The Sad Cautionary Tale of Sarah and J's Roof

So, I've been promising this story for a while...I've just been trying to get to a point where I'm no longer angry. I think I've succeeded. This is going to be long, and hopefully cathartic. I should really be putting together lists of stuff for work in the fall, but I don't want to. I made another abortive trip out to the school today. Once again, no cars. I've come to the conclusion that I am not to go in before the middle of August, like a normal administrator. It will just be a couple of late nights then. The waiting is turning me into a horrible person. But, my story. It's a good one. I'll get to the lessons learned later. When I went house shopping 5 years ago (gah!), I wanted interesting wall space, good light, and something close to my work. I also have a love for old houses, I discovered, and found myself one that I love that was built in 1913. It's narrow, has wide wood moldings, hardwood floors, and character. When I moved in, I knew that I would need a new roof. The inspector had made it clear that the roof was fine, but it needed to be redone. So the first fall I was here, I spent a miserable couple of months arranging my schedule so that I could get roofers to come and do quotes for the following Spring. You would think that guaranteed work for the following year would make them come, but it didn't. I finally managed to convince a couple to show, and hired the more professional of the 2 who showed up. I really don't regret my decision, desipte the heartache of this year. They came when they said they would, and came in on budget. I was happy and wrote a check. They were happy and told me all about my 10 year warranty. In February, I came up the stairs on a Saturday morning after a sleet storm, looked in my office door and saw something much like this:
The staining in this picture is from June. I wasn't taking pictures in anger at that point. At some point in the house's 94 years, there was another leak, and the homeowners of the time put up stylish wallpaper over the stains and texturized it. Classy.
We called a friend of ours who went into the attic (J and I don't own a ladder, and I don't think would fit through our attic hatch...thank goodness for friends who are willing to do so!) He told us that he could see daylight through a space near the chimney, and we should call the roofers. Thankfully, he also told us that the attic was well ventilated, and it probably wouldn't be a big deal to get it fixed.
I called the roofers. J was still working, but around in the mornings; and Monday a guy came to take a look. He couldn't go up to poke around because it was icy, and he didn't have a ladder tall enough. Our house needs the big 28 ft ladder, completely open. But you know, they're roofers. You would think that they'd bring the big ladder. This is a common theme in this story: they don't have a big enough ladder to take a look. He told us to call in March/April, when the weather was better, he'd bring back the big ladder, and they'd go up and take a look at the chimney.
In late April, we still hadn't heard from the roofers...but the paint was starting to peel in the office - starting along the cracks in our plaster from where the water would run down:
Note where the water would run, dragging the dust with it. I think the camera caught this well, don't you?
Now that J was home full time, he decided to call the roofers again. Turns out the guy who'd come to see us had been fired, and they had no record that he'd been to see us. They said they'd come out when they could. Of course, the first time they showed up on our doorstep, they didn't have the big ladder again.
So went the month of April: J calling every few days, and their promising that they'd do something soon. Meanwhile, we were looking for someone to repair the damage in the office. We still think that we may move, and well, we can't sell a house with a leak. Or, we can...but not for as much as a house with no leak.
Around the end of the month, when we had a hot spell, J called one day and was told that the roofers had come the previous night. Around 7:30. We'd gone for ice cream and had no idea if they'd really been here or not. But here was the clincher: we wanted an invoice verifying that the work had been done.
Weeeell....did we really need that? They didn't normally issue a piece of paper for caulking a chimney.
Meanwhile, the rest of the work on the house was continuing apace. The topsoil and seed went down in the backyard, the aluminum around a window was replaced, and we had brick repointed. Frankly, we got real lucky with the repointing. They needed a small Friday job, and we fit the bill. We agreed to the work Wednesday, and they set up Thursday afternoon.
Luckily, J called the roofers again looking for the elusive invoice from the roofers. The girl on the phone started into the same song and dance we'd been getting for a couple of weeks, and J's response was that we didn't feel like valued customers, seeing as he could call other contractors and have them working within 48 hours. Almost made her cry. This makes me a little proud, simply because I'm the heavy for customer service. I wouldn't have had the time or the patience to deal with the roofers as long as he did. It was the right tactic. We had roofers on our doorstep that evening, telling us that they were the ones who had done the work, and if there was another problem, they'd issue us an invoice. We insisted, and got a letter out of the roofers stating that they'd done the work the day they came to talk to us. Our names were spelled wrong, the street name was spelled wrong, but we had something. We went with the work was done, and hired a painter and plasterer to repair the inside of the house. The weekend before the painter was supposed to start, it was beastly here. Well over 30, vilely humid, and we had storm after storm. My friend had come for dinner with her pictures of Africa on a memory key, and we had to keep shutting off the computer. It poured rain horizontally. We should have known what was coming.
I got up the following morning and took a shower. As I was walking past the office after my shower, I heard dripping in the office on the hardwood floor and the desk...right in front of my monitor. The roof wasn't fixed.

Isn't this attractive? The paper started to rip because it was so waterlogged. The stains travelled the full length of the room along the seam in the wallpaper. This is after I started to clear the room, and the paper has dried.

This is the "do you think there's mould up there?" shot. Notice how much bigger the gap is, and the new cracks. These pictures are a sample of the many I took. Suddenly, we had to stop the painter, reschedule the carpet that we'd picked for the hall, and all that. We also called in the insurance company with our tale of woe. Frankly, I was at the point where I didn't care if the rates went up, so long as I didn't have to think about all this anymore. (as a side note, because this wasn't an act of God, they weren't willing to do anything. They told us to go after the roofers. But after the roofers last trip up to look, the insurace guy were up there. They also didn't bring a big enough ladder the first time. They say things look sound)

I was also the lucky person who got to call the roofers and politely tell them what I thought of their caulking job. I ended with an, "I expect to hear from you tomorrow with how you plan to fix this problem." At 8:45, we had a roofer on our doorstep: pair of tennis shoes and a pair of shorts on, and a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. He was "just driving by" and wanted to know how our roof was. He seemed shocked when we explained that it was still leaking. He promised to come back the next day and take a look.

They called at 5:20. They were just packing up. They'd be there soon to take a look around. At 8, a crew came out and up they went. Our guess was that this was the first time, based on what they found: a 1/2" gap that needed caulking. When asked if it was faulty product or ineptitude during installation, I was told that this "happened sometimes". Right. Apparantly, what we need is a piece of metal to block the gap. The caulking is a temporary fix. Not surprisingly, we're still after them for the metal.

What I have learned is this:

  1. Contractors are a pain in the ass. And a necessary part of life. They know it.
  2. J's being home this Spring has been great. We are squeaky wheels with the roofers, and we have had some results.
  3. There is a reason people sue for mental damages. I'm not a big drinker, but I've had more than a few in the last month as this has dragged on. We quit eating at home because I lost all ambition. I also spent a lot of time standing in the door of my office, staring at the ceiling, hating the Whos.
  4. Everyone should own a 28 foot ladder.


Lindsay Wilson said...

So, did you go out and buy a 28 foot ladder so the next time this happens and they try and use the "we don't have a big enough ladder," you could reach behind your back and say, "ah, shucks, I guess you'll have to use this one!?"

Anonymous said...

I was going to leave pretty much the exact same comment as Lindsay. I'm sorry it's been such an ordeal...


Michele said...

*clapping* I found your story most entertaining/educational. As I am currently looking for a new home I am suddenly not so sad that the real estate agents are telling me that we "are looking at a condo for our price range".