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Before hiring contractor, consider some key details

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Q. I have been told my asphalt roof shingles need to be replaced and have received bids from four contractors. Is there anything special I should look out for before accepting a bid?

A. In addition to the usual factors of contractor experience, reputation and licensing (if required in your state), you should give special attention to:

•Insurance. Make sure the contractor is fully insured for liability and has workers’ compensation covering all employees. Don’t take the contractor’s word for this; ask to see copies of the actual policies.

•Description of work. Will the old shingles be removed or left in place? New shingles can generally be installed over one layer of old shingles. If old shingles will be removed, what charges will be made if repairs to the roof deck are needed?

•Cleanup. Removing old shingles creates an incredible mess, and you should make sure there are provisions covering a thorough cleanup. I recall one job where the owner found his rain gutters full of shingle bits and nails months after the job was done.

•Type of shingles and warranty. Roofing shingles have varying quality, with warranties ranging from 20 years to 40 years or more. It pays to pick top-quality shingles, and always ask for a written copy of the warranty covering the shingles.

•Snow and ice protection. If you live in a region where there is heavy snow, have a waterproof membrane installed at the eave edges of the roof to prevent leaks from water backing up under the shingles.

•Work and payment schedules. Ask for a written schedule of when work will be started and completed. It is best to choose a contractor who, once the job is started, will complete it without lapses. Final payment should not be made until work is finished.

For more information on shingles and roofing contractors, visit choices/asphaltshingles/ and roofcont.htm.

Q. There is a 2-inch crack in the bottom of my insulated storm door. The insulation, fine granules that seem to be under pressure, is leaking out. How can I seal the crack? I want to paint the door afterward.

A. Try epoxy putty to seal the crack. It can be bought at many home centers and hardware stores, often in the plumbing departments. The putty has good adhesion to many surfaces and grips well under pressure (it is often used to fix leaking pipes).

Scuff up the area around the crack with sandpaper to improve adhesion, then mix enough epoxy to make a patch and press it tightly over the crack. Smooth the edges with your fingers. The patch will be a bit lumpy but shouldn’t show up much if you paint the door.

Q. My cast concrete steps have been painted several times over the years and the paint always peels. The paint is latex enamel. How can I stop the peeling?

A. Paint peels from concrete for several reasons. I suspect that you might have used the wrong type of paint. Any surface subject to foot traffic needs to have paint that can withstand friction and wear. These paints are called porch and floor paints, and they can be bought at any paint store or home center along with directions for use.

Another common reason for peeling is that the concrete is too smooth to give the paint good adhesion. Smooth concrete is often treated with an acid etcher, which makes it more porous and better able to hold paint.

Another reason for peeling is moisture in the concrete, which literally pushes off the paint. It is unlikely that this is a problem in your older cast steps, but it is sometimes the case in basement floors, patios and porch floors that contact the ground.

If you decide to repaint, you should scrape off all loose and deteriorated paint, then clean and rinse the steps. Let the steps dry out thoroughly before applying a top-quality, latex-based porch-and-floor paint suitable for concrete.

Questions and comments should be e-mailed to Gene Austin at Send regular mail for him to 1730 Blue Bell Pike, Blue Bell, PA 19422.
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