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Who to Call With a Roof in Limbo?

May 18th, 2016

by Rachel Phipps

Repair or Replace Your Roof…Start First with an Honest Roofing Contractor

The Problem:

At some point in the life of your roof, regardless what type it is, there will be a time when fixing a few problematic spots will stretch out its remaining life by a few years. You can call a standard roofer, but chances are you will soon be having a conversation about replacing the whole roof. Or, you can call the guys you had wash it a year or two ago, but they are not qualified to do the professional roof repair you need if it involves something beyond installing a few shakes.

The Solution:

Hire Kuhl. The fire in our bellies isn’t based on replacing roofs or washing roofs. It’s based on doing what is best for you and your home.

Case Study 24

We used old-school hand-soldering to join these copper sheets together at the lowest section (pan). This project would typically be too small for a roofer to care about and too sophisticated for mere roof washers to understand.

Case Study 24.2

This is a 16 year old medium hand-split cedar shake roof. Aside from the rotten valley, it has about another 8 years of life left in it. We saturated the entire roof with our commercial wood preserva- tive after replacing the valley with hand-soldered copper.

Case Study 24.3

  1. Low slope area was leaking off and on for a couple of years.
  2. Organic material settled in valley, creating severe rot.
  3. These areas have many more years or service left in them.

Case Study 24.4

  1. New bomb-proof copper pan. Take that, water!
  2. New feathered, close valley.
  3. The remaining roof areas needed virtually no repairs.



Why Orange You Going to Stain Your Roof?

May 12th, 2016

by Rachel Phipps

Staining Your Cedar Shake Roof is Not a Great Idea…Here is Why

The Problem:

Your neighbor just had some stuff sprayed on his roof and it looks pretty spiffy. It looks almost like a new roof! But here is the problem with pigmented products when applied to cedar shakes: they fade in irregular patterns after one to two years. That’s why your neighbor is going to be pissed in about three years. It is possible to have your roof stained orange and have it be successful and long-lasting. We have done it. All else held equal, we advise our clients to steer clear of colored roof products. Here are five examples from local homes where the orange roof didn’t work out well. Done by others, of course.

The Solution:

Don’t stain your roof orange.

Case Study 30

Minneapolis Hail Damage Map

August 22nd, 2015

by Steve Kuhl

Best wind and hail damage repair contractor in Minnesota

Minneapolis storm damage repair company

Minneapolis area home owners are often surprised at how quickly storm chasers arrive at their door steps after the storm itself has subsided. It’s a safe assumption that strangers will be knocking at your door within an hour after a hail storm passes through your neighborhood. We have to admire the efficiency with which these companies operate. That said, it’s not a game we play. We pride ourselves in the fact that the majority of our business is won organically, the old fashioned way. We do great work and make people happy enough to tell their friends and neighbors about us. It’s a great system.

We do a fair share of repair and replacement work in Minneapolis to fix the damage left behind by both storms and storm chasers. We have many cases under our belts where the unsuspecting homeowner hired a door-knocker with bad results. Normally, their crappy workmanship doesn’t manifest for a couple of years, at which time they are long gone, either out of business or out of Minnesota altogether. Back in the office we continue to be amazed at how dumb, yes dumb, homeowners are who trust people who knock on the door. The first clue that a company doesn’t have enough work through reputation alone is that they have to send guys out before the storm clouds have left.

Is it possible to get a high quality job done by door knockers? Yes. Is your probability of having trouble with that company higher than if you chose a company with a deeply established history of excellence in your community? Absolutely. The question becomes, why on earth would you take the risk? Why trust what is probably the most valuable asset in your life to people that randomly knock on your door? We are often amazed at how many otherwise intelligent homeowners throw caution and common sense to the wind and hire a guy who knocked on the door.

A very common approach to success in storm chasing relates to yard signs. Believe it our not, there is an entire strategy surrounding yard signs. Storm chasers will smooth talk their way into allowing the placement of a single yard sign in a neighborhood and then refer to that ‘job’ as evidence of their credibility. “We are working for Mrs. Johnson. You may have seen our sign…”. It’s not uncommon to see a company with many yard signs in a neighborhood. Common sense would suggest that yard signs mean jobs are happening. In fact, a yard sign only indicates that a homeowner has agreed to let said storm chaser discuss the hail damage with their insurance company. That’s it. In many cases those conversations are fruitless, resulting in no hail damage coverage. By law of averages, some jobs do occur. In either case, it always makes sense to do your research and hire the very best company you can when it comes down to discussing your storm damage claim with your insurance company. We are that company.

Here is a standard hail damage map of the Minneapolis area. These maps are cranked out within minutes of a significant hail event and provide a battle plan for the legions of door knockers and storm chasers. With such maps, storm chasers are able to target specific neighborhoods quite efficiently.

Minneapolis Storm Damage Map


Cooling Tower Ice Removal – Minneapolis

March 11th, 2015

by Steve Kuhl

Ice dam removal in the Twin Cities has been all but non-existent this season. That’s good news for most homeowners! Ice removal on the commercial side of the universe seems to be a more consistent problem year to year and this season was no exception. The calls we typically get involve removing ice from around cooling towers or cooling units on roofs. These projects offer some interesting challenges including the fact that the work area is usually high and far away from the nearest parking. Our sister company, The Ice Dam Company, uses steamers to remove ice from around industrial cooling towers. Their machines have hundreds of feet of hose and yet even that is not enough for some jobs. The answer is to use a crane to get the steaming equipment up onto the roof of the building. Other challenges in ice removal from around industrial equipment include the fact that there are usually 440 volt power feeds and natural gas lines embedded in the ice. Steam is a great way to remove ice from around industrial equipment for the reason that it is gentle and quick.

Commercial ice removal

Ice removed from cooling tower

What causes ice dams: Answer #93

January 13th, 2015

by Steve Kuhl

What causes ice dams? Google that question and you will get a lot of answers, the most common of which will be something about heat escaping into the attic, which in turn causes snow to melt on the roof and refreeze on a lower area. Standard stuff. In a broader sense, ice dams are caused by a differential in roof temperatures where a higher area is above 32 degrees (snow melts there) and a lower area where temps are below 32 degrees (melt water reverts to ice there). It’s true that in the vast majority of the cases we study the cause of the ice dams is indeed escaping heat as the result of air leaks and inadequate/improper insulation. But we have also been involved in cases where the roof system is insulated perfectly and yet ice dams still occur. The diagram below describes one situation that can cause ice dams that has nothing to do with insulation, air leaks or ventilation issues. Put simply, the sun can melt snow that then runs down to a cold area on the roof where it refreezes into ice, forming an ice dam. It’s not nearly as common as the aforementioned causes but it does happen. For example, check out the diagram below:

The cause of ice dams

Sun causing ice dams, does sun cause ice dams?

Wind is another factor often overlooked in the creation of ice dams. See the diagram below. Wind can have dramatic affects on the snow load on a roof and under certain conditions, a difference in snow thickness can contribute to the formation of ice dams.



Kuhl ice dam prevention

Roof snow and ice dams the relationship between


How to deal with water leaking into your home

January 12th, 2015

by Steve Kuhl

I’ve been asked many times over the years about how to deal with water leaking into a home. It’s obviously a super stressful situation, so having a few pointers can help. Here is a PDF that shows one technique for managing water leaks into your home (Ice Dam Leaks Minneapoils Water leaking down walls Minnesota 1-12-15). The bottom line is that you need to think creatively. There are very few wrong answers when it comes to dealing with water leaking in through your roof. One ‘wrong answer’ I’ve seen is to ignore the problem. Don’t simply allow the water to do what it will. Collect it and pour it down the drain. It belongs in the Mississippi River, not your floors, walls and ceilings. Another common mistake I have seen Minneapolis homeowners do with water leaks is to lay down towels on their hardwood floors and allow the water to soak in and sit for extended periods of time. Don’t do this. Wood floors don’t like moisture. A soaked towel creates a perfect place for water to work against the dimensional stability of your wood floors. In other words, you will greatly increase the likelihood of warping and damage if you allow water to hang around in a wet towel.

Another common mistake in managing water leaks into a home is to underestimate the value of dehumidification and air movement. The first thing our crews do when we show up to manage a water leak is to get fans running in the area to encourage evaporation. Get the biggest fan you have and aim it towards the area where water is collecting. Move air around. It helps tremendously. Also, borrow, rent or buy a dehumidifier and put it in the affected room. You will be shocked at how much moisture a dehumidifier will pull out of the air.

It doesn’t take long for unattended moisture to cause problems in your home. Manage it to the best of your abilities. Even better, call us to provide some real time advice on what’s happening and what you can do about it before we show up to help.

