Vietnam Vet's ceiling caving in, blames contractor for poor job

Posted at 6:29 PM, Nov 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-22 18:31:08-05

Gerry Ziolkowski served in the Marine Corps during the Vietnam War.  He's now permanently disabled from wounds sustained by a land mine explosion in 1966.

Gerry and his wife Kathy live in Freedom, a small town in Cattaraugus County.  They've lived there for 40 years--the last 18 in their home off Route 98.

The Ziolkowskis are retired and live on a fixed income.  They have some social security income and Gerry's service enacted disability.  So two years ago, when the Ziolkowskis needed work done on their home, they had to borrow money.

"We took a loan out two years ago to have the roof done," Gerry said.  "We thought it was going to be alright.  We said, now we have a new roof it should last 20 to 25 years."

But that wasn't the case.  A few months ago, the Ziolkowskis noticed some leaks in their bathroom ceiling.  So they called the contractor who did the job to see what went wrong.

"They both got up on the roof and said 'we don't see anything wrong up here, everything is solid'," said Kathy.  She said the roofer told her he didn't know where the leak was coming from.

After that visit, the water damage got worse.  The Ziolkowskis noticed their living room ceiling was sagging.  The next day, a massive piece came crashing down.

"That's when it collapsed," said Kathy.  "It just completely came down."

So the Ziolkowskis filed a claim with their insurance, which they're not sure will come through.  They also brought in a separate company to look at the roof.

An invoice from Hebdon Construction was provided to 7Eyewitness News.  It said the shingles were attached improperly "around all penetrations" and were done "seam on seam" (rather than overlapping).  It also said there was improper "nailing of entire roof" and said the roof needs to be completely torn off and replaced.

7Eyewitness News spoke with the handyman, Phil Mason, who the Ziolkowskis originally hired to work on their home.  He wouldn't speak on camera, but said he hired another worker to fix the roof and didn't do any of the work himself.  Mason said the roof work was done properly and the water damage came about only after a roof vent blew off during a storm.

Phil Mason said the Ziokowskis chose to reuse their original vent in order to save money.

Kathy said that's true, but they only made the decision after Mason told them it wouldn't make a difference.

"He said he could reuse the cap because it was still good," Kathy said.  "He sounded like he knew what he was talking about."

Hebdon Construction's invoice pointed out a reused ridge cap as one of the several problems with work done on the roof.

Now, the Ziolkowskis don't know where to turn.  They can't afford to replace the roof on their own--Kathy said they'll be turned down for any more loans.  And they're worried if it isn't fixed before winter really settles in, it will be too late.

"I need it to be fixed a great deal," said Gerry.  "It kind of means everything.  I don't know what we'll lose if we don't [fix it].  We'll lose the house, probably."

They're asking for any help they can get.  Donations to the Ziolkowskis can be made at their GoFundMe page.