Written by PJ Wade
Summer time is the right time to think about heading off winter disasters.
What?! Are you crazy?
Why would anyone want to sit in the summer sunshine, cool drink in hand, and conjure up cold, nasty, expensive breakdowns or problems that are months, maybe years away?
Whether you are an optimist or a pessimist, choosing when and how to make expensive home maintenance decisions is always right. Having the time and support to make sure these are confident decisions at reasonable prices, beats under-the-gun desperate buys every time.
Things that keep you awake worrying in the cold months can benefit from close examination under the summer sun. There’s little benefit to waiting for a crisis to hit before you start arranging to make the transition from your current almost-worn-out anything to the most suitable new efficient version:
#1. Start with the most expensive or most urgent worry, based on your personal-worry meter and priorities.
#2. Clarify and define the problem. What’s wrong or what could go wrong with what? Is that noisy +20-year-old furnace or odd-looking roof on its last legs? Gather details about the existing system, so you have a reference point. Do you have the original installation details and receipts? For furnaces, where size matters, measure what counts, including the furnace room, access doorways, and stairwells. When contemplating a new roof, get out the binoculars or ladder and count shingle layers. After two, everything must be stripped down to the sheathing before the new roof goes on.
#4. Explore alternatives. This is where you’re back sitting in the sun with a cool drink…go online and collect details on every solution you know about, those that have emerged recently, and those just coming to market.
- For roofs , consider the range of materials available. What else can or should be done at the same time the roof is replaced, like adding roof vents, exhaust fan outlets, skylights, an antenna, gutters, leaf guards, de-icing coils, solar panels… Not that all of this will be done, but thinking ahead reduces “if only we’d thought of…” regrets later.
- For furnaces, initially consider the full range of heating options. What if you changed from oil to natural gas, or switched from a hot water system to solar-supplemented electrical? Would a heat pump make sense, financial and otherwise? Understand the pros and cons of different alternatives and you’ll learn what the key heating and cooling decisions are for the system you eventually settle on.
- Back to the summer time research …. gently add your questions to conversations and you’ll discover what knowledge friends, guests, and neighbors have accumulated. Those that made solid informed decisions and those who reacted to disasters will have lots to share. Anyone with solar panels or other environmentally-friendly systems is usually ready to extol virtues. The goal is determining which features are musts for you and which will help keep the price down.
#5. Create the brief or request for proposal. Distill what you have learned into a clear email-able, numbered list of what you need and want regarding all the features and details involved:
- Send out the brief to ask for quotations from those on the list of names of heating suppliers or roofing contractors you’ve collected from research and summer chats.
- Keep personal details out of email quotations. For instance, don’t broadcast that your house is vacant all summer.
- Include questions about deposit and payment schedules, how long the quote is good for, and work availability. Ask for at least three references. Check out contractors with local and state trade associations. Asking questions saves you headaches later.
- You may not want the furnace replaced until the fall or the roof done before next spring, but an amazing price for replacing it sooner and ahead of the seasonal rush could be an incentive for you. Just listen to your “spidy” senses in case this “unbelievable price” is a come-on, gimmick, or scam.
Summer is the right time to think about heading off winter disaster. Even making a start on what keeps you awake on winter nights will pay off. The goal is to dodge some of the pressure and expense of last-minute decisions when the furnace, roof, or any major system let you down at the very worst, most expensive, inconvenient time.