Why are homeowners insurance rates keep going up???

I would venture to guess that a majority of homeowners in the Mpls/St. Paul metro area have had to replace their roof due to storm damage in the last 10 years. For every 10 roofs that we install, seven (7) of the roofs will be payed for by the customer’s insurance company. Some homeowners have even had to replace their roof multiple times in the last 10 years due to storm damage. So it comes to no surprise that our insurance rates continually rise each and every year. Insurance companies are tired of paying for new roofs caused by storm damage. Besides rising rates, some insurance companies have resigned to actually changing the insurance policy when it comes to storm damage. We’re talking about higher deductibles, actual cash payouts (ACV) versus replacement cost (RCV) payouts and even eliminating coverage for some metals (vents, valley, drip edge, wall flashing) that can be damaged by a storm. So as a homeowner, what can you do to combat this trend in the homeowner insurance world?

1. Read your policy. Call your agent and ask to go over some of the specifics of your policy pertaining to the exterior of your home. Make sure that you are covered and WITH the right coverage. Don’t go with an ACV policy just because its cheaper. Elect for the “matching” rider, which ensures a full replacement of damaged items instead of spot repairs. If you don’t have this rider, then your roof could be patched with different colored shingles if the existing shingles are no longer available. Same thing applies to siding and windows.

2. Check the NOAA web page for reported storm damage. The NOAA has professional weather “spotters” all over the metro area. If there is any wind or hail damage, these trained “spotters” will report it. If a contractor knocks on your door and tells you about a recent storm that could have affected your home, check this website 1st :

http://www.spc.noaa.gov/climo/reports/today.html

3. Call a contractor that knows more than just storm damage. Most storm contractors are in the business of getting homeowners to file insurance claims, regardless if there is damage or not. This forces insurance companies to raise rates to combat the extra cost of hiring adjusters to look at these bogus claims. A true “general” contractor doesn’t  rely on storms to stay in business and are more inclined to tell homeowners the truth on whether they have storm damage or not. This leads to fewer claims being filed and lower homeowner insurance rates.

These 3 easy steps will help keep costs down in the long run. Don’t fall for a smart mouthed door knocker telling you to file a claim for storm damage w/o calling your agent, or checking the NOAA webpage or talking to a true “general” contractor 1st!

 

 

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Buyer beware of the “Free Roof” approach by storm chasers

Bad Free Roof Ads - LER - www.lermn

We have received many calls from homeowners over the years who tell us a disturbing, yet common story.  They tell us a roofer knocked on their door, told them they have storm damage to their roof and they could be entitled to a new roof paid for by their insurance company. Many of these homeowners had roofs older than 10+yrs so the prospect of a “free” new roof sounds wonderful, because ultimately, they already know they are nearing the time to replace their roof. The “storm chasing” roofers say things like “it’s a no brainer” and “why would you want to pay $10k out of pocket for a new roof when I can help you get your insurance company to pay for a new roof with NO money out of your pocket?”

The majority of the insurance companies in Minnesota have caught on to this trick being played by  “storm chasing” roofers. Here’s what really happens:  They convince a homeowner there is storm damage to their roof and to file a claim for what really is non-existent storm damage. The insurance company sends out an insurance adjuster to inspect your property for storm damage. Insurance adjusters are trained to find damage, and when they don’t find any actual damage caused by a storm, they will deny your claim. Next you will receive a denial letter from your insurance company. Now your insurance company knows you have an old roof and they may also include a letter stating that you must replace your roof, at your expense, because it’s old and in bad shape through natural wear and tear.  This will most likely include a “deadline”. If you don’t repair or replace your old roof, your insurance company can consider the roof to be uninsurable and deny future legitimate claims.  The insurance company could also cancel your coverage, thus making it difficult and expensive to find new homeowners coverage.  Most “storm chasing” roofers will never tell you this because they know you’d never gamble with the chance of a “free roof” knowing it can backfire into you having to replace your roof, not with insurance proceeds, but with money out of your own bank account.