Kuhl's roof leak team

Roof leak minneapolis, how to manage roof leak in Minnesota

Ice Dam Prevention in Minneapolis and St. Paul

December 22nd, 2014

by Steve Kuhl

Tips on preventing ice dams

How to prevent ice dams

Ice dam prevention is a bit of a misnomer. Technically, it’s almost impossible to fully prevent ice dams if the conditions are right. Those conditions are: lots of snow, temperatures fluctuating between 10-20 degrees, inadequate insulation and ventilation and air leaks. Let’s not forget about air leaks.

We are in fact the only company in Minnesota that regularly tackles ice dam prevention from both the inside and the outside of homes. Kuhl Case Study #21 looks at a typical approach to solving ice dams on an Edina home from the inside. Simply put, that type of ice dam prevention project involves removing interior finishes (such as drywall or plaster), removing the insulation and replacing it with high R-value spray foam insulation from the inside. That work is finished with the installation of new drywall and repainting. One advantage to this approach to ice dam prevention in Minnesota is that it can be done year-round. Spray foam insulation in Minneapolis requires temperatures of at least 40 degrees to cure properly. Doing the work from the inside allows this to happen, even in the middle of winter.

There are other situations where it makes more sense to attack the ice dam problem from the outside of the home. Here is a list of conditions under which ice dam prevention is best addressed from the outside:

  1. The interior finishes are too expensive or complicated to remove and replace.
  2. Removal of the interior finishes will not allow for complete access to the problem areas.
  3. The client wants to avoid the mess and hassle of interior work.
  4. The roof system is in need of replacement (if the roof needs replacing anyway, it makes sense to add insulation from the outside because it is a more cost effective and less invasive approach to ice dam prevention).
  5. The roof system needs major modifications to the ventilation components (soffit vents, clogged air chutes and box vents can not be addressed from the inside of the home).

Some homes with ice dams in Minneapolis have terrible insulation from top to bottom while others only have a few ‘weak’ spots. Still, even a couple of weak areas can have catastrophic effects in the form of big, bad ice dams. If you study the ice dam prevention diagram above you will see that on some roofs, the weak spot happens in the middle of the roof. The area below the knee wall often has plenty of space for insulation and ventilation, as does the area above the collar ties. Incidentally, the collar ties are the framing members the define the ceiling of the standard story and a half ceiling. The problem area occurs in the area between knee walls and the collar ties, where there is only either 2×4 or 2×6 roof framing to accommodate the insulation system. Given that almost all homes with this sort of roof framing are were built before 1960, the insulation installed in those roofs is likely either rock wool or standard fiberglass batts. The net result is very little R-value standing between the cozy interior and the frigid exterior. That’s where high-performance spray foam comes into play. We can pack in 2-3 times the R-value in the same space using spray foam instead of fiberglass. Plus, spray foam acts as an air sealer as well, keeping dreaded hot air leaks from reaching and heating the roof deck. Here are some photos of a recent project we completed in Minneapolis using spray foam insulation to address chronic ice dams.

Ice Dam Prevention by Attic Insulation Kuhls Contracting

Ice dam prevention in Edina home. Ice Dam Prevention Minneapolis

The first step in the process to prevent ice dams (or greatly reduce the likelihood they will occur) is to peel back the roofing over the area between the knee wall and the collar ties. This exposes the fiberglass insulation, which can then easily be removed. This photo also demonstrates another very common issue; lack of ventilation. You can see that there is no room above the fiberglass batts to allow air to flow from the soffits to the box vents on the top side of the system. When we install spray foam in cavities like this, we often leave about a 3/4″ to allow for ventilation.  The exception to this rule is when we create what is called a ‘hot roof’. That topic will be covered in a future blog.

Ice Dam Prevention by Attic Insulation Kuhls Contracting

Ice dam prevention in Edina home. Ice Dam Prevention Minneapolis

The next step in the ice dam prevention process is to strip spray in high performance closed cell urethane insulation. The key here is to spray on top of the existing knee wall and collar tie lines. Again, it often makes sense to leave a small air-space on top of the new foam insulation to enable a ventilation pathway from the soffits up through the ridge of the roof.

Ice Dam Prevention by Attic Insulation Kuhls Contracting

Ice dam prevention in Edina home. Ice Dam Prevention Minneapolis

The final step in this approach to ice dam prevention via spray foam insulation is the most simple. Find the matching roof material and install it professionally. Can you see the lines between old and new? When matching materials are not available the only option is to replace the enter affected roof pitch. One advantage to this approach is that we are able to install more ice and water membrane that what was originally installed (usually just enough to meet building code and nothing more).

When it comes to preventing ice dams in Minnesota, no one does more of this sort of work that we do. It takes a bit of forensic analysis up front to figure out the best solution to the problem. In some cases, such as the Edina home shown here, the best solution to solving ice dams is to remove the roofing and address the issue from above.

Minneapolis ice dam prevention

December 18th, 2014

by Steve Kuhl

ice dam prevention contractor minneapolis kuhls contracting insulation contractor ice dams spray foam roofing

Ice dam prevention contractor in Minneapolis

The best solution to ice dams in Minnesota is holistic. Because ice dams in Minneapolis are the result of a complex interaction among many variables, including insulation, ventilation, roofing, home architecture, climate and homeowner lifestyle, the answer to each ice dam problem is always unique to the case. Some ice dam prevention is as simple as adding insulation, or heat cables. But simplicity in the ice dam prevention world is the exception, not the rule. More often we have to employ a multifaceted approach. In this case, our client suffered through year after year of ice dams, despite having hired an insulation contractor on two separate occasions to ‘fix’ the problem. Our answer was to remove the asphalt shingles from the problematic roof pitch and insulate from above using high-performance spray foam to address the ice dam problem. When we tear off the roof and the roof deck we are able to see and address every possible variable that is creating the problem. From sealing all air leaks to adding ventilation in tight soffits to applying spray foam to the areas too tight to benefit from traditional fiberglass insulation, ice dam prevention in Minneapolis is best handled from above. After all of the underlying causes of the ice dam problems have been resolved, we install new roof decking and follow it up with the highest quality ice and water membrane sold. Ice and water membrane is a code-required, sticky material applied in rolls to the lower eave areas to help prevent water intrusion as the result of ice dams. Notice that I said ‘help prevent’ and not ‘prevent’ alone. Ice and water membrane manufactures will not publicly admit this but their products don’t prevent water intrusion from ice dams. They slow it down at best. That said, it’s a smart idea–and a code requirement–to install this membrane on the lower eave areas (and a few others) during the re-roof process.

We offer a unique perspective on ice dam prevention in Minneapolis. There are plenty of companies that remove ice dams, including our sister company ( There are insulation companies, roofing companies, electricians who wire heat cable systems and so on. We are the only company that does all of the above under one roof (pun intended). I published an article in the Journal of Light Construction on ice dams a couple of years ago. Here it is if you would like to geek out on that topic. Note: The diagram below shows one of many approaches to addressing ice dams. It does not detail many of the other variables that would need to be addressed, such as the insulation and air-sealing of the knee wall to floor intersection or the insulation and ventilation of the roof framing above the area detailed in the illustration. Again, ice dam prevention is seldom as simple as applying a single fix. It’s normally about using a number of solutions at once.

Ice dam prevention using insulation contractor kuhls contracting minneapolis

Ice dam prevention using insulation contractor kuhls contracting minneapolis

Chimney leaks in Minneapolis; Part One

December 18th, 2014

by Steve Kuhl

Chimney leaks in Minneapolis are very, very common. Unlike many areas of the country we deal with the affects of ice and snow, in addition to the normal forces that affect chimney performance such as wind, rain and the sun. I will be writing a few posts about common chimney damage in the coming weeks. This post focuses on the top of the chimney, otherwise known as the ‘wash cap’.

Below are two Kuhl drawings, one showing a poor, albeit super common chimney cap design in Minneapolis, the other, the proper design.

Kuhls Contracting Minneapolis Chimney Repair

Kuhls Contracting Minneapolis Chimney Repair


Minneapolis chimney repair Kuhl's Contracting Edina masonry

Minneapolis chimney repair Kuhl’s Contracting Edina masonry

The same process that creates potholes on our Minnesota roads is acting on your masonry chimney. It’s true and the principle is quite simple. See my little diagram, right.

The easiest way to keep your brick or stone chimney in good condition is to keep water from working its’ way into the cracks that inevitably develop on the surface of your chimney. The majority of the chimneys I inspect that have damage have one major flaw in common. They lack an overhang to encourage water to say away from the column of the chimney. Just as homes typically have overhangs at the eaves so should chimneys.

Chimney repair cost in Minneapolis. Average price for chimney repairs in Minneapolis.

Chimney repair cost in Minneapolis. Average price for chimney repairs in Minneapolis.

