New Roof

After just a day of work (not by me of course), we have a nice new roof! The guys from Benchmark did a pretty good job, although there were a couple minor things I was unhappy about. When I talked to the guy he said they would pull out the old attic fan, since it would just pull air from the new ridge vent (plus it was broken anyway). But they didn’t do that, and they also cut the wire from my antenna and patched the hole that it ran through. I’m sure they just assumed that I didn’t use the antenna anymore, but since I do (free HD tv!) I had to go back up and rewire that.

Roof in work


After choosing a roofer and sending in a deposit for 1/3rd of the cost, we then had to wait for them to get the permit, and the weather to have them come out and do the work. I took the morning off, as I wanted to see what they were doing, and be available if there were any issues. I’m not sure this was really necessary, as they didn’t need to get in the house for anything, although they did need a power outlet.

The guys got started right away, rigging up some tarps and going to town on the old shingles. In just a few hours they had both layers of old shingles torn off and were starting the prep-work for the new ones. A truck with the shingles pulled up and had a forklift hanging off the back. The forklift was able to go high enough so that it could unload them directly onto the lower roof, which I’m sure made life easier for them.

After some debate we had chosen the Owens Corning Oakridge 30 year shingles. This was a rather irritatingly difficult decision, as the only independent source of objective information that I was able to find was Consumer Reports, who I don’t really like, nor trust. Owens Corning seemed to be pushing their Duration line, but CR gave a significantly higher rating to the Oakridge line, which were the same price. Why they make two separate, very similar products that cost the same price with out any real distinguishing features is beyond me.

I left around lunchtime, with the house in the state shown above. The guys had put most of the tar paper down, and some of the ice barrier. They had also removed a couple of sheets of rotted sheathing, and were getting ready to replace it. I was a bit surprised to see a couple of other houses that had all of the sheathing replaced, and I’m glad I didn’t have that done, as it seems quite wasteful, considering the good shape that most of the plywood was in. I can only assume that those other roofers managed to convince the homeowners that it needed to be done, and got a couple extra bucks for it.

Choosing a Roofer


This is our old roof. It’s actually in pretty decent shape, however it looks pretty ugly with our freshly painted house. Plus it leaks in one spot over the garage, and I’m not positive I know where the leak is coming from, having tried to fix it once already unsuccessfully. We decided that since it would need to be replaced in the not to distant future, to have it replaced now. I toyed with the idea of recruiting a couple of friends and doing it ourselves, but then I did some calculations and figured out how much the two layers of old roof weighed (around 8,000lbs), and how much the new one would weigh (about 4,000lbs). I also realized how little I liked doing the same thing over and over and over again. Since that’s pretty much what roofing is, we decided it would be best to hire someone to do it.

Picking a contractor is never fun (at least not for me, maybe someone out there enjoys it, but I can’t imagine why). You get a half hour or so interview/estimate, a few references, and whatever else you can dig up. Then you give some guy a check for a 1/3rd the work (in this case about $2500) and hope he shows up to do it, and does a good job at that. I went to the Owens Corning, and GAF’s websites and they had a few recommended installers, and I figured choosing one of them would be a better idea than just randomly picking one out of the phone book (google really, because who uses a phone book anymore).

I called five roofers, one didn’t do roofs anymore, and one didn’t call me back, but I had the other three come out to give me estimates. One guy showed up while I wasn’t home and then called me back with the estimate, but the other two I met at the house. All three estimates came back in the same ballpark, and all seemed reputable so I basically just had to go on gut feel. I didn’t really like the idea of hiring someone I didn’t see in person, so that left it down to two, and we ended up going with Benchmark Construction, run by Tom and Katrina Kopciowski. They sent there estimate via e-mail which I liked, and he also got on the roof and actually looked around a bit instead of just doing everything from the ground.

Refinancing Part 3, Closing?

Last we had heard, our refinance had been submitted to underwriting on June 17th.  At that time we were told there was a 3-week turn aroun, and so when July 8th came along and of course we hadn’t heard a peep, I fired off another e-mail to our “Loan Processor” Shirley.   Suprise, suprise, not only was it not done, but it would still be another two weeks before it was finished.  Finally on July 20th we got an e-mail saying that it had been approved!  Yay! Ohh but wait, no they still need a monthly statement from our savings account.   So after yet more scrambling I send that in,  and it goes back to underwriting.  At that time I also ask for a breakdown of what we need to pay at closing.