Many “storm chasing” roofers will claim they haven’t seen a single roof in your area without storm damage. This is often false and easy to bust by visiting the official NOAA storm reports of storm damage in your area (click here to see actual storm reports). The reason these “storm chasing” roofers love old roofs is because they think they can convince the insurance adjuster to pay for a new one because of the age of the roof, and sometimes the condition. If the insurance company doesn’t agree, no sweat off their back, they move along to the next home/town/state. Insurance companies don’t pay out claims for normal wear and tear to a roof, or even the age or condition of the roof. They only pay for legitimate storm damaged roofs.

Spring time is here and “storm chasing” roofers will be knocking on every door with an old roof offering the promise of getting your insurance company to pay for a new roof. Again, “Free Roof” will be their promise and they might even tell you “no money out of your pocket” and you will not have to pay your deductible (which is illegal and considered insurance fraud). But remember, there is no such thing as a free lunch and buyer beware.

We have been in the roofing business for over 15 years. We’ve worked with hundreds of homeowners and their insurance company’s on legitimate storm related claims. Our goal is to use our expertise to help you, the homeowner. We’ve taken an ethical stand that we will not put homeowners in a bad situation. If you’ve been approached by a “storm chaser”, give us a call for a second opinion. We’re not afraid to “turn down business” when we know it’s the right thing to do!

New Energy Star Changes for 2015….

Window, door and skylight manufacturers will have new Energy Star ratings for the start of 2015. The EPA is responsible for setting the Energy Star ratings and the EPA concluded that it must toughen up the Energy Star ratings so that it meets or surpasses the ever changing residential building code requirements. SO what does this mean to the average homeowner?

1. Prices will go up. All of the window manufacturers will have to spend thousands to millions of dollars on re-designing their windows to meet the new Energy Star ratings. And ultimately these costs will be absorbed by the end user, which is the homeowner.

2. Not as many options. The new Energy Star ratings could put an end to double pane windows. Most window manufacturers will have to discontinue their double pane window for the more energy efficient triple pane window. Most double pane windows will not meet or exceed the new 2015 Energy Star ratings. So as a homeowner, you’ve just eliminated about 80% of the glass options for new windows.

triple pane

3. Longer wait times. Most vinyl windows can be ordered, delivered and installed in 2-4 weeks. Some even sooner if you go directly to Menards or Home Depot. But if a window needs more glass to meet the new Energy Star ratings, these windows could take longer to produce.

4. More condensation. With older windows, the energy in a home is lost through the drafty/leaky window frame and glass. As soon as new energy efficient windows are installed, that energy is now being trapped inside the home and will form on the glass as condensation. So the equation goes, the older the home + tougher Energy Star ratings = more condensation. Not to worry if you install a vinyl or fiberglass window, but a wood window could have issues after year 5.

condensation

5. Less Competetion. The market for window manufacturers could dwindle. Smaller window manufacturers will have to endure more costs to stay in business. They may decide to close up for good or be bought out by a larger window maker. This results in fewer options and higher costs for the homeowner.

Spring is in the air and so are remodeling ideas!

While most Minnesotans like to hibernate in the winter, the spring season brings about change. People start to open the windows and do a little spring cleaning. Garage sales are happening on every block. Its like the saying “Out with the old and in with the new.” And as spring starts, so does the home remodeling business. Homeowners in the St. Paul/Minneapolis metro are interested in something fresh and different. With the housing market still a little shaky, people are deciding to stay in their homes and instead of moving or building new, they are remodeling their old spaces. So what are people doing these days:

Kitchen Remodels– Most of our time spent in the house is usually in the kitchen. Its where we share our meals and our stories. And so why not spruce up the area that we spend the most time in? There are really 2 options when it comes to a kitchen remodel; a face lift or a total makeover. A face lift would consist of new cabinet doors/drawers, some new paint, new appliances, maybe a new tile backsplash. A typical face lift varies in price from $5,000-$15,000. A total makeover is much more labor/time intensive. A total makeover would include tearing out a wall to open the space up, new granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, new hardwood flooring, new electrical/plumbing. The average total kitchen makeover varies in price from $15,000-$40,000.