Most of the masonry and stone chimneys we repair in the Minneapolis area receive a new wash cap, some brick resetting and general tuck pointing. Some chimneys have to be completely rebuilt. The main determining factor in how much damage we find is how long the homeowner has let water do its’ thing through the freeze-thaw cycle on their chimney.

Here is an example of a very common problem we find on Minneapolis chimneys. The masons who built the original chimney used mortar, not concrete, to hand-trowel the wash cap into shape. It lacks any overhang and has allowed water to find its’ way into the body of the chimney column over time. Through the freeze-thaw cycle that water has caused severe damage to the material below the cap. We replace about 150 bad wash caps a year for this very reason.

Kuhl's Contracting: Best Minneapolis chimney repair

Kuhl’s Contracting: Best Minneapolis chimney repair


Who to call to fix a chimney in Minneapolis

Who to call to fix a chimney in Minneapolis




Cedar roof types in Minneapolis

December 12th, 2014

by Steve Kuhl

Cedar roof types Minneapolis Kuhl's ContractingIn the past twenty five years I have inspected over 9000 cedar roofs in the Minneapolis-St.Paul area. That’s a lot of climbing. In that time I’ve seen just about every type of cedar roof imaginable as well as all manor of defect and curiosity imaginable. That timeframe has allowed me to observe a number of roofs over their entire lifespan, from install to death. In fact, I have relationships with dozens of cedar roofs that have spanned over two decades. Normally, that roof will belong to a few homeowners and when I am called to inspect, the new homeowner doesn’t usually know I have a history with their home. It’s always entertaining to explain that I’ve worked on their home over the past ten or fifteen years.

I was just asked in a seminar I was teaching on cedar roofs to home inspectors ( ) about the most common types of cedar roofs in Minneapolis and their relative market representation. Above is a graphic I created to communicate those statistics. In short, the 24″ medium hand-split cedar shake is still be far the most common material applied when it comes to wood roofs. That said, the people of Kuhl work hard every day to communicate the advantages of using heavy hand-split cedar shakes whenever possible. The fact is that it can last 30%-50% longer than medium hand-split shakes but it only costs roughly 11%-15% more. The ROI analysis on those numbers is pretty simple. At this point, the only clients of ours that choose medium shakes over heavies do so because they are about to sell their homes. People who are going to be there for more than five or ten years tend to see the wisdom in upgrading to heavy shakes.

Medium wood shake versus heavy wood shakes in Minneapolis

Medium wood shake versus heavy wood shakes in Minneapolis

Heavy hand-split 24" wood shake versus Medium hand-split 24" wood shake in Minneapolis - Kuhl's Contracting

Heavy hand-split 24″ wood shake versus Medium hand-split 24″ wood shake in Minneapolis – Kuhl’s Contracting

Roofing prices are on the rise in Minneapolis

October 1st, 2013

by Steve Kuhl

The primary challenge in working with insurance companies in terms of the replacement of roofs damaged by the August 6th hail storm isn’t so much in defining an accurate scope for the work but in getting paid fairly for that work. Insurance companies have an immense apparatus in place to depress pricing. It’s based on a proprietary software system called Xactimate and is one of the most effective tools insurance adjusters use to underpay claims. The fact is that right now a medium hand-split cedar shake roof costs $750 to $850 per square to install, including labor and materials. Variables such as roof complexity, steepness and height can push those numbers by 20% higher. Companies like American Family, Farmers and Allstate are offering $505 to $523 per square. We battle with these companies daily in trying to get them to understand the cost of cedar shake roofing. It’s often a fruitless effort because they simply refuse to pay market rate for this type of work. Just today I was told by an American Family adjuster that we should be able to buy shakes for $164 per square. I asked her if she would please share her source for such affordable product but she wouldn’t.

Here is a link to a current price list from one of our main suppliers in town. In fact, these guys sell wood to just about everyone and their numbers are as good as they get:  Cedar roof wood roof material prices Minneapolis. We purchase a ton of wood. We are paying $200 per square for the cedar alone, some 18% higher than the aforementioned insurance companies want to pay. In the past six weeks we have seen the price of both labor and materials for cedar shake and shingle roofing increase by about 10% with an anticipated increase of an additional 10-15% by the spring of 2014.

While the price of materials is totally out of our control I’ve been asked a few times about why labor is increasing. After all, as the boss I’m the guy who controls what I pay my people, right? Yes and no. Here is what’s currently happening to my labor prices. Since the August 6th hail storm other companies have tried repeatedly to poach my guys out from under me by offering significantly higher wages. They literally walk onto our job sites and attempt to steal my guys! Ultimately I understand that this is just what happens when demand for skilled labor far exceeds the supply. The result is that my men are forced to ask me for a raise in order to stay put. I can’t blame my guys. We all have families to feed and we all need to do our best to earn a living. It’s basic economics. The net result is that the cost of qualified, experienced labor is skyrocketing here in the Twin Cities. The labor grab is happening across Minnesota as companies struggle to find qualified installers to get the work done. Excessive demand applied to limited supply equals increased prices. Econ 101. I think we need to send some insurance company storm adjusters to a class in basic economics.


Insurance companies pay differently

August 25th, 2013

by Steve Kuhl

Okay, I should be moving on to part 2 of my last post “How to Fight Your Insurance Company” but this info just came in and I couldn’t resist.

Something that civilians don’t see in the midst of all of this hail storm madness is that the quality of the work that will be performed on their home is largely determined by two things. First, what insurance company is underwriting the home, and second, how aggressively their contractor pursues the insurance company on their claim.

As I mentioned in my last post, Chubb is a great insurance company. Expensive but great. Over the years I have seen dozens of situations where they do the right thing. When disaster strikes they pay on time and the pay enough for the client to hire a professional to put their home back together.  And then there are the other guys.  You know, the ones you see on TV a lot. On almost every claim we handle for clients using these McInsurance companies we end up having to push, argue and debate about both the scope of the loss and the cost to bring the home back up to speed. These companies consistently deny coverage and delay the process of discover and resolution in order to earn higher revenues. The good news is that if you have substantial holdings in insurance company stocks, you have seen your net worth increase handsomely. It’s bad news if you own a home and something happens that needs fixing professionally.

Over the past ten years I’ve noticed a clear trend in the way McInsurance firms handle property loss claims. They send out an adjuster that is marginally qualified to write an estimate, that is lacking in scope and realistic pricing and then submit it to the homeowner hoping they quietly accept it and go away. These guys are adept in the art of minimizing the ‘severity of loss’, to use industry speak. Many homeowners accept the estimate generated by their insurance company only to discover later that it’s woefully underpriced.

This is a clipping of two differently cedar roof replacement estimates from Farmers and Chubb from this week. Farmers pays about 32% less than Chubb to replace the exact same material. What does that mean to the average homeowner in the case of a cedar roof? In short, it means they get to hire one of their insurance company’s ‘preferred’ contractors who installs crappy wood using questionable labor. Side note: For those of you who are new to the world of insurance loss, if you are a Preferred Contractor for most insurance companies it means only that you have agreed to be underpaid, not that your work will stand the test of time. I tell everyone I care about to avoid preferred contractors as much as possible.

Insurance companies pay differentlyWhether you work with us or someone else with our chops, here is how the typical claims process goes down when you work with a pro: First step, your insurance adjuster visits, makes notes and generates a low-ball estimate to repair the damage (from hail, wind, fire, water, etc.). Step two, we take that estimate and examine it line by line to find then inevitable errors and omissions. Their estimate will usually be off the mark on the scope of the damage and always be low on the dollar amount it will take to make the repairs. Step three, we submit our estimate to your insurance company and begin a little back and forth discussion about your claim. In the case of a good insurance company they listen to reason quickly and we agree on a fair scope and price for the project. In the case of many McInsurance companies we have to push, prod and cajole until they have no choice but to  relent and agree. Why? Because we argue for what is right. No games, no manipulation, no secrets. We just tell the truth about what needs to be done and it’s hard to argue with the truth. The final step is the easy part. We sign a contract with you for the work to be performed and it is scheduled and completed with the degree of professionalism people have come to expect from us.

My advice is to find a company with the technical ability to repair your home to the highest standard and with the insurance process knowledge to make sure you insurance company is paying what they owe.

Finally, a parting question. Why is that that someone who insures through Chubb deserves a better roof than the person insuring through Farmers (or State Farm, Allstate, Travelers, SafeCo, etc.)? The answer of course is that everyone who pays to have their home insured should be treated with an equal amount of respect.


