June 30 was a bad day to be a roof in Atlantic and Cumberland counties, but July has been a good month to be a roofer.
The rare thunderstorm system — called a derecho — toppled trees onto houses and delivered high-speed winds that peeled shingles off roofs like an orange rind. Homeowners were left calling area roofers to fix the damage, plug holes where limbs poked into living rooms and, in some cases, to literally put roofs back over their heads.
That prompted the state Division of Consumer Affairs to warn residents to be vigilant when shopping for roofing contractors, to be on guard for fly-by-night companies and disreputable contractors.
Roofers who are properly registered with the DCA say they have been inundated with requests for help — from minor or temporary patch work to major roof restorations.
“Phone calls have increased tremendously. We can’t even keep up with the phone calls,” said Corie Taylor, chief operation officer at East Coast Roofing & Siding in Mays Landing. “We have extra staff in here, and we’re working 12-hour shifts.”
Taylor said she is seeing jobs ranging in cost from several hundred dollars to $5,000 just for repairs.
Taylor estimates the workload has nearly tripled for this time of year. The business is now averaging about three roofs per day and about five to 10 repairs, she said.
“The problem we’re running into is when the tree hits a roof, it also often hits the gutter, the siding. When the tree hits the roof, you end up having to repair three or four things,” she said.
Jeff Lamm, a spokesman for the state Division of Consumer Affairs, said the weeks after a major storm such as the one of June 30 are when consumers should be careful.
“We haven’t gotten any complaints yet, which you really wouldn’t until after the cleanup activity comes. Now we’re moving into that phase,” he said. “The electricity has been restored, the downed trees are in the process of being cut up and removed, and now is the time for homeowners to be wary as attention shifts to restoration.”
Lamm said there are some simple steps to avoid potential problems.
A law that took effect in 2006 requires contractors — including those who do roofs, walls and flooring — to register annually with the state. This can be checked with the Division of Consumer Affairs by calling them at 800-242-5846 or by clicking here for a link to their website.
Contractors must have their registration numbers on their vehicles, the contractor must disclose the physical location of the business and the homeowner can ask for proof of the company’s insurance, Lamm said.
“Legitimate contractors are happy to tell you about work they’ve done, provide references,” Lamm said. “After the storm, there’s a lot of repair work that’s going to be needed, but still it’s good advice to perform due diligence.”
Local roofers also offered some suggestions.
Mevoli suggested that people shopping for roof repairs stick with reputable companies and check up on references.
“With cellphones now, it’s not that difficult to ask for a couple of references and make a couple calls. You can pay for a repair and if it isn’t done properly, you’ve got water in your dwelling,” he said.
Taylor says people should make sure their roofer is licensed and insured.
“And always get three estimates,” she said. “It takes time, but it’s worth it.”
The June 30 storm crushed homes, sheds and cars.
“I’m 60, and in all my years involved with roofing and construction, I’ve never seen a storm with that much intensity, to have those kinds of winds and lightning in such a relatively small area,” said Chuck Mevoli, office manager at J. Wilhelm Roofing Co. in Vineland. “The damage was like a war zone.”
J. Wilhelm Roofing, which does a lot of commercial roofing work for school districts, did emergency repairs on the roofs of a number of area businesses, including a furniture store and a sheet metal company.
Margaret Dutra, of Dutra Sheet Metal Co. in Vineland, said winds blew off portions of the roof of her business, which also lost electricity for nearly a week during the extended power outages
“We needed to get that closed up immediately,” she said. “We do sheet metal here, so we deal with a lot of roofers. I called someone local. The insurance company said get the holes closed. It was a temporary fix.”
To get the hole closed, the roofers worked through the Fourth of July, she said.
The roof was only part of the damage — the business also needed new computers, fax machines and other office equipment damaged from the rain, she said.
“The roof thing was tough, and I know so many people with homes missing their roofs right now,” she said.
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