:                   Yeah.

Jim:                      If an apartment has hardwood floors or something, it’s easier to repaint.

Peter:                   Yeah, it’s much easier.

Jim:                      Carpeting? Forget about it. Animals ruin carpet.

Peter:                   Yeah, forget about it. They destroy it.

Jim:                      Permanently.

Peter:                   My animals destroy my carpet. (laughs) I mean, I have to replace some of my carpet because of them. Yeah, no, it’s pretty case by case. Like, if I get a good feel for it and I meet the animal. If I do accept it, I wanna meet the animals kind of deal.

Because I don’t want make sure there’s some vicious … I’m letting some vicious dog or something stay in my house. I wanna make sure it’s personable, and it’s older, and it’s everything else.

Jim:                      One of the real important things, if you’re getting into the landlord business, is to be somewhat hands on. To be visible there. It’s the one where people run into trouble. Where the guy lives in California that owns this building, and they have property management companies.

Peter:                   Now, there’s a lot I need to … I could talk about this all day, especially with these guys who have property management companies that are running their stuff. These property management companies, they’re incentivized for turnover in many ways. So, say I live in California. I have an apartment complex in, I don’t know, Detroit or whatever.

Most property management companies, they get paid to fill the unit, and then they get paid to evict a tenant. And then they’re getting paid between eight to ten percent of your gross, whatever you make on it. So, if they just keep kicking out a tenant, putting in a new one, kicking out a tenant, putting in a new one …

Jim:                      They’re making a fortune.

Peter:                   Oh, yeah. They’re making money hand over first while the person who owns it, they’re getting screwed. I see that all the time. I mean, it’s like it is kind of a perverse incentive they have, to have a lot of turnover.

And that wears on the place, and that causes all sorts of other issues as well.

Jim:                      I’ve been in a couple of houses where … A four family particularly comes to mind, and so I’m over there doing the inspection. I go through three of the apartments, and I get to the fourth one and there’s police tape on the door.

Peter:                   Oh, jeez.

Jim:                      Meth lab.

Peter:                   (laughs)

Jim:                      Former meth lab.

Peter:                   Are you joking me?

Jim:                      No, I’m not! I’m dead serious.

Peter:                   A meth lab. Like, there’s a ‘Breaking Bad’ meth lab. Oh, wow.

Jim:                      Like, “I’m not going in there! This home inspection stops right here at that door! I’m not going in there.”

Peter:                   Done.

Jim:                      Well, first of all I know nothing about drugs. I mean, give me drugs, I’m not into that.

Peter:                   Yeah.

Jim:                      But the chemicals and things they use contaminate everything!

Peter:                   Oh, yeah. That’s done.

Jim:                      I mean it’s the walls, the carpeting.

Peter:                   That could contaminate the entire house. Actually, from what I understand, that kind of puts it in a strange legal standing, the ownership of that house.

Jim:                      Yeah, there are some states that the real estate folks are not even required to, even if they know about that stuff, they’re not required to. But an ethical person would, I mean, you wouldn’t want to not tell somebody that.

Peter:                   I wonder what the court case that actually created that, in some states, where it requires you …

Jim:                      We live in interesting times.

Peter:                   Yeah, how did it get to that point, you know?

Jim:                      Well, we live here in and around Rochester, New York and the city of Rochester is anti-business. There’s no question about it. Right down the middle.

Peter:                   Well, it’s really high taxes is what it is. The property taxes are incredible here. Monroe Country, it’s like four percent. I mean, that’s almost unheard of anywhere.

Jim:                      I will say, within a mile of this building we’re in, there’s gotta be fifty zombie houses.

Peter:                   Oh, yeah. Maybe even more.

Jim:                      You don’t have the incentive to buy them, to fix them up, to rent them. Because the city comes down on you with a thumb like crazy. Then we have this thing here called the net office. And I look at that as nothing more than jackbooted thugs, I mean they’re nuts. Those people are crazy. And all they want to do is live out some dictatorship type of thing. I just wanna choke them all!