Another week goes by and I get another e-mail asking for another form to be signed, this one authorizing Chase to talk to our old mortgage company.  After yet another week goes by we once again hear that our loan has been approved by underwriting  (apparently it took them two weeks to review my bank statement).   Of course  the e-mail gives the loan at 4.625% with 2.5 points for 30 years.  Completely different than the 4.625% with 1.375 pts, at 25 years.  I fire of f a few angry e-mails, and Tyson steps in and says that he will “take care” of the points.   I also again ask for a breakdown of the $12,000 they need us to bring to closing.  We schedule the closing for three days later, on Monday the 10th.

That night, Jess looks at it and notices that it has the wrong term (which in my furor over the points I overlooked).   She calls Shirley, and sends off another e-mail complaining about it, and once again asked for a breakdown of the closing costs.  Shirley says she’ll get it switched over and that the closing would still be on for 4:30pm on Monday.  Still no information about what would happen at closing, who to call if something was wrong, what we needed to have, nothing.

Monday afternoon rolls around, we still haven’t gotten a breakdown of the closing costs, just a couple statements that we need to bring $12k to closing.  Of course since it takes more than 3 days to move money around, we wouldn’t be able to do that.  It turns out though that we didn’t need to bring the money to closing, we could FedEx a check to the title company a day or two later and that would be fine.  So at 3:30 on Monday, I get a call that they haven’t finished the paperwork, and could they move it back a few hours.  At this point I had already left work early, but we moved it to 7:30pm.  Still waiting for a new good faith estimate of the closing costs.

At 7:30pm the Notary shows up with a giant stack of paperwork to sign.  We spend the next hour or carefully reading and signing the 100 or so pages, on which there were a handful of errors.  Everything important seems to be right though, with the rate, term, and points we had agreed to.   I call Tyson to let him know the errors, and sign everything anyway.  The final total we had to pay out of pocket was around $6,000, or about half what we were told.  I’m just glad we had enough cash for it, or I would have been very pissed at having to sell some assets to get the extra cash that we didn’t actually need.

At this point I assume we’re closed,  and we’ll wait and see how it all plays out.

Refinancing Part 2, Things Go… slowly.

slowchaseAfter a frantic rush to get all the paperwork to Chase as soon as possible, we now had to wait around for the appraiser to come look at the house.  We also got an official good faith estimate, which I was shocked to notice had a $2,000 transfer tax on it.  Tyson blamed this on the computer, and said it wouldn’t be on the finally settlement.  We got the last of the paper work to Chase on March, 19th, and the appraiser came by about a week later on the 27th.  He seemed nice enough and I went over all the improvements that we’d made to the house, and how much it had all cost and what not.  He looked around, and although he seemed impressed by the inside of the house, I could tell he thought the outside looked a little shabby.  (Not so anymore with its shiny new paint job!).  A week later I send an e-mail to Tyson asking when we would get a date for our closing.  He responded “soon”.

At the same time I sent out disputes to the two credit agencies that had the mysteriours $89  collection on my credit reports.    Both Experian and Transunion make it very easy to dispute false items, which I suppose is necessary since it seems so easy to get false items on the reports to begin with.  The Transunion response was very speedy, and they had removed the item after just a few days.  Experian took a bit longer but by the end of April they too had removed the mystery item.  I never heard any more from either one of them about what it was, or how it had gotten on there in the first place.

Throughout April we kept getting questions from our Loan processor Shirley Metatla regarding the ‘purchase’ by Jess of our house.  It seemed that their underwriting department was vastly confused by this and was unable to handle it, despite what Tyson said.  Shirley also told us that we would apparently need a lawyer for all of this, despite not even having one when we bought the house in the first place.   So in  May with my credit report cleaned up  I decided to see if we could get it switched back to a regular refinance with both Jess and I on the title.  Tyson seemed skeptical that my credit score would have improved enough to qualify, but he re-ran it anyway, and low and behold it was now over 800.  He set it up to now be a refinance, and we scrambled to send him another giant pile of paperwork right away.

About a month later I still hadn’t heard anythign more from them, despite sending an e-mail or two to Shirley.  At this point was quite fed up with the general ineptitude, as well as the extremely poor communication from Chase.    Jess finally called Shirley on June 17th, and left a message, (neither Shirley or Tyson ever actually anwsered the phone, we always had to leave messages and hope for a call back) a few days later Shirley called back and said that our file had just gone to underwriting, and that they were averaging a 3-week turn around.  So after waiting 3 months already we now had another month or so before it would be approved.

Coming in Part 3, we do actually close!