How to fight your insurance company: Part One

August 25th, 2013

by Steve Kuhl

The recent storms that passed through the southwest communities of Minneapolis left a trail of damage and confusion (as well as an incredible bloom of storm chasers). Not surprisingly, the aftermath of that storm has been interesting for a veteran of the industry to observe. From the almost comical circus of door-knocking contractors to the parade of under-qualified insurance adjusters flown in from all over the country, clients with damaged homes have been witness to the truly ugly result of the 8-6-13 storm.

After having done good work for people for 25 years we don’t need to send guys to knock on doors (thank God).  We’ve had a couple hundred former clients call us about inspecting their roofs after the storm pummeled their neighborhoods. Here is a hail map that you might find interesting.

Map showing hail storm path in Minneapolis

Map showing hail storm path in Minneapolis

This map shows hail distribution and intensity in the southwest communities of Minneapolis. This is what storm chasers use to target neighborhoods. They can zoom in for a street by street view of hail size as soon as a couple hours after the storm passes through. Pretty impressive and pretty expensive. At about $300 a pop these maps are generated by a variety of ‘Hail Watch’ services found online. Our main use for these maps is to let the guy in Golden Valley know the hail he heard about on the news didn’t touch his house. It saves us a lot of time in doing pointless inspections. But I digress.

I plan on doing a comprehensive study of the events that have occurred since this storm that focuses on how different insurance companies apply different standards to assessing and paying for the damage done to properties. As I frequently tell clients, the likelihood of getting a fair settlement from an insurance company has more to do with who you insure with and who walks up your driveway the day of the inspection than the objective reality of what occurred at their home. It’s true. I’ll say it again. When it comes to storm damage claims, what happened to your home during the storm isn’t as important as who you insure with and who your adjuster is. For example, if you insure with Chubb, ACE or Fireman’s Fund, you will most likely be treated quite well. If you insure through anyone you have seen advertising on TV you may have a fight on your hands.

My study will include specific case studies with high resolution photos of damage to homes. The differences in what All State, Farmers, State Farm, Travelers, Liberty Mutual, et cetera, cover as opposed to the aforementioned ‘good guys’ is truly shocking. Perhaps even more disturbing is the difference from one claim to the next under the same company. I was on two All State claims today. One was denied and the other was approved. Both had virtually identical damage.

Another example, I was at two Liberty Mutual adjuster meetings last week in Edina. They were in essentially the same neighborhood and both had hand-split medium 24″ cedar shake roofs of similar age and condition. Both involved hired consultants on the roof while the adjuster stood on the ground. I stood there on the roof watching as both of these ‘experts’ made their determinations. One consultant went hail dent crazy (lucky client), circling with chalk dozens of damaged shakes while the other didn’t circle a single piece with comparable damage (unlucky client). The first client is getting a new $30,000+ roof, the latter is getting zero. Same insurance company, vastly different outcomes. It’s hard to watch. (I’m in the process of helping client #2 fight the findings…more on that later).

Here are photos of damaged cedar shakes from my Liberty Mutual clients. One is from the ‘approved for replacement’ roof and the other from the roof that was denied. The subjectivity involved in this process would be depressing to people if they understood how prevalent it is.

Surprise. This hail splatter is covered.

Surprise. This hail splatter is covered even though it should not have been.

Bummer. Your claim is denied.

Denied. This poor homeowner had an insurance adjuster apply arbitrary standards to his roof in Edina.

So, what can you do to increase the likelihood of being treated fairly after the storm? Number one, pay more for insurance and use Chubb, ACE or Fireman’s Fund. Number two, work with a company like ours to handle your claim from beginning to end. We employ a former insurance adjuster of 16 years on staff and if anyone knows how to get insurance companies to comply with reason it’s Pete.

More to follow soon on exactly how to best fight your insurance company if a claim doesn’t go your way.

Squirrel Damaged Flashings

August 14th, 2013

by Steve Kuhl

What is it with squirrels and roofs? They can’t seem to keep their teeth off them. We inspect hundreds of cedar roofs in the Twin Cities area each year. Time after time we find the same types of damage. Lead cap plumbing vent flashings such as the one here (A) are common targets of the squirrels zeal for chewing. Lead cap flashings are also commonly used on asphalt, tile and slate roofs with a similar outcome. If you look closely you can see all the teeth marks.

Minneapolis home damaged by squirrel

Minneapolis home damaged by squirrel

We have resolved this sort of squirrel damage in a few ways. The most obvious solution is to replace the entire lead cap with a new lead cap. This is the easiest solution but the problem is that once your neighborhood critters develop a taste for lead it seems that they just can’t help themselves. They
will contiue to come back and chew cap after cap. We came up with the below solution on one such roof. After being called out three times to fix the same leaking flashing we decided to employ a more permanent, albeit expensive, solution.

How to keep squirrels from damaging your plumbing flashing in Minneapolis

How to keep squirrels from damaging your plumbing flashing in Minneapolis

Go to our Case Studies to explore more animal damage.


Cedar Roof vs. Asphalt Roof

February 20th, 2013

by Steve Kuhl

Kuhl’s Contracting specializes in the installation of cedar roofs and cedar roof restoration, so we know a lot of folks who own cedar roofs. When it comes time to replace the roof, it seems like we always get asked the following question: “Should I switch to an asphalt roof?? They are definitely less expensive. What are the benefits of a cedar roof?”

We are more than happy to provide them with asphalt roof pricing, but along with the prices for an asphalt roof, we also go over the following list of cedar roof benefits. Here are some things to consider prior to replacing a cedar roof with asphalt. Regardless of your decision, our hope is that this list will help to avoid the “Boy, I wish I would have known that” moment later on.

Cedar Roof Benefits: Cedar Roof vs. Asphalt Roof

1.) Cedar has higher impact (hail) rating than most asphalt shingles

According to the Cedar Shake and Shingle Bureau, “Certi-labelTM products have been tested to meet Class 3 and 4 impact resistance ratings.” Class 4 is as high as it gets. Asphalt roofs typically see more hail damage than cedar roofs.

2.) Cedar have a high wind resistance (wind) rating

According to the Cedar Shake and Shingle Bureau, the wind rating for cedar shakes and cedar shingles is as follows:

  • Certigrade® shingles withstood wind speeds of 173 MPH
  • Certi-Split® shakes withstood wind speeds of 245 MPH

Most Asphalt shingles max out around 130 MPH. Just for your reference, roofing materials are separated into classes depending on their wind resistance. Cedar is tops.

  • Class A (for winds up to 60 mph)
  • Class D (90 mph)
  • Class F (110 mph)
  • Class G (120 mph)
  • and Class H (150 mph)

3.) Cedar has a higher insulation value (R-value) than asphalt shingles.

Tests show that a cedar roof has a much higher R-value than that of an asphalt roof. In fact, tests completed by the University of Texas show that the average attic space below a cedar roof is 26-28 degrees cooler than that of an attic space below an asphalt roof. Of course, this test was conducted during the summer months. (See notes from University of Texas (Arlington) study)

4.) A Cedar roof is thicker than an asphalt roof. This often causes problems and complications when switching from a cedar roof to an asphalt roof.

Meaning if replacing a cedar roof with asphalt, some of the existing flashings, trim, and roof accessories will not fit tightly any longer. If not corrected properly, this may cause problems with water infiltration and provide unwanted habitat for animals.

5.) A home with a cedar roof can fetch a higher resale value

A newer cedar roof can increase your home’s resale value. Something to ask your realtor if you are planning to sell in the near future.

6.) A cedar roof provides for more architectural character.

Cedar roofs have a very distinct look and most homeowners find them incredibly appealing and attractive.

7.) Cedar is a “green” material, it is a NON-petroleum based product and is a renewable resource.

Cedar is a natural material. It is harvested in a sustainable manner and is renewable. Cedar is also recyclable. Because cedar is natural, no two roofs are the same.

8.) Neighborhood continuity

Most cedar roofs are not alone. They are congregated in an area. You don’t want to the have the only house in your area with an asphalt roof. When an asphalt roof is surrounded by homes with cedar roofs, the asphalt often appears compromised or cheap.

9.) Cedar roofs have (4) layers of protection between the elements and the roof deck, which means, they are better at preventing ice dams.

With cedar shingles, there are (3) layers of material and one layer of underlayment. With cedar shakes, there are (2) layers of material, (1) layer of interlaced felt and (1) layer of underlayment. With an asphalt roof, there are only ever (2) layers of materials and one underlayment layer.

10.) Cedar roofs are easier to repair and match than asphalt roofs.

You never know if you are going to get an exact match when trying to color match asphalt shingles. Batch to batch, the asphalt shingles color pallets can change and often times, repairs are quite evident, never fully blending in to the surrounding roofing material. Cedar on the other hand, is natural, and fades in color over the course of a couple years. All cedar fades to a similar color with exposure to the elements. Therefore, it is much easier to repair small areas with cedar roofs, because you know you can get a color match.