Peter:                   Why don’t you tell us how you really feel, Jim?

Jim:                      Drive me nuts.

Peter:                   What gets me is that we want to create, and we’re getting into some of the local stuff. We’ll move on quickly. I just want to state one point that I’ve noticed is they keep wanting to create more housing. It’s like, “If you build it, they will come.”

If we make this really nice apartment, really nice condos over here, it’s going to make the neighborhood better.

And it’s not housing shortage here, I think there’s plenty of housing. I mean, it’s just a matter of an economic thing. It’s a matter of bring more jobs here, so then there is more demand for housing.

That’s one of the things I’ve seen.

Jim:                      Alright. You know what, right now I’ll leave that one alone.

Peter:                   We’re gonna go off on it, I wanna hear. It’s another one of those money taking schemes that you were talking about.

Jim:                      I don’t know about you, but I have a fair amount of pride in my house.

Peter:                   Oh, yeah.

Jim:                      And, you know, I have my …

Peter:                   You have to, that’s your castle, you know?

Jim:                      I have my wife mow the lawn frequently.

Peter:                   (laughs)

Jim:                      And I take pride in it. And when I come up on a house where clearly pigs live here …

Peter:                   Oh, yeah.

Jim:                      … And it drives me nuts! I get there to do a home inspection, there’s dishes piled up to the ceiling, place is a mess.

Peter:                   That’s even worse with multi families, because like we had eluded to earlier, if somebody’s not there it’s like, “What do I care?”

And some of these people, it’s so bad. Where, okay, yeah. Say I do keep the security deposit, that’s not gonna cover the damage a lot of the time that you’ll see when somebody lives like that.

Jim:                      I come to a house and it looked like wallabys lived there, and it’s torn up. Everything’s a mess, there’s junk all over the place. And there’s a sign that says, “Please remove your shoes.”

I don’t think so.

Peter:                   Yeah, I’m gonna step on something.

Jim:                      You know as a landlord, what I see happen all the time especially in the lower income rentals is people get in trouble a lot. I go to court a lot and testify for people, and sometimes I have to sit through a bunch of landlord/tenant stuff downtown.

Peter:                   Yeah.

Jim:                      And municipal court and it’s like, sometimes the system breaks down, and people don’t have money to pay and whatever. But they’ll put out every stop. Like, “I can’t afford my rent, but there’s lead paint here and it’s all friable and I’m having my kid tested for lead.”

So it’s going back and forth.

Peter:                   See, the thing is with the lead piece, it’s the disclosure. You just have to let the tenants know a lot of the times. Part of federal law, where it’s, you give them that little pamphlet. Like, “Hey, this is how you deal with lead.”

If your house is built before 1978. It’s 1978, right?

Jim:                      Yeah.

Peter:                   Yeah, if it’s built before then, there’s a chance that there’s lead. You just have to have them sign that disclosure and give them the packet and be like, “Hey, look. There could be lead paint here, just FYI. If we have any tests, here’s the tests.”

But that doesn’t necessarily stop somebody from trying to twist it around.

Jim:                      What they do is that if they get behind, sometimes they’ll try to do anything they can to stave off the eviction deal. So they’ll call the net office and say, “There’s friable lead here! The window seals are all peeling, my kids are here, and I found my kid playing with a paint chip.”

And the other thing is asbestos. And there’s a ton of that out there.

Peter:                   Yes, you see that wrapped around pipes and everything else. I’ve seen that in a bunch of the places I’ve been in.

Jim:                      So, that’s a tough one.

Peter:                   I mean, as long as you can seal it. A lot of the time that’s the big thing. It’s not necessarily abatement of the asbestos, it’s especially around pipes. If you just seal it, get somebody to seal it, exactly.

Jim:                      There’s paints, there’s approved encapsulating tapes that you can use.