White Bear Lake Kitchen Makeover White Bear Lake Kitchen Facelift St. Paul Kitchen Facelift

Bathroom Remodels- Just like the kitchen, people spend a lot of time in the bathroom and they want that area to be fresh and clean. Very similar to the kitchen remodeling options, there are basically 2 options available for bathroom remodels; a face lift or a total makeover. A facelift could consist of a new toilet, sink hardware, lighting, tile flooring, painting, new glass shower door. A typical bathroom facelift varies in price from $5,000-$12,000. A total makeover is again much more labor/time intensive. It could include tearing out an old shower/tub, tiling the floor/shower area, removing and installing a new vanity with granite countertops, marble sink and chrome hardware, possibly adding a 2nd sink, moving a toilet or installing a new Jacuzzi tub. A total makeover varies in price from $12,000-$25,000.

DSC_3170  Blaine Bathroom Addition

3 or 4 Season Porch– People generally crave new spaces. Instead of designing and building a +$100k addition, an enclosed deck or 3/4 season porch can give you the extra space at roughly 1/2 the cost. Some homeowners want some sort of an awning or roof over their existing deck (for a little shade on those warm and humid summer days) with a screen (to keep out the mosquitos) around the railing. This would be considered a screened in porch. Typical cost varies on the size and scope but you could expect somewhere between $5,000-$10,000. If walls are constructed around the perimeter instead of railings, that would be a 3/4 season porch. The big difference between a 3 or 4 season porch would be the material of the walls and if they are insulated or not. It is much more labor/time/material intensive to design and build a 3/4 season porch. Prices range from $15,000-$40,000. And if you looking at running the heating ducts out to your new enclosure then look to pony up much more money. A propane gas fireplace is a much better and cheaper alternative, and it gives the porch area a home style feel.

Sunr

 

Limitless Exteriors and Remodeling is your full service general contractor. We specialize in exteriors and dabble in interior remodeling in the off season. Call us today for a free estimate!

Be Wise and Stop Going Cheap

money1       -VS-    quality-seo

There are numerous sayings about the pitfalls of bargain shopping, or deals of the century, or one-time-only sales, etc. My father would always say that there is no such thing as a free lunch! Yet people sometimes never learn. So many people have been burned by a contractor they picked because of the contractor’s low price. Yet time and time again its always the lowest bid that gets the job. Some contractors will throw free upgrades, rebates or kickbacks at homeowners which most times is the same as a bargain basement price. Contractors that use high pressure sales techniques or write up a low-ball bid only want one thing; do anything to get your signature on that contract.

Contractors know pricing. They know what their profit will be on each job. And if they don’t, then those contractors won’t be in business long. So as a contractor you must decide if you’re going to sell based on price or sell based on say your expert craftsmanship, high quality of product, never ending customer service, etc. I have always thought that to be a contractor you must decide if you want to make lots of $$$ or do you want to help people, but that you can’t have both. Do you want to nickle and dime each customer or mislead people with deceptive advertising or do you take the high road and be ethical and hold yourself to a higher standard. If a contractor decides to bid everything as low as possible, then does he not value his own time? Or maybe that contractor is cutting corners and still making those big profit margins despite giving the homeowner a cheap price? Either way you must ask yourself if something is too good to be true!

Below are some great quotes on price vs cost

“There is no victory at bargain basement price.”     -Dwight D. Eisenhower

“Any business arrangement that is not profitable to the other person will in the end prove unprofitable for you.”     -Anonymous

“Quality is remembered long after the price is forgotten.”       -Ed Sabol

“The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten” – Benjamin Franklin

“There is hardly anything in the world that someone cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper, and the people who consider price alone are that person’s lawful prey. It’s unwise to pay too much, but it’s worse to pay too little. When you pay too much, you lose a little money — that is all. When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do. The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot — it can’t be done. If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is well to add something for the risk you run, and if you do that you will have enough to pay for something better.”          -John Ruskin

Realities of a hail storm

2013 MN Hail Storm            Eden Prairie Hail Damage

The Minneapolis/St. Paul southern metro was recently pounded by a large hail storm. Reports had hail stones ranging from quarter sized all the way up to golf ball sized and a little bigger. Some estimates are stating that 50,000+ roofs were damaged and might need replacing.