11.) Cedar roofs are not always more expensive than asphalt

There are some types of asphalt shingles that can be just as expensive as cedar if not more expensive.

Attic Frost: The Other…. Silent Killer

February 15th, 2013

by Steve Kuhl

If you haven’t taken a look in your attic space lately, it might be a good idea to take a quick glance around this winter.

Who goes in their attic space in the winter? Come to think of it, who ever goes in their attic space? It’s not usually the most comfortable atmosphere which explains why few of us venture beyond the attic access hatch.

These last few winters we’ve been getting more and more calls to repair “roof leaks”, “ceiling damage”, “skylight leaks”, and “leaks because of ice dams”. When we arrive at the home to check it out we have discovered there weren’t any issues with the roof. No bad flashings around the skylights or chimney and not enough snow and ice on the roof to be the culprit. So, what is causing all of these leaks during the winter if it isn’t rain, snow or ice? The one common denominator that we found was frost (or moisture) in the attic space. Most homeowners never look in their attic spaces, and if moisture is present, slowly but surely, it can cause damage without the homeowners knowing about it.

Attic Frost Air Sealing And Insulation

Signs of Frost 

If it is present, frost is usually quite easy to spot in the attic space. Frost will form on the underside of the roof deck, along framing members and even on the topside of the insulation. But let’s say that it is a warm day and the frost has melted. What are you looking for? You’d be looking for wet/damp insulation, crusty or crisp insulation, delaminated plywood, signs of mold or mildew growth on the underside of the roof deck, rotten or discolored framing, unexplained staining on the ceilings of your rooms, or drips from lighting fixtures or other penetrations in the ceilings.

Causes of Attic Frost Attic Frost Plymouth Attic Frost Damage Attic Issues

Common Causes of Attic Frost

In order to eliminate frost build up in the attic space, we have to understand what causes it in the first place. Frost in your attic space is a sign that warm, humid air is somehow getting into your attic space. Since our Minnesota winters are usually dry, the only other source of humid air is your living space. How does humid air get from our house and into the attic? Lots of ways, many of which are small is difficult to detect. Examples include improperly sealed attic hatches, gaps around pipes and penetrations that go from the living space up into the attic, recessed lights and more. As that warm, humid air gets into the attic space, it condenses on the roof decking, framing, and even on the insulation. When the temperatures dip below freezing, the condensation quickly turns to frost. See photos of what that looks like.

In no particular order, here are some common causes of frost build up in the attic space.

–    #1: Warm Air Bypasses – gaps, cracks, holes where warm air is allowed to enter the attic space from below (electrical, plumbing, wall plates, etc). See photos below for several examples.

–    Homeowner Usage – has the humidity too high in the house by (a) not running bathroom or kitchen fans, (b) HVAC controls set improperly,  and/or (c) running portable humidifiers

–    Lack of proper insulation in the attic space

–    Poorly defined thermal barriers, confused attic spaces

–    Lack of proper ventilation to your attic space

Attic Frost, Signs of Moisture Damage, Winter Roof Leak

Frost In Attic Warm Air Bypasses

Solving the Frost/Moisture Issue

WARNING – DO NOT JUST ADD INSULATION. This will do nothing, and perhaps make your problem worse. There are a number of items that you need to take into consideration if you want to control the moisture levels in your attic space. You need to take a holistic approach to dealing with moisture. There is no one solution alone that will solve the issue. Depending on the house and the occupants, the scope of work usually involves some combination of the following:

Air Sealing: air sealing of the warm air bypasses, thus eliminating or minimizing the amount of humid air that can enter the attic space is a MUST.

Ventilation: assessing the ventilation of the attic space is also a MUST. If warm, humid air does get into the attic space, is there enough air flow to either carry it out or to help evaporate and get rid of the moisture.

Insulation: assess the amount of insulation in the attic space. Is it up to code, do you have enough of a thermal blanket? Usually, when air sealing, you disturb the existing insulation enough, that it makes sense to blow in additional insulation for R-value.

Humidity Control: some homeowner’s don’t want to hear this, but you need to monitor the indoor humidity levels.





Versatility of Thermal Imaging: Finding Cat Pee

January 31st, 2013

by Steve Kuhl

Yesterday I was in a client’s home doing a routine thermal inspection when I started to notice wet spots all over the basement floor. I immediately thought they were leaks coming from plumbing in the ceiling. A quick thermal image of the ceiling ruled that out. After scratching my head for a bit I walked around a corner and saw the litter box, which looked like it hadn’t been used in months. It reminded me of this piece of classic literature. While the cat was scolded, I was dodging land mines and trying to finish my thermal inspection.

Thernal Imaging

Cat pee on foor

Add it to the list of things you can do with a thermal imager. Not only can you find inefficiencies in your home’s thermal envelope, but you can also check to see if your baby needs a diaper change.

Thermal Imaging – because its a lot better than sniffing around the floor on your hands and knees.

Ice Dam Leak in Minneapolis

December 18th, 2012

by Steve Kuhl

Ice dam removal contractor Minneapolis Minnesota

Ice dam causing leaking through ceiling in Edina home.

Ice dams cause leaks in Minneapolis homes but not usually until later in the ice dam season. I received a call earlier today from a client in Edina with water pouring through her ceiling. The water was coming through a smoke detector (B) and soaking her floor. One interesting but not entirely surprising thing was that the water affected a much larger area than was obvious from below (also showed at location C). Slight cracking in the door frame also indicated water problems (B).

When I looked up I notice a ring of discoloration around the smoke detector (seen in photo, below). The thermal imager revealed a 6′ x 6′ area of wetness around the smoke detector. The client had a hard time understanding why the water had not shown in a larger area until I explained how her ceiling assembly worked. Because there was unconditioned space above the drywall there was also a code required vapor barrier, i.e, plastic sandwiched between the drywall and the ceiling framing. When the ice dam above caused water to back up and leak into the home it collected on top of the ceiling until it found the path of least resistance in the vapor barrier.  In this case that was a smoke detector but it is often a light fixture, a vent or a seam in the plastic itself.

A quick look at the thermal image shows a large dark purple area (photo below, point B).  This is wetness that has not yet manifested visually from below. It is damage nonetheless and should be repaired.

We take immense pride in being industry leaders in ice dam prevention, insulation and ice dam removal. There isn’t another ice dam removal company in town that has thermal imaging technology in-house or guys like Tom, who are certified geeks in all things relating to home performance technology. Here is an article Steve Kuhl published in the Journal of Light Construction on ice dams, if you feel like digging in to the topic deeper.

Ice dam removal and Ice dam prevention in Wayzata

New insulation in Edina plus ice dam removal and ice dam prevention


Cedar Roof Comparisons & Life Spans in Minneapolis

October 25th, 2012

by Steve Kuhl

Comparing Wood Roof Life Spans in Minneapolis

How long will a cedar roof last in Minnesota? How long will a wood roof last in Minneapolis?

Understanding how long a cedar roof will last is one of the most important considerations in deciding which material to choose.  Here is the skinny on the most common wood roof materials, their basic characteristics and expected lifespans in the Minneapolis area:

16” Machine Sawn Shingles (Life Span 17-21 Years)

Cedar shingles are used for both roof and side wall applications and offer a lighter, more refined appearance than hand-split shakes.  Certain architectural home styles are more appropriate for Sawn Shingles which is the primary reason they are chosen in our experience.  On average, this material ranges from 1/4” to 3/8” thick at the butt end and is installed with 5”courses.  Expect to get between 17 and 21 years of service out of an unmaintained Cedar Shingle roof in Minnesota. Approximately 13% of Twin Cities cedar roofs are done in Machine Sawn Shingles.

18” Tapersawn Shakes (Life Span 19-24 Years)

The least common material we see in the Twin Cities, the Tapersawn Shake is essentially a hybrid between a common 24” shake and a 16” shingle. We frequently urge clients to consider using Tapersawn Shakes instead of 16” shingles because they offer the same clean, architectural appearance but are substantially thicker. Remember, when it comes to cedar roofing, thicker is better (all else held equal of course). On average, this material ranges from 5/8” to 3/4” thick at the butt end and is installed with 7”courses. Expect to get between 19 and 24 years of service out of an unmaintained Tapersawn Shake roof in Minnesota. Approximately 1% of Twin Cities cedar roofs are done in Tapersawn Shakes, but that percentage increases each year as more people become familiar with it.