Peter:                   Yeah.

Jim:                      They’re clear, we’re not trying to hide that it’s here, but we’ve encapsulated it. That’s fine.

You know, one of the things too that drives me nuts is a lot of these buildings have old windows. Single strength glass windows.

Peter:                   Yep.

Jim:                      From the 50’s, 40’s, 30’s, 20’s, whatever.

Peter:                   Oh, yeah. I’ve seen that. I have one of mine that is still like that, yeah.

Jim:                      And they’re all painted shut.

Peter:                   (laughs) Well, they do that because of the certificate of occupancy. Because a lot of the time the inspector is going to go in there, and that is where they look for the chipped paint.

Jim:                      No peeling paint!

Peter:                   Yeah, and so they’re like, “Well, maybe if I just paint it shut they’re not gonna look in there.”

That doesn’t really solve the problem, you know?

Jim:                      When I walk in a building, my main concern for all my clients is security. That’s the number one thing.

Peter:                   Yeah, of course.

Jim:                      Safety and security.

Peter:                   That comes first.

Jim:                      So I’m thinking, there’s a house fire in the kitchen. The only door to get out in that area of the house is the kitchen door, so you’re not going that way. The house is on fire, it’s full of smoke, whatever. You go over and the windows are all painted shut, you can’t get out any of them.

So, what I tell everybody is that I want to see that window open and operating. Now, I don’t care if you go and buy a new vinyl replacement window. That up to you if you want to do that.

Peter:                   Yep.

Jim:                      But, that’s gotta be operating. You’ve got to be able to get out the windows in an emergency.

Peter:                   I agree you have to have that. And that’s just people cutting corners from what I’ve seen.

And to get, I know here in Rochester, to get that certificate of occupancy you need to have the operating windows. That’s not just your standard, that’s also the city standard. And like I said, I just think that people try to bypass. Because it a lot of work to scrape all that paint, and then repaint it.

Because you have to take apart the window to be able to do that, a lot of the time.

Jim:                      Yeah, it’s terrible. And you still have a window with an R value of .5, and your cheapest vinyl replacement window starts at 3.0, so it’s …

Peter:                   Yeah, you know, you’re losing heat on it, and it’s just all around a big issue. So people are just, “Oh, I’m just gonna paint it shut.”

Jim:                      I think that eventually the code will, and we’re very close to this in New York State now, that sprinkler systems will be required for certain multi family homes.

Peter:                   Like how many units?

Jim:                      I don’t know specifically on that, but I’ll have the crack staff at Home Repair Clinic … Get back to the wonderful staff at

Peter:                   I’ll take a look, I’ll do some research on my end.

Jim:                      Yeah, we’ll research that.

Peter:                   Because that’s interesting. Because that adds another whole can of beans that you have to consider, for the larger units.

Jim:                      Many times I come to inspect a rental property for somebody, whether it’s a double, triple, whatever it is. And the utilities aren’t separated, so it can be expensive to do electrical. It can be expensive to do gas.

Peter:                   And that’s going to make it harder to sell, because that’s another liability that the landlord’s gonna have to put up with. They’re going to be covering that, and it’s going to come from somewhere.

Jim:                      And the building’s for sale, the guy’s had it for 20 years. He’s milked it like a sow, and then he’s done nothing to it.

Peter:                   Oh, jeez.

Jim:                      The fire escapes are all rusted and loose.

Peter:                   Yeah, seen that.

Jim:                      And my client isn’t requiring the current owner to get the certificate of occupancy needed by the city, at closing. And I’m looking at him going, “Have you lost your mind?”

Peter:                   I don’t understand that. I don’t understand that. I have people who don’t even do engineer’s inspections who’re like, “Hey, this is a 20 unit building. Yeah, you know, no engineers inspection.” I just kind of have to do a facepalm. I don’t understand why, I don’t even know if I want to really ask, whatever.