So here are a couple realities of the aftermath from a hail storm:

– Storm chasers are out full force. They are knocking on your front door or are calling you at night. They are trying to get you to sign a “subject to” or “agreement” and will meet with your adjuster on your behalf. A “subject to” or an “agreement” IS a signed contract and you are LOCKED into that contract after your adjuster approves the repairs of any damaged items. Expect a 25% cancellation fee if you try to back out of the contract after your claim is approved.

– Storm chasers often hire anybody with a pulse to knock on your front door or call you at home. These new hires often have little to no experience in either the roofing business or handling insurance claims for homeowners.

– Storm chasers from out of state will often work under a local contractor’s building license. This is illegal but rarely enforced. Be careful of contractors with out of state license plates as most will tell you that they are local or the company they represent is local, which is really the half truth!

– Many local contractors will often over sell the storm by signing too many customers and then not have the ability to get all of the repairs done in a timely fashion. Some contractors often hire new “crews” to help with the work load. These new “crews” often don’t care about the customer or contractor they are working for, which leads to mistakes, which could be costly to YOU.

– Rebating or free deductibles are illegal. Yard sign fees, upgrades, or any other form of rebating your deductible is illegal and is considered insurance fraud. Most shady contractors only care about fast cash and will offer everything but the kitchen sink in order to get your signature. If something is too good to be true than it normally is. Insurance companies must receive a final invoice from your contractor in order for your insurance co. to release any depreciation or holdback (2nd check). Rebating deductibles usually involves a contractor submitting a false invoice to the insurance company so that all depreciation is paid. The law doesn’t protect homeowners who claim that they didn’t know that rebating deductibles was illegal. Ignorance of the law does not protect you.

Be careful who you choose. Here are a couple tips on where you can find a trustworthy contractor:

  1. Ask your friends, family and neighbors. Word of mouth is the best referral you can receive.
  2. Look in your local church or community bulletin or newsletter. Lots of local contractors advertise where they interact.
  3. Search the Web, or more specifically HomeAdvisor.com, Houzz.com or AngiesList.com. Here is where you can see online references from current customers like yourself.
  4. Go to BNIMN.com. This is a local business referral network in your own backyard. Search for your city and then find whatever business you are looking for.
  5. Verify every contractor by going to https://secure.doli.state.mn.us/lookup/licensing.aspx. This is the Minnesota Dept of Labor website and you can verify if the contractor’s license and insurance is up to date.

Stop cleaning out those gutters!

IMG_1711              IMG_1484

Why you should call today and have us install gutter covers tomorrow:
1. Climbing a ladder or working off of a ladder is always dangerous.
2. If you fall and hurt yourself, you will have to file a claim with your health insurance company. Homeowners insurance doesn’t cover the homeowner from getting hurt on their own property.
3. Gutters can become clogged all year around. Some gutters need to be cleaned 2+ times a year.
4. Gutter covers can help with damage from ice dams.
5. It is one of the cheapest home improvements ($3-$10/labor & material) that a homeowner can do.

Gutter covers make life easier by freeing up time to do other things than cleaning out your gutters. Don’t take the risk, call a PRO!

Call today for some of the different options and how these options can fit inside your budget!

Ice Dams a Cometh

Ice dam removal before and after - Limitless Exteriors and Remodeling - www.lermn.com

The winter of 2013-2014 has just begun, yet some are wishing it was over. Here in MN we just had some of the coldest temps in almost 20 years. As of today, 1/7/14, we have had 60+ hours of temps below zero (0). The forecast is finally calling for temps back in the 30s later this week. So what does that mean for ice dams?

Temps have been well below normal for almost the entire month of December 2013 and now into January 2014. Here in the Mpls/St. Paul Metro, we still have anywhere from 12-20″ of snow cover. Every roof in my neighborhood still has plenty of snow on it. Most gutters are thick with ice and I would guess that the downspouts are no help either. So what happens when the temps rise?

As soon as the temp outside rises above freezing, the snow on the roof tops will start to melt. Every roof is sloped so that water can drain off easily. But with ice dams on the eaves of the roof (the overhang), the snow that melts higher up has no where to go. Water runs down the roof and then hits a road block or ice dam. Gravity is responsible for moving water off the roof, but an ice dam will stop water in its tracks. Eventually water will travel up the roof and will try to get underneath the roofing shingles. Once that happens its only a matter of time before you start seeing water spots on your ceiling. So what can you do?

