Trying to get emergency roof repairs in Ventura County these days is like trying to find shelter from a deluge under a tree.
It's practically impossible. Not to mention frustrating--and risky, too.
"The phones have been ringing off the hook since the first major storm last week," said Gloria Wheeler, a clerk at Champion Roofing in Thousand Oaks. The company has been receiving as many as 500 calls a day for estimates and other inquiries, Wheeler said. "Most everyone wants service now, but we're only servicing those with contracts."
Even getting an estimate is fraught with hair-pulling Angst.
Go ahead, let your fingers do the walking. They will just bump into answering machines, answering services and busy signals.
"A year ago, contractors were begging homeowners to have repairs done," said Jerome Maged of Camarillo. "Now they're probably beating them off with a stick."
Maged hired McRoofing to re-roof his home and put in a skylight last year, but the work was never fully tested until the storms struck this week, he said.
Luckily for him, he knew just whom to call when the rain found a way into his house through a tiny crevice near the skylight. "They were here the next day," said Maged, referring to the Ventura roofing contractor.
As project manager Glenn Wenzel sees it, what has triggered a wave of misfortune for many county residents has turned the economic tide for his company, the Bryant Organization Inc. of Ventura.
"We've seen about a 50% increase in business over the past weeks," Wenzel said. "We've had 30 of our 80 roofers out in the field 14 to 16 hours a day. It's great for us."
Not so for Gary Raskin, president of the Ginseng Co. in Simi Valley.
Three days ago, his warehouse roof sprung four leaks, threatening to destroy his herbs and cosmetics inventory.
"I called practically every contractor in the Yellow Pages for Simi Valley and the Chatsworth area, and got one tape recording and one promise," Raskin said.
No one responded to the message on the tape, and the promise turned out to be a no-show, he said.
His only recourse, Raskin said, was to cover the trouble spots with a tarp and hope that his no-show eventually shows.
At this time last year, JB Wholesale, a Chatsworth roofing supply company, was laying off workers, employee Chas Williams said.
But business has been picking up since the rains last March, Williams said, and some contractors who deal with his firm are getting 200 to 300 calls a day.
The company, which transports materials to work sites and loads it onto the roofs for the contractors, has about 60 contractors waiting for its services, Williams said.
"We will be very, very busy for the rest of the year and expect to see a 30% increase in business."
James L. Coffey of McRoofing warns that not all roofers are legitimate tradespeople.
"People need to be aware that this heightened demand brings out a lot of fly-by-nights," he said.
He suggested that would-be customers seek out referrals and check that contractors are licensed.
"I see a lot of trucks on the streets now trying to make door-to-door bid proposals."