Opportunity lost, opportunity misinterpreted

December 2, 2010

These days any job is a blessing. In the rush to take advantage of the moment often opportunities are lost because we take the owner’s perception of what he wants over providing the service of delivering what is needed. All too often this opportunity only comes once while the owners are living in the home. For example:

Opportunity lost

A classic example of how a smart roofing contractor could have increased his profits while benefiting the owner recently happened to a friend of mine. He had a 50 year old standing seam roof that was showing signs of wear and causing persistent leaks. After several attempts to repair the leaks he called a roofing contractor to replace the roof. The home was built in the 1960s and was an architectural showpiece. The interior space is striking and most of the walls are floor to ceiling glass. As the owner faces retirement he is looking at his utility bills as overhead that he doesn’t want to carry forward into his senior years. Since all the ceilings are cathedral with exposed beams and finished wood decking any insulation improvement would have to be from above. Alas, the leaks precluded thinking long-term and he replaced the standing seam roofing without adding several inches of rigid foam underneath the new roof. It wasn’t until the project was finished that I visited and saw the logical blunder. He would have happily paid for the roof insulation had he known better. The roofer lost a great opportunity to serve his customer.

Opportunity Misinterpreted

Here is another example but with unintended consequences. The homeowner knew that his 80 year old house was an energy sieve. In the cold New England winter wind whistled through the walls and they lived in sweaters burning cord after cord of wood. He hired a contractor who professed to know about energy efficiency. The contractor installed blown fiberglass in the attic and in the existing plaster walls. He also installed vinyl siding with rigid foam inserts to insulate from the outside. The intention was good but the result was disastrous. Within 3 years the vinyl siding had trapped moisture in the old clapboard siding and mold started growing in the walls. When another contractor came back to investigate, rot had already set in along the bottom of the wall in the sill plate. Had the original contractor only removed the siding, installed a new drainage plane and rigid foam on the outside, the house would have lasted for another 80 years.

These are just a couple of many such stories where a knowledgeable contractor could perform needed energy upgrades and applied building science while remodeling a house.