There are ways to help alleviate the problem of ice dams:

1. Check your attic for the proper amount of insulation. Ice dams can form when the attic is much warmer than the outside temp. Adding insulation will slow down the transfer of warm air from the inside the house up into the attic. When your attic is the same temp as outside, there is no direct heat to help melt the snow on the roof. In MN, building code suggests a minimum of an R-49 for attic insulation or anywhere from 16-20 inches of blown-in insulation. Spray foam is the absolute best form of insulation, but it comes with a hefty price tag.

2. Make sure you have proper ventilation in your attic. Proper attic ventilation needs both intake and outtake. Intake comes in the form of vented soffits/overhangs or gable vents and outtake comes in the form of turtle vents, power vents or whirlybirds/turbines. If heat is escaping the house and getting into the attic, then you must have good ventilation. The warm air must be vented out before it starts melting the snow on the roof which then causes ice dams.

3. Rake your roof after a snow storm. The overhangs/soffits (usually 2-3 feet up a roof) on the roof are usually unheated and this is the area where ice dams form. By removing the snow from these areas, ice dams will not have had a chance to form and thus any water will have a clear path off the roof.

4. Install heating cables. Once again, the best method of preventing ice dams is to prevent them from forming. By installing heating cables in the areas that have ice dams (soffit/overhang, valleys, front entries), all you have to do is turn them on when temps are above 30 degrees and watch the snow melt off.

5. Hire a professional to remove the ice dams. I would advise anyone to hire a professional for anything involving your roof at anytime. But adding water/ice/snow to a sloped roof can make things extremely dangerous. Hire a professional that has the expertise and equipment to get the job done while you are safe inside the home. Professionals will use either a hot water pressure washer or steamer to remove ice dams. Expect a price of anywhere from $150-$400 an hour for this service, with a minimum of 2-3 hrs. Other professionals will use hammers, chippers or shovels to remove ice dams. Expect anywhere from $25-$100 per hour per guy, with no minimum. Caution must be used when using hammers/chippers as to not damage the roofing shingles. There are projects out there that don’t always require a steamer/hot water pressure washer to remove snow/ice dams.

Limitless Exteriors and Remodeling is your full service contractor. We are here if you need a new roof, ice dam removal, spraying/painting a ceiling, attic insulation, and installing attic vents. We offer a free inspection and estimate for all customers. And remember that procrastination can only cost you more in the long run, so get us out now before those ice dams start leaking!

Metal Roofing, not just for the barn out on the farm!

IMG_0881

Metal roofing is gaining a lot of steam in the residential roofing market here in the Mpls/St. Paul metro area. Here are a couple of thoughts as to why:

1. Many metal roofs are Energy Star Rated, meaning that installation of a new metal roof will help with your heating and cooling utilities. As of 2013, there is a federal tax credit (Federal Tax Credit for Energy Star rated metal roofs) if an Energy Star product is used on the roof. See more at Energy Star for Roofing Materials

2. Metal roofs are guaranteed for 50 years. Most asphalt shingles are labeled as 30 year shingles, but often last only 15-20 years due to Minnesota’s extreme weather. You could replace your asphalt roof 1-3 times in the next 50 years.

3. Metal roofs are classified as Class 4 impact resistant. Meaning that a bunch of scientists in a laboratory shot different sized objects at a high rate of speed as to simulate the size and speed of hail damage on a roof. Class 4 gets the highest grade as impact resistant where most insurance companies are offering discounts on your yearly homeowner’s insurance premium if you have a Class 4 roof. State Farm and American Family insurance have been notifying people about a discount in the 10-20% range.

4. Metal roofs are quiet. A recent study showed that the sound of rain on a metal roof is quieter than a normal conversation between two people and a little louder than a soft whisper. Metal roofs have no noticeable sound difference than having an asphalt shingle roof, so no need to worry.

