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Roofers eye up hail-damaged homes in Janesville

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GINA R. HEINE
August 19, 2011
— “Storm chasers” are circulating on Janesville’s east side armed with weather maps, yard signs and the hope of replacing hail-damaged roofs.

Local roofing companies have been joined by regional or out-of-state businesses looking for work in the neighborhoods after an Aug. 2 storm brought hail large enough to damage roofs.


An insurance agent and state consumer protection official cautioned homeowners to be careful and stick with local, reputable companies.


“This is a frequent occurrence where work crews from out of state follow along behind the path of a storm, going from house to house, and they often pressure victims into paying up front,” said Sandy Chalmers, administrator of the state Division of Trade and Consumer Protection. “What we advise is that people do their homework before hiring anyone to do home repair.”


Hailstones up to 2 inches in diameter fell in the Wuthering Hills/Wright Road area, said Terry Doyle, whose company Doyle Exteriors of Orfordville, has signs scattered across lawns of homeowners they’ve talked with.


“There are probably 10 companies running around. We’re one of them,” he said. “(There are) a lot of signs going up in yards … Some houses are worse than others. Depending on locations, there are roofs being replaced.”


Hail can bruise a shingle, knocking away granules and exposing the matting of the shingle, he said.


“Over time, the sun will dry it out, crack, and it will cause (an) interior leak,” he said.


John Wickhem, an independent insurance agent in Janesville, said he’s received about 10 claims for hail damage, though his biggest claim was from a car dealership.


“It has not been as big of a problem other than these people coming out and running the red flag out,” he said.


Charles and Gail Kinyon watched from their yard Thursday afternoon as an insurance adjuster and project manager from Doyle inspected the roof of their home on Wright Road.


A different company that sought to inspect their roof “raised red flags” with the Kinyons because the business card indicates it does business in Wisconsin, Florida and Illinois.


“That’s why I wanted someone locally—none of those fly-by-night companies with magnetic signs on their cars,” Charles said.


A Doyle sign was placed on their front yard after the company’s first visit. The company representative told them it would prevent “anyone else knocking on your door.”


The adjuster concluded Thursday that hail had damaged their downspout, ridge cap and an area around the chimney. An insurance estimate would be mailed to them.


Two companies visited Walt and Mary Chapman’s Oldwyck Drive home, but they’ve turned them away because they don’t believe they have damage.


“I don’t know how much of this is wishful thinking,” Walt said of all the companies.


WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?

Sandy Chalmers, administrator of the state Division of Trade and Consumer Protection, and John Wickhem, an independent insurance agent in Janesville, offered the following advice to homeowners being approached by roof companies:


-- Call your insurance agent to have an adjuster inspect for damage before contracting with a company.


-- Stick to local businesses.


“There are some excellent people in the community that have been here for many, many years—very honest,” Wickhem said.


-- “I would get more than one bid—two or three bids,” he said. “Get them from people you know, not the guy coming knocking on your door. They’re looking for a job, and they’ll find it, so just be careful.”


-- Always get a written contract with the start and completion dates and warranty information. It should also state exactly what work is to be done including the materials to be used and if a down payment is required, Chalmers said.


-- If a roofer says he can do the work next week, Wickhem said he would “highly question that.”


“Roofers are very busy right now … the good ones are booked,” he said.


He cited his son, who hired a roofer in February. The work was completed just last week.


-- Call the state consumer protection hotline at 1-800-422-7128 or visit the Wisconsin Better Business Bureau at wisconsin.bbb.org to see if complaints have been filed against a company.

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