24” Medium Hand-Split Shakes (Life Span 19-24 Years)

The most common cedar roofing material used in Minnesota, Medium Shakes are the workhorse of the industry.  They are the go-to choice for home builders primarily because it is the most affordable wood roof one can find. The wide variations in quality from one load of Medium Shakes to the next also allows roofers to cut costs significantly, thus creating the perception of more value and increasing the likelihood Mediums will be selected (over tapersawn or hand-split heavy shakes, for example). On average, this material ranges from 1/2” to 5/8” thick at the butt end and is installed with 10”courses. Expect to get between 19 and 24 years of service out of an unmaintained Medium Shake roof in Minnesota. Approximately 70% of Twin Cities cedar roofs are done in Medium Shakes.

24” Heavy Hand-Split Shakes (Life Span 25-30 Years)

The second most common cedar roofing material used in Minnesota.  We encourage our clients to consider Heavy Shakes whenever possible because they offer substantially more long-term performance for a small increase in cost up front. From the ground most people can not tell the difference between Medium and heavy Shakes other than a general increased perception of quality because they have more meat. On average, this material ranges from 3/4” to 7/8” thick at the butt end and is installed with 10”courses. Expect to get between 25 and 30 years of service out of an unmaintained Heavy Cedar Shake roof in Minnesota. Approximately 16% of Twin Cities cedar roofs are done in Heavy Hand-Split Shakes.

Insurance company tries to screw Minneapolis homeowner

September 16th, 2012

by Steve Kuhl

Consumer alert: Insurance Minneapolis Insurance Company pulls fast one

News flash. Your insurance company is not always looking out for your better interest. In fact, in the past 30 years they have developed sophisticated internal systems for limiting, delaying or denying claims altogether. Here is one such story.

I just inspected a cedar roof on Prairie Lakes Drive in Eden Prairie and was shocked to find that this poor homeowner, let’s call her Jane, had been duped. Twice. First by an unscrupulous roofing contractor who’s name I am dying to print here (but I won’t for fear of getting my tires slashed). The second and deeper shock came from realizing Jane’s insurance company pulled a major fast one too. I won’t mention the name of said company but I’m happy to tell you in person if you’re interested. Their marketing gestures usually are centered around how well they will take care of you when a tragedy occurs. What a load of crap.

The short story is that a door to door roofer convinced Jane to let him inspect her roof for storm damage. He went up on her roof and created fake wind damage in over a dozen areas. The whole thing took less than twenty minutes. Pretty impressive work when you think about it. Also totally illegal. Jane’s insurance company caught on to the scam after they inspected the roof, issuing a fancy 20 page report that acknowledged the roof was damaged, but not by wind. Jane’s claim was denied. The only problem is that Jane’s insurance company neglected to tell her she-like 99% of all insured homeowners-was covered for vandalism, and that’s exactly what had occurred on her roof. Her insurance company acted in bad faith and quietly let the whole thing pass hoping Jane wasn’t sophisticated enough to fully understand the esoteric language in her policy that detailed her coverages.

Dishonest Minneapolis roofer preys on trusting people

Can you find the vandalism on this roof?

Here is the timeline of events in greater detail:

August 2011:

A representative from a roofing outfit doing some work down the street knocks on Jane’s door and suggests she may have wind damage to her cedar roof. Being a trusting soul, Jane gives him permission to get up there and conduct an inspection. The roofer proceeds to hop around the roof, manually pulling up small areas of cedar roofing to simulate wind damage to the best of his ability. He damaged between 12 and 14 areas in total inside of 20 minutes. And yes, this sort of thing can be done quietly if you’re an experienced d-bag like this guy. Sir D-bag then gets off Jane’s roof, knocks on the door and tells her she should call her insurance company because her roof needs replacing due to storm damage.

September 2011:

The sketchy roofer meets with a claims adjuster from Jane’s insurance company on the roof to review the damage. He points to all of the spots he damaged and suggests the entire roof needs to be replaced due to severe wind damage. The adjuster takes copious notes and photographs in addition to conducting four test squares (more on that later). At the end of the meeting the adjuster tells Jane he will be sending her a report to summarize his findings within a week or so, noting before he left that there is clearly a number of damaged areas on her roof. He purposely leaves out the part about what caused the damage because he didn’t want to end up in a fist fight with the roofer, who was still hovering around.

One week later Jane receives a written statement from the adjuster indicating the need for an additional roof inspection from Haag Engineering, a firm specializing in many types of structural, mechanical and geological engineering diagnostics and investigations. (Side note: Haag Engineering earns the vast majority of it’s revenue from referrals from insurance companies and has been accused of bias in a number of law suits around the country.) I am a Haag Certified Inspector and suspect my certification will be yanked when they learn that I’ve bad-mouthed them here. Oh well. I want the truth to be out there.

October 2011:

Haag Engineering inspects Janes’s roof and determines it is damaged, not by a storm or some other natural event but through “mechanical lifting”. This is insurance industry code for someone got up there and damaged the roof on purpose. Engineering reports and insurance policies are intentionally opaque and confusing for the simple reason that most people are too busy to dig in and figure out exactly what all of the jargon means. Hence is the case with Jane’s cedar roof in Eden Prairie. Her cedar roof was vandalized but the boys from Haag avoided using that word because it would raise red flags and cost their employers-the insurance company-a lot of money.

Shortly after receiving Haag’s report through her insurance company Jane was notified by her claims adjuster that her roof damage was not covered. Not being a cedar roof expert or homeowners insurance underwriter, Jane and her husband shrugged their shoulders and assumed they needed to start saving money to pay for the roof replacement themselves (about $39,000). No one from Haag or from Jane’s insurance company mentioned that her roof had been intentionally damaged, at least not in language the average person comprehends and so the claim quietly slipped away, along with any chance for financial recourse.

August 2012:

Now a year later, Jane and her husband had saved up enough money to get their cedar roof replaced. They felt good about using the roofer that was so helpful in working with their insurance company last fall (the very scammer that damaged their roof on purpose). Why wouldn’t they? Yet just to be a smart consumer Jane asked around her social circle for the name of another roofer to get a second bid. That’s when she called us. It turns out we have worked for four other neighbors.

I inspected the roof and found that other than the aforementioned isolated damaged spots it was in decent condition. After being repaired I estimated that it had another six years minimum of additional life. As I walked around from area to area I quickly realized  I was looking at a clear case of vandalism. I took many high resolution photos of the damaged areas. After explaining to Jane what I had found she was appropriately shocked. Worse, when I told her the roof damage should be covered by her insurance she was shocked even more because her claim had been denied.

I advised her to immediately call her insurance provider and pursue the coverage she deserved. I offered up the services of our in-house insurance badass, Pete, who has been in the business for almost as long as I’ve been alive. Pete frequently spanks around insurance claims reps and adjusters who try to play games with our clients. It’s somewhat amusing to watch. I am eager to see what happens in this case because it is such an ugly situation and she was so cool to deal with.

I will follow up in another blog with the outcome. I also plan on creating a Kuhl Case Study soon that will have photos of the damage done by the original roofer.

Hail Damage On Cedar Roofs

July 2nd, 2012

by Steve Kuhl

As I love to say, after a hail storm ends it often starts raining losers. And by losers I mean to say contractors who rely on the general anxiety, hysteria and misinformation that dominates the hail battered suburban landscape immediately after the storm passes through. There are the typical roving bands of storm chasers that travel the country, from one storm to the next. Fortunately most of those guys can be avoided by asking for a few local vender references and how long they have been in their local office.  The tougher ones to figure out are the so-called hail experts that make grand promises about success with your insurance company regardless of the presence of legitimate hail damage.

When it comes to hail damage on cedar roofs in Minneapolis, or anywhere for that matter, the signs are pretty clear to the trained observer.  Cracks and dents are the bread and butter of my hail damage inspections. How many hail-related cracks per test square are there?  Side point: a “Test Square” is a 10′ x 10′ representative area of roof slope that inspectors used to determine how much hail damage exists.  All else held equal, we can count the number of hail hits per test square and extrapolate that number across all squares on a common section or slope.

Anyway, back to the losers. Aside for the parasitic national storm chasing gangs that travel from spot to spot there are local companies that employ equally questionable tactics in securing hail damage work.  I always suggest that people stick with the companies that fit three simple criteria when selecting a contractor to fix their hail damaged anything: 1) Choose a company that has been around for a while, 2) Work with a company that has specific skills in insurance work, and 3) Use someone with an excellent reputation and a long list of happy clients you can call.

Here are a couple of Kuhl Case Studies that relate to hail damage in Minneapolis:

Storm chaser leaves Edina Homeowner Screwed – Kuhl Case Study #29

Cedar roofing with hail damage – Kuhl Case Study #19

What does hail damage look like up close – Kuhl Case Study #20

Roof Replacement Costs in Minneapolis

March 2nd, 2012

by Steve Kuhl

What the hell is a square of roofing?I get asked all the time how much roofs cost to replace here in the Twin Cities. That’s sort of like asking how much a car costs. It depends on many variables. But for the sake of trying to be as helpful as I can in answering that question (the one about roofing costs) here are some very general guidelines you can follow. Technical note: guys like me throw around the term ‘Square” when referring to roof measurement. Roofing labor and material prices in Minneapolis are determined according to squares, which is to say units that are 10′ x 10’ in dimension. Most roofs in the Twin Cities are in the 25 to 50 square range.