But it really confuses me because I can’t even imagine myself throwing down like seven figures for a place, or more, and not even doing an inspection. Whatever, different strokes, different folks.

Jim:                      And if you’re buying, it’s normally accepted, say it was built in the 50’s. Just for the sake of a time frame. And now, the first 20 years the bathrooms and kitchens, we came up to 1970, and ’70, ’75 when they were remolded. So now we’re way into the 2000’s and they still have these 1970 kitchens and bathrooms in there, it’s time to upgrade them.

And if you’re buying a building with 30 units, it could easily …

Peter:                   You’re looking at five to ten for each of one of those units. Five to ten grand.

Jim:                      Right, exactly. I mean, that’s a monumental amount of money to spend to upgrade these.

Now, you might be able to take the rent from 800 to 1200, and that’s a whole nother matter. But still, it’s like any other investment you have keep it going.

Peter:                   You have to put a little back into it to get more. And one of the things that I’ve seen, from working with clients or people who are interested in buying rental properties, or income properties. Or whatever you want to call them is they say, “Well, I want it in a really nice neighborhood.” But they always want a really high cap rate, so a really high ROI.

It makes like, “I wanna see like a 10, 15 percent cap rate on that.” You mean, it’s just gonna make 10 to 15 percent of it’s value every year. And you’re just not gonna have it in a really nice area.

Jim:                      Yeah, very rare.

Peter:                   It’s risk, reward. It’s that balance. If you want really high returns, you’re going to take a lot of risk. If you don’t want to take a lot of risk, you’re not going to get very high returns. And that’s a pretty fundamental things that I always feel like I have to educate clients on.

And they’re like, “Oh, well, I want really high returns!”

I’m like, “Look. Are you fine with being a slumlord? If you’re fine with that, and you’re fine with taking on a lot of risk. Somebody maybe tearing out all the copper piping in your duplex.”

Like, one day I could show you a bunch of places.

Jim:                      There you go.

Peter:                   But, I don’t know if you really wanna take that. Because it’s a bit deceptive, those high returns. Because you’re going to be spending a lot more in maintenance, you’re going to be spending a lot more in turnover. You’re going to be spending a lot of money on pretty much all of those little ankle biting issues that you’re gonna have, if you own a place like that.

Jim:                      The one I like the best is the guy or gal buying their first rental property.

Peter:                   It’s a trial by fire.

Jim:                      Exactly. Some are good, some have done their homework. But my best advice to people like that is go downtown to your courthouse in the city. And go into landlord/tenant court, and just sit there for a day and watch what happens. You get a big time education.

It’s very difficult to collect money sometimes if somebody hasn’t paid you, they go back and plead with the judge. I mean, they could be there months.

Peter:                   Oh, yeah.

Jim:                      And now they’re just accumulating all this debt with you.

Peter:                   I could tell you a million different stories about nightmares with tenants. One of them was in our previous episode, about mine.

Jim:                      That was a great one, yeah.

Peter:                   That one, and that just focuses. That makes me want to bring up the point, you have to screen, screen, screen. Alright? You have to check the credit, you have to check their income.

Now, a way to check income. Say, it’s like a one bedroom. For like 600 a month, that individual should be making around 1800 a month in take home income for them to qualify.

So that’s one of the things that a lot of people don’t understand. If they’re spending over half their paycheck on their rent, chances are they’re going to default on you.

Jim:                      At some point, some emergency is gonna happen, or whatever.

Peter:                   Yeah, something is gonna happen and you know what? They’re not gonna prioritize you. They’re gonna prioritize whatever else they have going on in their lives.

So, no more than a third of their income should be going towards rent. And dependent on the kind of unit, the credit score piece could be flexible. If it’s a really nice unit, I’d say above 650, 700. But if you’re starting to look at something that’s, ahhh, I’m usually above 600 I’ll go for that.

