Getting Things Right
In his article "Efficiency Dos and Don'ts" (10/06), Martin
Holladay states that if an attic is insulated, "high attic
temperatures don't matter much." This is a shortsighted view of
energy efficiency. Attics are ventilated to protect the roof.
Excessive attic temperatures will drastically shorten the life
of an asphalt-shingle roof. How much energy will be wasted
manufacturing and installing a new roof?
Also, on page 39 of the same issue (Q&A), you show a
picture of what is supposed to be fiber-cement siding with
water intrusion at the butt joints. It doesn't look like
fiber-cement siding to me.
Many people read your magazine to find out how to do things
right. Please be careful and get things right before you print
Jerry Domagala, CMI
National Property Inspections
Holladay responds: No researcher in the U.S. has spent more
time studying the relationship between attic temperatures and
asphalt-shingle durability than William Rose, a research
architect at the Building Research Council at the University of
In his recent book, Water in Buildings, Rose summarizes
what he has learned from years of careful research: "Does
ventilation significantly reduce shingle temperatures? The
short answer is no, not significantly. Shingle color is a very
strong determinant of shingle, sheathing, and attic
temperature. ... In a vented cathedral ceiling, venting can
cool shingles in the lower part of the roof; it cannot cool
shingles high in the roof. ... As long as shingle manufacturers
ignore the effects of shingle color as a determinant of
temperature, they may be admonished for asserting so strongly
the importance of venting to control temperature. ... In short,
on the basis of currently available information, attic
ventilation is only marginally beneficial to shingle
durability. Attic ventilation does not deserve the attention it
has received in relation to shingle durability."
If your clients prefer cool shingles to warm shingles, the
amount of ventilation behind the sheathing is far less
important than the shingles' color; so advise them to choose
A note from the editors: Regarding the photo on page 39 of the
October issue, that is in fact fiber cement. Another view is
shown at left
Cynicism or Basic
Leland Stone's view ("Pricing Handyman Work," Business, 10/06)
that the purpose of any business "is to earn the highest profit
on the least expenditure possible" is an eye-opener, but his
cynicism about the services that companies tout could suggest
that he is also cynical about the services he provides.
In my experience, many a business and many a businessman
recognize multiple purposes — making a profit and
providing services worthy of that profit.
Fort Collins, Colo.
Author Leland Stone responds: Mr. Smith is welcome to his
opinion regarding the cynicism he perceives in my business
philosophy, but his assumption — that my service is not
equal to the profit I thereby gain — is flawed.
In any transaction, there is a minimum of a buyer and a
seller. The view of the transaction I offered ("highest profit
on the least expenditure possible") came from the seller's
perspective. Readily apparent, though not described in my
article, was the opposing perspective of the buyer: "Obtain the
most and best goods or services for the least expenditure
In spite of their opposition, the seller and the buyer may
reach agreement on a price and conduct a transaction. It is
this transaction that then determines whether the seller's
offering is worth the profit sought. While that may appear
cynical, it's basic economics.
When Employees Compete
I'd like to respond to Ron Edge's letter, "Builder Seeks Input
From Other GCs" (11/06). I have had the same problem in the
past, with workers trying to score side work from my customers.
I'm a strong believer in loyalty, and I fired them on the spot.
I also stopped doing work for those customers.
In time, I came out ahead, because the former employees joined
the stream of "low price" carpenters. In fact, they got the
reputation of being cheap, which of course means cutting
corners. This results in problems with unhappy homeowners, and
reputations go down the drain. That is exactly what happened,
and the carpenters came back, begging for a job.
Keep doing what you do best. Maybe you'll lose a few jobs with
people who don't appreciate your professional service, but your
reputation will remain good — and that's more important
than anything else in this business.
I would also like to comment on licensing — namely, that
states should enforce their licensing laws more forcefully to
crack down on illegal contractors. Word will get around and
push these people out of the industry. As it is, licensed GCs
continue to lose jobs to guys who carry no overhead, do shoddy
work, underestimate jobs, steal deposit money, and so on. This
just gives the rest of us a bad name.
Greg Levitt, Owner