Roof/contractor questions

edselpdxDecember 15, 2011

I've been a long time lurker/occasional poster on GW. My 1928 story-and-a half bungalow has a roof that will need replacing int he next few years. It's a small home (1200 ft2) with 2 attic bedrooms (north and south) with funky angled ceilings following the roofline and 2 separate attic spaces on the east and west sides. Currently there are roof vents near the top (installed with the previous roof install by a former owner) but no intake vents, so the roof vents were installed for almost no reason--if there's no place for the air to come in, there's no reason to have venting near the top. There are no soffits on the house currently. There were perforated metal soffits when I bought the house--and I assumed there were vents, but there were no intake vents when they were removed to take down the asbestos siding to restore the siding, so they weren't replaced.

Our upstairs is really cold in the winter and really hot in the summer; there is insulation between the attic space and the rooms upstairs in the vertical walls, but without removing the roof or ceilings, there is no way to insulate the spaces. There is no insulation to speak of between the angled ceilings in the upstairs and the roof, and obviously no venting in the attic spaces beyond what the wind can blow through. The vertical house walls had blown in cellulose a few years back.

I am going to replace the roof in the next couple of years, and clearly want to improve the attic ventilation and the insulation which can be done when the roof is off. I plan to likely use metal roofing, rather than repeat the asphalt. roofing that is currently in place, especially if there is a tax break for the added expense. To top it off (pun might have been intended,) there a now-unused chimney that needs to come down from above the roof down to the basement (high efficiency nat gas heater and the on-demand water heater both vent through the sides of the house, no fireplace.)

I want to get an idea of what I need to have done, but all advice on hiring contractors is to ask them all to bid on the same thing so that you can compare apples to apples, so to speak. I'm still trying to figure out the extent of what needs to happen, and need some professional recommendations to even figure out what to get bids on.... I really don't want to waste anyone's time, but I'm looking at a $10K+ project that I don't know the complete scope of.

How do I find out what needs to be done and choose an appropriate contractor? Do I have a bunch of folks come out and bid while getting advice from them, and then have them come back out and bid the job I decide I want?

What's a girl to do?

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Best practices for insulation vary considerably from place to place and climate zone to climate zone. What you're going to do about insulation is probably the place to start. Talk to some insulation contractors before contacting roofers. For example, adding rigid insulation on the exterior of the roof deck might be the best solution in your situation.

Even though you're not currently using it, I'd reconsider demolishing your chimney if it's in good condition. A usable chimney does add to a house's resale value and demolition is a messy process.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2011 at 4:57AM
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Call your local utility company(gas/electric) and find out if they have a service where they send out an expert to to an energy loss/fix the problem service.

Many utilities do that. There are independent companies that do the same thing. Some companies advertize that service, but it is a ploy to sell their product, so do any research carefully.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2011 at 11:34AM
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Thanks, mainegrower. Appreciate the advice on where to start. I've thought about rigid foam on the exterior and also about sprayed-on foam--I think you're right about where to start.

To clarify, the chimney also has no fireplace. It was only ever used for venting the original oil furnace, and takes up significant space in the laundry on the main floor, and a bedroom upstairs. I'd really prefer to put a closet in each of those spaces in this small home. I would never remove a chimney attached to a fireplace whether I used it or not, but doubt that this one adds any value to the home? I did install a free standing natural gas cast iron stove in the living room for additional heat and to have a hearth in the living space several years ago.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2011 at 11:37AM
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edselpdx: It's your house, your chimney and your decision, but... Even without a fireplace, should you ever decide to sell, a chimney, especially a masonry one to which a wood stove could be attached would add to the home's value more (I think) than additional closet space. Chimneys, even prefab stainless steel ones are expen$ive. At the moment natural gas is cheap fuel for whole house heating, but who knows what the future may bring.

Should you decide on demolition anyway, it would probably be a good precaution to check with your mortgage holder about complete removal of the chimney.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2011 at 4:29AM
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Well I did some homework and found which is a non-profit that will do an energy assessment and make recommendations for my attic/insulation issues. Thanks for the suggestion, Handymac. The program is reputable, and associated with EnergyTrust of Oregon, who do most of the Tax incentive work around replacing older appliances and adding insulation, etc in Oregon. They will then refer me to a couple of contractors that are OK'd to do the work by their program, and qualify me for any tax incentives, etc. That way I have a better idea of what is needed/ideal and can get bids to compare apples to apples, so to speak.

Mainegrower, you've given me pause to think about the chimney. I'm not convinced that I should NOT remove it yet, but giving it some further thought. The chimney runs through the laundry/bath/pantry area the back of my house, so I'm not sure how useful it would ever be as a heating chimney, but I'm doing some additional looking into it.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2011 at 6:01PM
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