The Dormer Saga

No job too big, no job too small…. Well, maybe this one is

How many times have we seen commercials for construction companies suggesting that they take on jobs of all sizes?  “No job too big or too small, we do ‘em all.” Well, it turns out that finding such a company is not as easy as you might think. And this has been a source of frustration and stress for me. 

What we have is water leaking from above a window in the dormer.  And we have professionally-drawn plans from our architect that will solve that problem as well as address the existing ventilation issue.  What proved to be difficult was finding someone willing to do the work.


Looking at the photo, the leaking window is the one on the left.  Water is getting in behind the siding and running down the window inside. The windows appear to be missing drip edges. This alone might be a DIY job except that I have never done any siding work and I certainly don’t want to go through my usual trial and error approach twenty feet above the ground.  I would rather pay someone who knows what they are doing and can probably do the work in an hour.  And therein lies the problem.  It’s a small job and most contractors are presently swamped with big jobs.

But that’s not the only problem with  the dormer. There roof does not extend past the wall, so there is no overhang and therefore no soffit ventilation. 

Even with the added roof work– extending the roof to create an overhang and adding soffit ventilation– this is still a small job.

Get three estimates, they say…

Since our architect suggested the solution and drew up the detail, I was willing to hire any contractor he recommended.  However, none of his contacts were available to take on such a small project.

That led me to contact roofing and siding companies, including the one that did our roof when we first moved into this money pit.  Of the three companies I contacted, one declined to come out at all, and of the two that did, only one provided an estimate.  Roofers usually don’t get involved with framing, so they have to bring in subcontractors for that part of the job.

The estimate we received was within the range that I expected, but was at the upper end (a little over, if you include taxes).

After sitting on the estimate for a while, I considered calling general contractors.  I figured that we could get estimates for the interior work (enclosing the stairs and repairing the tile grout) at the same time and maybe take care of everything at once.  I  called one company that has a reputation for being expensive, but having high standards.  In fact, we had contacted this company about seven years ago to look at the addition.   Their receptionist suggested that I directly contact the contractors to whom they would subcontract these jobs.

I called the exterior contractor and we had a pleasant conversation on the phone.  I explained what we wanted done and he seemed willing to do it.  He said he would call to set up a time when he would be able to come out to take a look and provide an estimate.  The next day, he called to say that he was just too busy and that he would not be bidding on the job.


Three estimates may be too optimistic

One thing I don’t want to do is start throwing darts at the newspaper classifieds.  There are probably plenty of talented weekend handyman type guys out there who could do this job and do it well, but having dealt with shoddy workmanship in the past, I don’t want to take the chance this time.

So yesterday, we signed the contract with the roofing company that provided our only estimate for the job.  We are now in their production schedule, but it will be a few months before they get to our project.  But at least our project will be “gotten to” by someone I trust.  It’s always a good sign when a contractor is busy.

[Update:  The roofing company did the job about a month later and they were fantastic.  They did the job beautifully and professionally.  I can’t say enough positive things about their work ethic and workmanship.  Sometimes it may be difficult to get three estimates. Sometimes you get lucky with one. If you want to see how this renovation turned out, the details can be found in the section about Structure– specifically, this page.]

The “After” picture.  The dormer now has an overhang– protecting the window from the weather– and proper soffit ventilation.

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