For more information on everything metal roofing please visit http://www.metalroofing.com/

Why are gutters and downspouts so important in Minnesota?

gutter corner and elbow

People usually don’t think about the water that falls from their roof to the ground below. Water (in all of its different forms) is very tricky and defies the laws of gravity. A recent estimate by the Vinyl Siding Institute found that over 300,000 gallons of water are dumped on your house in one calendar year (in Minnesota). As a homeowner, you must funnel that water away from your home so that its doesn’t cost you big money in the long run.

– Foundations and Basements-
A majority of all homeowner’s insurance claims involve water damage. Most of the phone calls that we get after a heavy rain are from homeowners that have a flooded basement. Older homes settle over time, and with that comes small cracks and holes in the foundation. Water that is in constant contact with the foundation wall will eventually find a way to enter the home. By placing gutters and downspouts in the correct locations you will successfully channel water away from the foundation. Older downspouts that are buried underground near a foundation should be replaced as well. A lot of people are confused when their basement has a couple inches of standing water after a heavy rain, even with gutters and downspouts. That is because the buried downspout is more than likely clogged and almost impossible to clean out. Water then backs up, finds the hole or crack in the foundation and BAM, water in the basement.

(example of a buried downspout that has failed)                             flooding-foundation-damage

 

(how water enters the home with no gutters)                                  saturated ground from no gutters

 

(example of how your basement floods because of no gutters)   why-leaks-occur-missing_gutters

– Concrete garage aprons and sidewalks-
Before someone pours a concrete pad for a garage apron, sidewalk or patio, they will have to lay down a base for the concrete. This ensures that the new concrete has a solid footing so that it will not prematurely buckle, crack or heave. If there are no gutters or downspouts, the water will find its way underneath the concrete and will eventually wash away the base. And because we have such extreme temperature swings, water continually freezes and thaws. When water gets underneath the concrete, it will push and pull on the concrete and the result is a crack or the pad will heave. There are many companies out there that specialize in sand jacking. This is the process where the base of the concrete is gone and holes are drilled into concrete so that sand can be pumped underneath. This helps establish a new base for the concrete. The sand jacking process is expensive and comes with little to no guarantee. The easiest thing to do is to get gutters and downspouts in the appropriate spots so that water is shed away from all sidewalks, aprons and patios.

driveway heaving

(this picture shows the aftermath of having no gutters and how it can reek havoc on your concrete pads, especially in MN with our drastic temperature swings)

 

 

– Decks –
The term “maintenance free” decking is a thing of the past. All of the composite decking manufacturers now must label their product as “virtually maintenance free” because some sort of maintenance is required. A big problem for composite decks is the gap between each of the floor boards. The gap is very small and so debris can easily be trapped between the boards. Add in water and you will get a build up of mold or moss that grows in the gap. After many years of neglect, the chance of cleaning the composite decking is slim to none. The easiest thing to do is to keep the water off the deck. Most decks are generally small in size (average deck is about 120sf). Most roofs over a deck are anywhere from 300-600sf in size. That means with no gutters or downspouts, your deck will be exposed to 3-6 times the amount of water than if you had gutters. Composite decks can be very expensive and so the easiest and smartest thing to do is to protect that investment by adding gutters and downspouts over the deck area.

Gutters and downspouts are made from rolled aluminum coil. The color selection is really endless. Residential jobs consist of 5″ seamless gutters and 3″x4″ downspouts. Our gutter technicians will use their expertise in leveling the gutters so that they drain correctly. They will then position the downspouts so that they are somewhat hidden with the goal of keeping water away for the problem areas around the house. There are many gutter helmets/guards/screens that are available. Some gutter companies market a one piece gutter and helmet system, but that always comes with a huge price tag (generally over $20/foot). Our gutter and helmet system (two piece) is usually 1/2 the price of the one piece system with the exact same results.

If you are in need of new gutters and downspouts, please feel free to email us at info@lermn.com or call us at 763.238.1632. We do very small and very large jobs, typically in one day and includes a 2 year labor warranty against any leaks. And remember that not all gutter installers are the same. A cheap estimate doesn’t guarantee you anything and usually costs you money in the end. All it takes is for one gutter to be installed wrong for the whole job to be a waste of time and money. Gutter installation takes technique and precision so that everything works in harmony.