But there’s no hard and fast rules. I’ve heard a bunch of people like, “Oh, I don’t take over 700.” But the thing is, is that if you do have a really good credit score, why are you renting to begin with?

You could buy your own house, kind of deal. So it runs into some other issues.

Jim:                      Well, some people don’t want the responsibility or they’re short termers in a certain area, or something.

Peter:                   That’s true.

Jim:                      But you’re right on that. You know, nightmare scenario, the landlord number 12, is you rent to somebody and the next week there’s like six people living there.

Peter:                   (laughs) I’ve had that happen.

Jim:                      That’s a nightmare.

Peter:                   And, the thing was, he was a former military guy.

Jim:                      There’s a trend, there.

Peter:                   Well, actually, I’ll say this. These guys are the bad apples. This is the one bad apple. The other guys, one was an active duty recruiter I rented to. He was amazing. I mean, he paid on time, very clean and everything.

I had another active duty navy guy. Awesome, great dude. This guy, he retired, and he was from the army. And he lived with his girlfriend, and the next thing I know, his cousins living there.

Jim:                      Yeah.

Peter:                   And his brother. And I’m like, “Hey, man. You just, you gotta move on.”

Jim:                      You gotta have a good lease to cover that stuff.

Peter:                   And I’m like, “Look, your lease is expiring here really soon, so I don’t feel like I’m going to renew you. This isn’t working out.”

Jim:                      Boy, I’ll tell you. You can tax a building services too, to a horrible level, when you have so many people in a building like that. And it’s not designed for that stuff.

Peter:                   And the thing was, I started seeing these people moving in the last few months of their lease. And I’m like, “Okay, this is … I see where this is going.” You know? Just gonna cut this off before it gets any worse, here.

Jim:                      Well, I think that you cannot be squeamish as a landlord. You have to be … There’s two types of people in the world. There’s type A people and type B. And there’s a few type AAA people.

Peter:                   (laughs)

Jim:                      Which are ultra whatever. A type B person, laid back, non-confrontational. Doesn’t make a good landlord.

Peter:                   No, you’re gonna get stepped on.

Jim:                      You need to know what you’re doing with this.

And I’m not trying to talk anybody out of it, because there’s lots of good opportunities there. It’s a business decision like anything else.

Peter:                   Yep.

Jim:                      But, the city’s against you, the tenants against you, everybody’s against you. Your insurance company’s against you.

Peter:                   It’s all about finding the right person, I find. If I can actually get along with the person, and they make good money, and they have good credit, it’s gonna be fine most times.

What I’ve seen … actually, I have one of my places. The two tenants are very good tenants, but they don’t get along with each other. And now I start getting …

Jim:                      Yeah, that can be really bad.

Peter:                   Now I’m getting stuck in this stupid shouting match between these guys. It’s like, “You know what, can you be adults?” (laughs) “Can you just kind of work things out?”

Yeah, it gets annoying.

Jim:                      One of the things that drives me crazy. Say, you have a little house in the city. It’s a one family house and you rent it, okay?

Peter:                   Yep.

Jim:                      So you rent it out, and you tell the guy, “Okay, new lease. It says you’re responsible for the lawn maintenance. You’re responsible for your own snow removal.”

Peter:                   Yep.

Jim:                      Like, “It’s your house.”

Peter:                   What I really like is if you say, “Hey, you’re responsible for your snow removal.” Oh, then the first big snow comes and it’s like, “Well, are you gonna come here? Is a plow coming?” No, man.

Jim:                      No plow, you’re the plow.

Peter:                   We talked about this, dude. Yeah, get your shovel, bro.

Jim:                      But you know, in the city if you let your lawn grow they’ll give you a ticket.

Peter:                   Yep.

Jim:                      I had a house once where I would routinely park on the lawn. It was my own house, I wanna park on my own lawn.

Peter:                   Yeah, exactly, why not?

Jim:                      And I got a ticket. From the net office.