Refinancing Part 1

mortgageLast night we spent an hour finally closing on our new mortgage.  Our previous mortgage had been done through a broker, and was promptly sold to Dovenmuehle mortgage, who in general we’ve been quite happy with.  However with our rate at 5.625%  when rates dropped to the 4.75% range I thought we should look into refinancing.  In the beginning of March after looking around a lot, both online and making some phone calls  it seemed the best rate we could get would come from Chase (technically JP Morgan Chase).  Jess knew someone who had already started a refi with them and seem pretty happy with who he dealt with, so I gave Tyson Coon a call and started the process.   Tyson seemed very on the ball, and very responsive via e-mail.  He would generally respond in a few minutes and always on the same day.   He implied thought that everything had to be done right away as things could change quickly.  After discussing our options we decided to go with a 25-year loan @ 4.625% with 1.375 points.

We started doing the pre-qualification process and that was when the first problem arose.  Despite what I thought was a perfect credit history,  my credit score was around 700, not high enough to qualify for the rate we were quoted.  It seems that since I last checked my credit report, about a year ago, some collection agency (Interstate Credit & Coll), I’d never heard of in a town I’d never been to had filed a $89 charge against me.  Apparently they are the worst collection agency in the world, as I’d never even received a letter or a phone call about it, but there it was wrecking my credit score.   Despite my wife’s ~800 score, they apparently just take the worst one, and go off that.

Since the house was in only mine name orignaly Tyson said that instead of doing a refinance we could instead have her do a purchase, where I basicly gave the house to her, and then she would qualify for the new rate.  My name wouldn’t be on the title anymore, but that didn’t really matter to me.  So I went out and ran around to get the paperwork to transfer it to her, as Tyson said it needed to be done right away.   After a harried bit of faxing, scanning and e-mailing, we got everything squared away and just had to wait for the appriaser to come and then we would find out when our closing was, or so we thought.

New Storm Door

storm doorSince the rest of the front of the house looked all clean and new with its fresh coat of paint, the old storm door really stood out with its dirty stained sheet metal and beat-up screen.  So after Jess painted the front door we replaced the storm door with a nice new black Pella ‘Fullview’ storm door.  It looks great and matches well, plus it actually seals so it should be much more energy efficient.  The only thing I don’t like about the door, is that the screen is extremely difficult to swap with the glass.

Despite having put one in before, and the excellent Pella instructions (which I apparntly forgot to blog about) installation did not go very smoothly.   The first problem was that the opening was about 3/8″ to small, so I had to cut the molding back on one side.   Easy enough except for the top and bottom, where the circular saw wouldn’t reach.  I managed to get that out with an old fashioned chisel.  Once I had the opening widened, I started installing, and then couldn’t find the bottom sweep for the door.  I searched and searched, and was about to give up and call Pella, assuming that they had forgotten it, when I noticed the handle kit was awfully large for just the door handle.  Turns out since the sweep is color matched to the handle it is in the handle kit.  Of course if I had acutaly read the instructions instead of just looking at the pictures, it would have told me that.  With those two hassles out of the way, the installation was a piece of cake.

Front is painted!


After the wet June, I finally finished most of the painting in July.   I’m just about finished at this point, all that’s left is to do a bit more of the trim.  For the garage we had originally planned on replacing the siding, as we didn’t like the vertical wood boards, and they aren’t in the best shape.  However we had wanted to replace it with Fiber Cement siding but Lowes has a minimum order of about $1000 worth, far more than we needed.  Instead I just replaced the trim around the garage and a bit of the gutters.  Jess helped out by painting all of the shutters too!  Now all that’s left is to replace the roof so it matches the house.

Painting the back of the house


I haven’t posted in awhile for two reasons.  The first is that my shiny, less than a year old, Canon XSI camera broke, and had to get sent to be fixed… Twice.  Since I couldn’t take any decent picutres I couldn’t update.  The next reason is that mostly what I’ve been doing has been painting, and well painting is dull.  I didn’t feel like posting a new update each time I painted a new patch.  Now that I’m wrapping it all up I figured I’d put up some posts that detail how long it took and what headaches I ran into along the way.

I started on the right side and worked my way around the back, pressure washing everything first and then putting one coat of Valspar Duramaxx Blue Skylight on.  I used a 4″ Wooster paint brush for everything, painting about 100 sqft at a time.  The extremely rainy May/June we had made it very difficult to get anything done, so it took alot longer than I excepected.  The only real issue I ran into was doing the part on the right corner, where there is a bush in the way.  This made getting the ladder into place very difficult, and I end up just breaking some branches out of the way.

Tile is done!


This weekend I got all of the tiling done.  The big tiles means it goes nice and quick, but getting them to be level is also trickier.   I think it turned out pretty well, there are a few spots that aren’t perfectly even, but it shouldn’t be too noticeable.  I’m also hoping that I didn’t cut the hole for the toilet so big that you can see it when I put the toilet in.  I probably should have measured that instead of just eyeballing it.  Next up is grouting!