Material Costs for Minneapolis Roofing:

No other single factor determines the price of a roofing project than the material chosen (except for roof size, of course). For example, asphalt shingles of standard quality cost around $95 to $140 per square right now in Minneapolis. We receive almost monthly notifications from our asphalt shingle vendors that price increases are on the way so keep in mind the date of this post. Asphalt shingle roofing in Minneapolis as little as a couple years ago used to cost half that of cedar shake and shingle roofing. Not so much anymore as the price of oil has increased and taken all petroleum based products along with it. We installed  a designer series asphalt shingle roof on Lake Harriet not too long ago that cost more than a cedar roof, as a matter of fact. Cedar roofing material prices currently range from $170 to $270 per square. That’s a huge range, which is appropriate once you start to understand the wide spectrum of possibilities when buying cedar shakes and shingles in Minneapolis. Asphalt shingles and cedar roofing represent 98% of the roofing market in Minneapolis so I will limit my comments to those two for now. Ancillary roofing materials such as fasteners, felt paper, ice and water membrane and flashings also add up when trying to determined how much it costs a roof on in Minneapolis. Those costs are described more on our website if you are interested.

Pitch & Height:

The higher the roof and the steeper the roof the more expensive the work will be. All you have to do is imagine yourself up there and the importance of height and roof pitch in what you would need to charge for your time crystalizes pretty quickly.

Diagram of different roof slopes

Labor Costs for Minneapolis Roofing:

Labor costs for roofing work in Minneapolis and surrounding communities will range from $190 to $325 per square depending on the above mentioned variables. Some contractors include the costs of permits and dumpsters in their labor charges while others do not. We prefer to separate all of the costs line-by-line so you can see where you are spending you money.

Average Roof Replacement Costs in Minneapolis:

Here are some quick and dirty numbers for your consideration:

$425 to $550 Cost to replace an asphalt shingle roof in Minneapolis

$625 to $750 Cost to replace a cedar roof in Minneapolis

Here are some recent roof replacement costs for projects completed around the Twin Cities, including roof size and roof pitch:

  • $32,230  Cedar roof replacement cost in Edina using heavy hand-split cedar shake roofing on a 46 square 10/12 pitch gabled cedar roof
  • $26,409  Asphalt roof replacement cost in Shorewood using Timberline HD Ultra asphalt roofing on a 60 square 11/12 pitch hip roof
  • $27,320  Cedar roof replacement price in Wayzata using hand-split medium, Blue Lable Certified cedar shake roofing on a 42 square 8/12 pitch cedar roof
  • $37,511  Cedar roof replaced in Orono using 16″ cedar shingles with 5″ exposures on a 53 square hip roof (roof pitches ranging from 4/12 to 12/12)
  • $11,600 Asphalt roofing project cost in St. Louis Park using Timberline HD asphalt shingles on a 24 square Cape Cod home, 10/12 pitched gable roof (price included chimney work)
  • $42,477 Cedar shake roof replacement in Minnetonka using treated medium cedar shakes on a 58 square 9/12 pitch hip roof
  • $8,280 Asphalt roof replaced in Hopkins using GAF asphalt shingles on a 15 square gable roof with a 10/12 pitch and three dormers
  • $29,800 Cedar roofing replacement cost in Orono using heavy hand-split shakes on a 40 square gambrel roof with 18/12 and 4/12 roof pitches


Blending Old Cedar with New Cedar

November 4th, 2011

by Steve Kuhl

There are 10 repairs in this photo. Can you spot them? This is a 11 year old wood roof one year after Kuhl replaced damaged cedar shakes. Orono wood roof one year after insurance repair work.

Minneapolis Wood Roof Owners FAQ’s

1. If our wood roof is washed, how well with the new shake repairs blend in?

2. If we choose not to clean our cedar roof, how long with the new cedar shake repairs be obvious?

3. What can we do to get the new cedar roof repairs to match our old cedar roof?

I get asked these and related questions all the time.

Here are a few insights I’ve gathered over the years that might help. First, cedar fades as the result of basic oxidation. Ultra-violet rays break down the lignin (the glue that holds wood cells together) and as that occurs the surface begins to grey. Variables such as the orientation of the roof pitch (north, south, east, west), the roof pitch, tree coverage and character of the wood itself will factor in to how quickly the new cedar shake and shingle repairs will fade. There are chemical agents that hasten the fading process slightly but there is nothing that will instantly blend old cedar roofing with new. Not in a permanent sense anyway. Another approach to blending new cedar roofing with old is the use of tinting or staining. We can tint and stain new wood roofing repairs to blend into the surrounding roof in such a way that those repairs will be hard to detect from the ground. The problem is that as the new cedar begins to fade and change colors through natural weathering, what was once a good match becomes an increasingly obvious eyesore. When it come to blending new cedar roof repairs with an existing roof our advice is simple. Either wash the roof and have more immediate material color consistency or exercise patience and wait for the new to fade in to the old. Of course, in situations where the existing roof is quite dark, as in the case where black mold, moss or lichen as moved in, the new shake repairs are not likely to ever blend in well.

Another interesting and very important thing to note about the main photo at the top of this post is the natural variation in the original roofing. You can see 40-50 pieces that are significantly lighter grey than surrounding pieces. The most obvious patch is a little over half way up the pictured roof slope slightly left of center. Those shakes were installed 11 years ago but for some reason have not faded at the same pace as surrounding material. This is most likely due to differences in the chemical composition of those shakes. They were either taken out of a different part of the tree or from a different tree altogether (more likely). Cedar roofing is a natural material and will have a wide range of coloration as the result.  If p

erfect color consistency is your goal it is best to avoid cedar shakes and shingles.

Here is 12 year old, medium hand-split cedar shake roof in the same neighborhood as the subject roof. The new shakes are quite obvious from the ground. They will blend in quite well within a year.

12 year old cedar shake roof in the same neighborhood. These repairs are less than one week old.

Here are the repairs on this cedar shake roof one year after installation on this Orono wood roof.











New wood shake roof in Minnetonka with color variations


14 year old heavy hand-split cedar shake roof with repairs two years after completion.

Should wood roofs be pressure washed?

October 2nd, 2011

by Steve Kuhl

Having washed somewhere north of 2000 cedar shake and shingle roofs since the inception of our company in 1988, we have developed some strong opinions on the topic of whether or not it’s a good idea.  Here is the definitive answer to whether or not wood roofs should be washed: Yes and no. You see the answer lies in the condition of your existing cedar roof.  If it has integrity it is probably a good idea to wash, repair and preserve it. If it has aged too much, washing will only cause further damage.  So how do you know where your roof lies on the spectrum?  Call an honest company.  We happen to be one of two such companies in the Minneapolis area.  The other is Old Town Cedar, owned and operated by Dale Sloper.  His phone number is (763) 441-8735.  His wifes name is Sharon and they are solid people.  We have lost more business to these guys than anyone else since we started our business in the late 80’s.  So why on earth would we give our potential clients and existing clients their phone number?  It’s simple.  We care about the integrity of the cedar restoration business in the Twin Cities.  The truth is when we lose a job to Dale we know the client will be getting a good job and we suspect he feels the same way about us.  In the long run that is good for everyone including homeowners and roofing professionals. But I digress.

Back to the point of this post, which is pressure washing cedar roofs.  To put it plainly, there are three or four other companies in the Twin Cities area that claim to be professional cedar roof restoration firms that are in fact what we call ‘morally flexible’ when it comes to determining whether or not cedar roofs should be washed.  These guys have never met a cedar roof they wouldn’t wash.  That’s not a good thing (except for their bank account).  A couple times a year we will speak with Dale and compare horror stories about what we are witnessing these other companies doing around town.  It’s shocking.  They rely on the trust of homeowners to sign contracts for the ‘restoration’ of their roofs only to leave behind damage that will most likely not be detected for years when their roof needs to be replaced prematurely.

Are we are bitter because we lose business to these companies? Yes. Although the only reason we find homeowners chooses those guys is that they charge a lot less than we do.  We have started a list of real homeowners in the Minneapolis area that have had regrettable contact with the aforementioned hacks and subsequently called us to fix the result or replace the roof altogether.  Want to speak with them?  Just ask Steve.

Wood roof in Minneapolis damaged by pressure washerHere is a Kuhl Case Study on such a situation.  A roof washing company used dinky, low-volume, high pressure machinery to wash this poor woman’s roof and the results weren’t pretty.

