Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Are there any competent gutter contractors around? (11-03-10)

No kidding! I learned a lot about gutters in the last few weeks: steel is terrible because it rusts; aluminum is terrible because it expands; wedges will work to support the gutters; wedges won't work because of the angle of the upper fascia board; screws are the best; screws are impossible to remove; spikes are the best; spikes damage the wood underneath; corrugated downspouts are in; rectangular downspouts are the best; metal filters can't stop pine needles; fibrous spongy filters will literally save mankind; 5 inch gutters is perfect; no, only 6 inch gutters will do the job...

And, so far, thirteen guys came over to look at the gutters. As already demonstrated, contractors come in every types imaginable.

Here are some highlights:

- The Reconverted Happy-Go-Lucky-Marginal: comes in an old beat-up truck, steps off, takes one looks at the gutters, and exclaims that he knows exactly who did the job! When I ask who that might be, he refuses to tell. There is nothing to replace, he says: it can all be repaired. I am bemused. What about the bowed porch gutter at the front, with waterfalls of rain pouring down the middle? No worries, life is too short; it can all be repaired. What about the upper gutters that look like they're hanging by a thread? All fixable. He hands us a scribbled estimate, with vague descriptions of repairs to be done.

- The Hostile Slavic: acts clearly annoyed to be here, but he can do "everrrrything, everrrrything!" (The accent never ceases to delight me). But I need to commit now, because of the "special prrrice." He leaves several enticing messages over the next three weeks. He wants to come over, to do the work, for the special price. He wants me to call him back, please, "special prrrice." When I finally call back, he is dismissive and hostile; there is no special price. He never left a message. The price is the price.
Yet, the temptation is great: the price is rock bottom low, but with no details about any materials used. A check of his license number on the Contractors' Board website reveals a myriad of business licenses tied together, some of them pulled as a result of disciplinary actions...

- The Old Timer: has been in business for 30 years, and makes his own gutters in his metal shop. He does not need to measure; he looks at the gutters, hem and haws. We got some tricky stuff here, he says, but he can make things right. He can put wedges to secure new gutters on the upper roof, and it'll be fine and dandy in no time.
As would be expected, he is not Internet savvy, and leaves a message on my phone: he'll do the work for $1,800. Not wanting to solely rely on my memory when making a decision, I call his office and request a written estimate. The estimate comes in the nail a few days later, for $2,200. I call again point out to him the apparent discrepancy. He calls me a couple of days later; he says he made a mistake the other times; the estimate is now for $3,100!

- The Mellow Man: is very nice and has an interesting and unusual product to sell: half-round gutters. They look like some of the pretty cool-looking gutters I saw in (Eastern) Europe in September. Unfortunately, these gutters are made of white vinyl (looks suspiciously like PVC to me). I am not sure they will last, and plastic makes it looks kinda slapped together. I don't know how to nicely thank him for coming over.

- The Aggressive Salesman: on the phone, he volunteers that he has been in business for 19 years and had only two complaints during that time. He promises to call back the next day, but does not for several days. When he finally comes by the house, he seems belligerent. He talks down to me, points out that the roof is bowed at the front (Well, duh!). I interject that, yes, it is, but the gutter is also bowed in the opposite direction. Amazingly, he argues with me that I don't see it right: the roof is bowed, he claims, but the gutter is straight! He then suggests that we ought to rebuild the roof, to straighten it! When I ask him about the advantages of aluminum vs. steel, and question another one of his peremptory statements, he answers that he has been in business for 19 years and had only two complaints during that time (feelings of "déja entendu"). I can't put my finger on it, but this guy gets on my nerves, big time. He claims that he can fix the upper gutters. I point out to him that they are pretty twisted. I suspect that his motivation is due to the placement of hanging straps if new gutters are installed. I need, he then adds, to get some expensive spongy filter that sits flush with the opening of the gutters, and nothing will clog the spongy material; wet leaves will be blown off by the wind, as if by magic. This is the only filter material I ought to use. He leaves me with a brochure to read about this revolutionary product (imagine a very thick kitchen scouring pad).

So I am still looking... In the meantime, the coming rain season is an issue because we are missing a section of gutter at the back of the house.


  1. oh my gosh... I am laughing because of how comedic this sounds but then getting serious and feeling bad for Ducks & Bunnies and Pascale.

  2. I have no rain gutters. I have a feeling if I put them in, the HOA would complain they are ugly anyway.