Sunday, April 10, 2011

That nasty winter North Jersey endured took a toll on more than lower backs sore from shoveling and budgets strained from all the snow removal—it also punished homes and property.

Drenching rains this month on top of the seemingly endless snow of December, January, and February only added to the damage.

“[I’ve had] hundreds of phone calls inquiring about water from ice dams [buildups] leaking into homes and shingles blown off by the high winds,” says veteran roofer Stan Reczkowski of SR Roofing in Paramus and Hillsdale. He added that this winter “rivals the winters of 1986-87 and 1995-96.”

So it’s time to put away the shovels, survey the damage, and get to work on spring fix-ups and cleanups.


Anyone with water in the basement has company.

“We have seen a dramatic increase in the number of calls from customers,” says Bob Lindsay, president of Weather-Tite Waterproofing in Saddle Brook.

“Home owners are seeking a permanent remedy so that they never have to deal with this type of situation again,” he says, adding that standard insurance policies often do not cover waterproofing.

Installation of a sump pump can run $800 to $1,000, and an interior drainage system $5,000 to $10,000, with larger homes priced higher. Exterior work that includes excavation: $20,000 and up.

For mold and mildew, Lindsay says to look for fuzzy-looking black staining along the bottom of walls, grayish/green spots, and a general musty odor.

Hire an independent lab to conduct testing to determine what type of mold is present before hiring a mold-remediation contractor, says Lindsay, who has been in the waterproofing business for 19 years. “This avoids a conflict of interest and can potentially save home owners a large amount of money, as not all molds are toxic,” he said.

For signs of damage, look for staining on wood in the attic and on the walls and ceilings elsewhere. Paint that is bubbling or flaking is another indication of water damage.

Outside, walk the perimeter to visually inspect the roof, using binoculars if needed. Looking from a window on the upper floor can help.

“Inspect the gutters and leaders [pipes] for damaged, hanging, or missing parts,” advises Reczkowski, who has been a roofer for 42 of his 62 years. “Then, scan all sections of the roof for missing shingles or spots that are bulged or otherwise funny-looking.”

This is one job that is not for the weekend warrior.

“I would highly recommend anyone without experience walking on roofs not doing repairs to their roof,” he says. “I know of many a home owner with horror stories to tell.”

Repairs that include over 25% of the total square footage of a roof require a building permit. Same goes for siding.

For a complete replacement, Reczkowski offers the following estimates: Cape Cod, $4,200 to $7,800; colonials, $3,900 to $15,000; and splits, $4,800 to $9,600. That includes removing material down to the sheathing (plywood), and installation of felt paper and shingles.

“Don’t believe the [low-price] advertisements,” he warns.

Beams and rafters that are broken or split need to be replaced by a pro.

“The interiors were hit hard by ice dams in the gutters that got under the roof and thawed,” says Frank Sacco, a painting pro for 25 years.

Once the roof and gutters are repaired and it’s clear no more water is coming in, some interior work can be done by reasonably skilled home owners.

Lay drop cloths on the floor and cover elsewhere with light-gauge plastic. Wearing a dust mask, use a putty knife or the like to remove loose material on walls and ceilings. Apply a light coat of joint compound (spackle) on the damaged area and slightly beyond its perimeter. Use less spackle along the perimeter (known as “feathering”). When dry, sand in a circular motion with light- to medium-grit paper/blocks. Wear down the edges so that the repair blends into the surrounding area.

Apply additional coat(s) as needed, then brush/roll on primer, followed by a top coat of paint.

For holes or damaged wall/ceiling areas that are too big to patch, call a pro.

Exterior painting/decks
Due to the weather, blistering paint and moisture buildup can be found on home exteriors and on decks.

“Because of this past winter being harsh, you’re not alone,” says Sacco of Frank’s Painting in River Edge.

Keep in mind when hiring a pro that the busy season for outside work (spring, summer) could be hectic this year.

“Call someone now to get on their list, especially for exteriors,” advises Sacco. “Decks are best done April, May, June, September, or October. Direct sun and heat build up on decks; you can’t treat it if the temperature on the deck is over 80 degrees.”

For complete paint jobs, Sacco offers the following starting figures: Cape Cod, $1,600; split-level, $2,400; and colonial, $3,400. Condition of the existing paint, height of the home, and property slope are among the variables that can increase prices.

Here, it’s more functional than making the grass the greenest on the block. Erosion where soil meets the foundation can lead to water in the basement, as soil should slope away from the house.

“Look for puddles and runoff so that they can be corrected,” says Will Guttierez of Lawn-a-Live in Ridgewood, a landscaper for 30 years.

Prior to filling in low spots by the foundation, Guttierez says, a 3-foot-wide layer of heavy-duty plastic can be laid horizontally. Then cover with 4 to 6 inches of soil, stone, or mulch, which will help water drain away from the foundation.

Damaged and/or listing trees should be pruned or removed by a professional with insurance.

Ton Skevin E-mail:

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