Peter:                   (laughs)

Jim:                      You can’t park on your lawn, you can’t.

Peter:                   You’re gonna tell me what I can do? Oh, yeah.

Jim:                      If we were on my radio program I would have my producer pull up these machine gun sound effects, and explosion sound effects. I’d go nuts! I mean, it’s nuts.

Peter:                   I don’t understand why you can’t do that, park on your own lawn.

Jim:                      It’s … I don’t know.

Peter:                   I can understand like, you’re not pulling apart a car and you have all the car parts all over your lawn or something.

Jim:                      That’s where it all starts, I think. Working on cars in the road, and out in front of houses and that kind of thing.

Peter:                   Yeah, I’m sure something happened. Somebody got hurt, and then here we go.

Jim:                      The problem with that deal, was Mrs. Peabody Nosey kept calling the net office and saying, “They’re parking in the front yard again!” Well, you know, I think she just disappeared one day. And I didn’t do it.

Peter:                   There’s always people like that where like, “Oh, you can’t do this.” I’ve actually been called about almost the exact same thing. I had a tenant who parked his motorcycle on the lawn, and the people from across the street called in on that.

A motorcycle, you know, really.

Jim:                      There was an incident not too long ago that I got involved in. I get involved in some landlord/tenant stuff, too. Somebody will hire me to prove something one way, or whatever. So, I get over there and it’s a 30 unit apartment. Old building.

Peter:                   Yep.

Jim:                      The people that own it, I know them. THey’re good folks, and they run a nice, tight ship. Good maintenance. They do it how I’d like to see it done. And there’s a fence between their parking lot, and the house behind them.

And this fence was an old fence, it was 25 years old. It was kind of in dispute who really owned the fence.

Peter:                   Yeah, it was kind of right on the line. You weren’t sure which one it was.

Jim:                      But the people in the house said it was their fence.

Peter:                   I see.

Jim:                      So, these folks had their parking lot repaved. And somehow the guy that owned the house, said that the fence is now leaning over. That the paver guys ruined his fence. Of course, the people that owned the building said, “No, that fence has been like that forever.”

So I go over there and I analyze it, take pictures, write a report and all that. And then they go to court, and it’s a horrible situation.

Peter:                   He said, she said, that’s all.

Jim:                      Yeah, but the system is stacked against business people in the cities. Period. I don’t care what city it is.

And I know it is here. Well aware of that.

Peter:                   And they’re tenant friendly, is often what it is.

Jim:                      Tenant friendly this, as far as I’m concerned.

Peter:                   Yeah.

Jim:                      First of all …

Peter:                   I’m not saying I agree with it. I don’t like it any more than you do.

Jim:                      Perhaps I did go over the top with that. But, you know, it is one of those things where business is always evil. As far as, not getting into politics at all, but a lot of these cities are run by folks that believe that people should have everything handed to them.

Peter:                   And you don’t earn it.

Jim:                      And I’m not on that, I’m not on that plane. But these things sometimes it’s preconceived deal. You go to court even with good information and you end up losing, so.

Peter:                   Yeah. I can’t even understand why they would even hire you about the fence thing. I don’t want, say, you hire a surveyor to figure out whose fence it actually is. Because that alone even seems like it’s in dispute.

Jim:                      What happened was they went to court and lost the first time. Then they appealed.

Peter:                   Oh, jeez.

Jim:                      And when you go to appeal, the judge isn’t really judging the case again. She’s judging the judge, and how the previous judge handled the case.

Peter:                   Yeah, I see.

Jim:                      And this particular judge that they pulled downtown, I’d been in front of her ten times. She’s insane. But I have to give her credit, she will not let those people leave without solving this.

What happened was, at the bottom line of the fence was the folks that owned the property agreed to replace the fence, and then take ownership of it.

Peter:                   I see.

Jim:                      And the other guy doesn’t have to worry about it. He gets a new fence to look at, whatever.