If your roof is in good enough condition to wash, congratulations.  You have the opportunity to add years to its remaining life through occasional maintenance.  But it is important to understand that a cedar roof should only be washed using specialized equipment.  Standard pressure washers like the one pictured below will do a good deal of damage to a cedar roof regardless of the user.  That damage will most likely not be visible from the ground because it is a matter of hundreds of an inch.  In fact, consumer-grade pressure washers will remove between five and eight times the amount of wood from your cedar roof than professional equipment.  If you have ever seen a cedar deck that looks furry and splintery after washing you know what we are talking about.

Companies that don’t invest in industrial equipment do so for one reason; it is much cheaper to use a standard machine than an industrial unit.  From the ground the results look about the same to you.  The discoloration on your roof is gone, the roof looks fresh and clean again.  But upon close inspection you will see that those machines have removed a lot of wood.  Not good.  Regardless of the appearance from the ground, using a typical pressure washer on a cedar roof will take years off its existing lifespan regardless of whether or not wood cleaners and/or brighteners are used.  Ultimately, wood loss in the keyways of your roof is one of the primary reasons your roof will fail in the future.  Here is another Kuhl Case Study that explores the importance of using professional equipment when pressure washing a wood roof.

Here is a simple way to know if the guys you have hired are using the right equipment. If it shows up in the back of a van, it’s crappy. If it shows up on a trailer because it’s too big to fit in the back of a van, that’s a good sign.


Birds Cause Ice Dams in Minneapolis

April 30th, 2011

by Steve Kuhl

Birds and Ice Dams

Inexperienced Minneapolis roofer uses the wrong roof vent

Kuhl replaces around 1500 of this type of roof vent every summer in the Minneapolis area because they are havens for critters

Birds might be the last thing you think about when you see ice dams forming on the edge of your roof this January. Yet birds can play a role in how they affect the ventilation of your roof. And as we all know, ventilation and insulation are two of the three key factors in ice dam prevention (air bypasses are the third). If you would like to geek out on ice dams here is the article I wrote for JLC two years ago.

Back to the birds. You see, birds have a strong attraction to a particular type of roof vent that pepper the roof tops of 75-85% of all homes in the Twin Cities. See Above. Proper air movement through your roof system is a very important point in the health of your home. Good air flow will also reduce the likelihood of ice dam and attic frost problems in the future. Most Minneapolis homes rely on two types of cooperative vents to carry fresh air through the rafter and truss spaces; the soffit vent and the roof vent. The main things that clog up soffit vents are sloppy painters who gum up the vent openings with paint, or, sloppy insulators who block the rafter openings that lead to the soffit vents with careless insulation work. Problems with roof vents, which exist near the peak of the roof, are almost always related to critters. Anything the inhibits the free movement of air through roof vents are a bad thing and are best avoided by using a quality vent. Find information on the average cost of roof vent replacement in Minneapolis later in this post.

Over the past 20 years we have replaced thousands of low quality roof vents with metal louvered vents. Many of those jobs had one thing in common; the homeowner had now idea there was a problem. Sometimes one can use a binoculars to inspect the roof vents from the ground successfully. You can see little bits of nesting materials hanging out of the vents. Case closed.  It’s time to replace your roof vents. But frequently nests can’t be seen at all, leading the unsuspecting homeowner to think they are in the clear (below).

We did a roof repair in Shorewood last week where all but one of the 12 roof vents were filled with birds’ nests (Right). From the ground and from the roof everything looked good. After closer inspection we found the nests and were given the go-ahead to replace. I took a bunch of photos to show you what we find during these jobs.

Sneaky birds nesting in cedar vents.

Cost for roof vent replacement in Minneapolis:

The sad part is the cheap vents (shown above) cost Minneapolis roofing contractors about $11.00 a piece while the really good vents cost about $14.00. The average Minneapolis home has about 10 roof vents, making the total cost difference between crappy and awesome about $30 during the installation of a new roof. Note that replacing existing vents is a far more expensive endeavor, with average costs ranging from $80 to $140 per vent for labor and materials. Therefore, installing good vents while your roof is being replaced is essentially free and doing it after the roof has been installed is likely a $1000+ affair.

Same roof vent as above sawn in half. The nest has completely blocked the vent.

It’s not all bad news, however. If you are about to have a roof installed make sure to speak with your roofing contractor about what vents he is proposing. The upgrade should be provided at no extra costs if you are dealing with a reputable roofing professional.


Although ice dams here in Minneapolis are the result of a complex interaction between the snow cover on the roof, the outdoor temperatures, and the heat-loss characteristics of the house, proper home ventilation is among the most important things you can do to minimize your risk. Relative to the cost of other home fixes such as reinsulating or heat cable installation, replacing bad roof vents is a pretty affordable job.

Ice dam prevent starts with good ventilation on Minneapolis Roofs

Bird saddened by impervious roof vent professionally installed by Kuhl.

Ice Dam Scam: You Best Check Out His Equipment

February 2nd, 2011

by Steve Kuhl

As industry pioneers in ice dam removal and ice dam prevention, we have been asked many times about the best method to use for ice dam removal in Minneapolis.  The answer is without question true steam.  The ‘true’ in that answer is intentional because there are many ice dam removal companies in Minnesota who are claiming to use steam even though they are not.  Buy our count the majority of the steaming companies are in fact using high-temp pressure washers.  It’s not like the homeowner would know the difference anyway.  Not until their roof is inspected the next summer when excessive granular loss (in the case of asphalt roofs) is discovered.  More on that later.

Let’s get back to the difference between a steamer and a high-temp pressure washer.  The easiest way to distinguish the two is to ask a simple question.  What is the average operating temperature of the machine throughout the course of a typical job?  You see, steamers emit steam at a minimum of 275 degrees from the time they are fired up to the second they are shut down.  Our steamers normally run at around 315 degrees.  High-temp pressure washers achieve temps of up to 300 degrees at start up but after a few moments of operation drop to just over 100 degrees.  Why should you care?  Because these machines need to rely on pressure to remove ice instead of temperature.  Pressure damages roofs, steam does not.  Here is a handy graphic that displays the fundamental differences between these two types of machine: Steamers vs. High-temp washers.

I can’t entirely blame homeowners for being duped by companies claiming to use steamers when in fact they are not.  It’s hard to tell the difference unless you know what you are looking for.  Both machines have a large kerosene fired burner assembly (either vertical or horizontal), both appear to produce steam out of the end of the gun when used, and both remove ice.  The differences are really, really important if you talk to anyone who knows, however.  In fact, a company called American Pressure sells the most ice dam steaming equipment and industrial pressure washers in the Midwest and is headed up by a father-son team named Gary and Ben Hagemann.  Here is there website:, and here is their phone number: (763) 521-4442.  Call them and ask about the difference in performance between steamers and high-temp washers when it comes to removing ice dams.  Ask them which type of machine is faster.  Ask which is less likely to damage roofs?  Ask what equipment they would like to be used on their own homes.

This begs the question, Why doesn’t every contractor just buy steamers in the first place?   It comes down the oldest incentive in the book.  Money.  They buy the very cheapest machines that they can use for as many things as possible.  Enter the high-temperature pressure washer.  At one quarter the cost of a steamer, a high-temp pressure washer can be used all year long for washing cars, boats, decks, fences, roofs, sidewalks and more.  Sure they slower at removing ice dams than a steamer and far more likely to cause damage to asphalt shingles, but their sheer versatility is too much for the average contractor to resist.  Our steamers run around $4,000 before we customize them for our work and they can only be used for one thing; steaming the shit out of ice dams. (I was told I could swear because it’s a blog…sorry).

We guarantee that the machinery we are using are in fact true steamers.  Period.  I suggest that anyone hiring a company to remove ice dams in Minneapolis using steam check very carefully into the accuracy of that company’s claims.  Look closely at the machine that shows up in your driveway.  Write down the make and model, run inside and call Gary or Ben to get their opinion.  If you care about spending as little possible to safely remove the ice dams from your business or home and you hope to not find damage when the snow melts off the roof in the spring, you will kick those guys off your property before they get started.

Here’s the popular article Steve Kuhl wrote for JLC in 2011: Ice Dams 101.  If you care to geek out on the topic of ice dam removal and ice dam prevention you should really check it out.  None of our competitors can claim to be nationally published in this way.  Not to brag.

Kuhl’s Contracting’s Contribution to a Blend Award-Winning Home

September 15th, 2010

by Steve Kuhl is an organization that encourages and rewards builders, architects, and home owners to blend newly remodeled or constructed homes and businesses into the fabric of Minneapolis neighborhoods.

We are proud to announce that we have been selected as a winner for the 2010 Blend Awards.

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