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Q&A: How do I know if my house needs more than paint?

for renovation feature..things in house that are need

for renovation feature..things in house that are need of repair.....peeling paint on siding(newsday photo by j. michael dombroski) Photo Credit: NEWSDAY/J. Michael Dombroski

Q: My home is a ranch on the South Shore. It is about 60 years old. The outside is sided with painted cedar clapboard which was placed over shakes and attached to furring strips. The paint is peeling quite badly and some wood around a few windows has rotted. I have had painters who have given me estimates of between $3,600 and $10,000 to paint. One suggested I might have a water problem behind the clapboard. I am unsure how to check for a water problem and whether I should paint or side the house. I prefer wood but am feeling that this might not be my choice. My windows are old but I am unable to afford the expense of painting and or siding plus new windows. I am not planning to be in the house for more than five years. I am trying to maintain the house without going into a great deal of debt. I am widow, and I feel that I am not getting an honest assessment from the professionals of how to approach this problem.

Roberta L. Werner, North Woodmere

A: You are off to the right start by getting multiple estimates from painters. Steven Rosenbaum, president of the Long Island chapter of the nonprofit American Society of Home Inspectors, says, “A good painter would be able to prepare the wall properly, if it’s within the scope of something they can do.” For an unbiased opinion, “Contact a company like Benjamin Moore with a sales rep in the area and have them take a look at the siding. Because they are impartial, but their expertise is in painting,” Rosenbaum adds.

Moisture is a fairly common cause for paint to peel, he says. If you suspect moisture is the culprit, getting answers might require destructive testing – that is, pulling off some of the siding to see what’s going on behind it.

To find reputable contractors, ask around for referrals and then check credentials. To check on a contractor’s license and complaint history, contact your county office of consumer affairs. In Nassau, call 516-571-2600 or visit the county website by clicking here. In Suffolk, you can perform an online license search by clicking here; you can reach the office at 631-853-4600.

As of Oct. 1, the EPA will begin to enforce stricter standards for paint removal in homes built prior to 1978, which are assumed to have lead-based paint unless testing proves otherwise. “Any contractor who’s doing work for compensation…if they’re disturbing more than six square feet of painted surface in housing built before 1978, the contractor has to take a one-day class to become a certified renovator,” says Rosenbaum.

Contractors should provide you with a pamphlet outlining the new precautions they’re required to take, such as special clean-up procedures. Not all contractors know about the new law yet, but those in unions or larger trade organizations such as NARI, or the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, are more likely to have received this training and certification.

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