Peter:                   There you go.

Jim:                      They solved it, my folks had to pay money obviously, for a fence. But there was no monetary award then.

Peter:                   Oh, okay.

Jim:                      They sued them for 3,000 dollars or so in small claims court.

Peter:                   Oh, jeez.

Jim:                      So it was, you know. But that judge is … Well, you know. Interesting. Let’s put it that way.

Peter:                   You do have some interesting judges in Rochester.

Jim:                      Yeah, there’s an old guy that is a judge. He’s way in his 80’s, he’s part time. And it’s downtown in the city. It’s a real court. But he is wonderful.

He listens to my radio show, so every time I go in there to testify for somebody.

“Hey, Jim! How yeah doing?”

And of course the other sides looking over like, “Hey, that ain’t right.”

Peter:                   We want want another judge, yeah.

Jim:                      Pretty funny. So, you know, the bottom line with landlord/tenant relationships is building relationships.

Peter:                   Yeah, exactly.

Jim:                      And you’re a pretty easy going guy.

Peter:                   That is the key. That is the key, is building that relationship. It’s having that report. Because if they look at it as, it’s a transactional piece, they’re not going to really care that much about actually taking care of your property.

If they feel like, “Hey, I respect this person and I almost consider them my friend. But it’s not like a friend-friend, buddy, whatever.” It’s like, “Hey, I actually kind of respect you, and I understand you.”

They’re not gonna destroy your stuff. Well, most cases. If you have a good report, good relationship, they respect you, it’s gonna be fine. 90 percent of the time I would say.

Jim:                      You know what happens, though, too. This is a business.

Peter:                   Yep.

Jim:                      Being a landlord’s a business, and sometimes a landlord will become too close of a friend.

Peter:                   That’s why I was trying to put that emphasis.

Jim:                      Going over and drinking with somebody, or whatever.

Peter:                   No, it’s almost like a professional relationship.

Jim:                      Horrible, horrible thing to let that happen.

Peter:                   I would say it’s a professional relationship. In many ways. It’s like having a good relationship with your boss.

You know, I’d rather have a good relationship with my boss than a bad relationship.

So I’d rather have a good relationship with my tenant, but not a bad one.

Jim:                      There you go.

Peter:                   And it’s kind of like you mentioned right there, like I’m not going to go drinking beers with you and all that noise.

But, I’d rather have there be mutual respect. Because that’s going to carry on in how they treat my property, and the place they live.

Jim:                      And the very, very worst thing that you can do. Say you’re a single guy. You have properties. Is to start a relationship with a single woman, or a woman with kids, living in one of your apartments.

Peter:                   Ah, yeah.

Jim:                      Oh my God. Those are extremely explosive situations.

Peter:                   Oh, boy. Yeah, you’re getting everything tangled in that.

Jim:                      “Where’s your rent?!”

Peter:                   It’s like, I gotta put my landlord had on. Jesus.

Jim:                      That’s horrible.

Peter:                   And you know what? You get yourself in that situation, I mean …

Jim:                      You deserve what you get.

Peter:                   Yeah, you had it coming.

Jim:                      It’s like owning a bar. You don’t drink in your own bar. You just don’t do that.

Peter:                   Yeah, if you like to drink a lot. You probably shouldn’t own a bar to begin with.

Jim:                      (laughs) Good advice.

Peter:                   That’s how I see it.

Jim:                      Well, buddy, we’ve reached the end of this wonderful Home Repair Clinic podcast. And, hope everybody enjoyed that. Peter’s going to give you the email address if you’d like to weigh in, you’re more than welcome to send us an email with suggestions for topics. Or a particular specific question about something, you’re more than welcome to do that.

Peter:                   Yeah, go ahead and email us at [email protected]

Jim:       Hey, thanks for listening. We’ll see you again down the road for the next HouseAtWork Home Repair Clinic podcast.