Getting the Job Done: Hiring an Amish Contractor

Reader Contribution by Corinne Gompf and Heritage Harvest Farm
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We had put it off long enough. After living in our 1901 farmhouse for eight years, and dealing with numerous leaks and water damage to several areas of plaster, we could no longer do any further interior remodeling until Matt and I shelled out some serious coin to replace our metal roof. Our house was mutilated by the remodeling efforts of owners in the 1960s and ‘70s, so it has been a time-consuming and expensive ordeal to reintroduce the Victorian charm that was removed 40 years ago.

Now, we knew that because of the high winds and open fields of northern Morrow County, Ohio, we didn’t want to waste our money on shingles, which are more likely to be damaged or blown off during severe storms. We felt like metal was our only option, which meant spending almost double our budget to get the job done.

And we knew that we wanted to hire a local Amish contractor to handle the project. The MoCo Amish community has a reputation for quality work, fair prices, and trustworthiness, but we didn’t know if any of our neighbors had had someone like this work on their homes.

Get Word-of-Mouth Recommendations

True, there are advertisements in the local papers, especially The Compass, for local construction companies, usually only listing a name and a phone number, but we were searching for personal recommendations. It took a chance comment to our feed supplier, David, who runs a self-serve feed shop in the heart of MoCo’s Amish country, to connect us with a contractor who was willing to take on a job like ours: his son, Paul.  

David gave Matt the phone number of Paul’s driver, John. This was how we were told to set up an appointment to get a quote for our roof and a few other tasks we wanted done, like wrapping a few windows and replacing the porch ceiling, a bit of siding and gutters. All communication was through John’s phone, either by direct calls or voicemails, until we actually met in person.

Communicate Your Project Requests to Ensure Clarity

Our initial meeting with Paul was no nonsense. When dealing with the Amish, a lot of us need to realize that they aren’t much for chit-chat until they get to know you. Paul wanted to see the roof, take a lot of measurements, and discuss exactly what we wanted. He took a lot of notes and said that he’d call with prices of each of the projects. The whole ordeal lasted about 20 minutes, and he hopped in John’s truck and was gone. If you are wishy-washy on what you want for your home project, it’s best to wait until you know exactly what you want. Paul didn’t have time to to discuss possibilities. He wanted to have a set idea of what we wanted so he could give us an accurate quote. In the long run, because of this, we did not experience any additional surprise costs.

In a couple of days, Paul called Matt with the quotes, and we agreed to proceed with the job. But, Paul said, it would be four or five months before he could get started, explaining that he was so busy during the summer that October was the earliest he could fit us into his schedule. That was a disappointment, but we took it as a sign that Paul and his crew did good work if they were that busy.

Worth the Wait

Fast-forward to the end of September, and we got a call that Paul was able to start our roofing job and to expect his crew to be there the following week. When driver John pulled in, Paul and two other guys jumped out and got to work. There wasn’t much discussion, other than a few instructions in Pennsylvania Dutch. In fact, John unhitched the tool trailer, and left.

And boy did they work! I think they took a 20-minute lunch break, and that’s it. I did talk to Paul a little bit, as he showed me what he thought were the original roof shingled that were underneath the old metal. Man, what a fire hazard! The guys on his crew were older teens, apprenticing the construction trade. He said that to them (the Amish), learning a trade is more valuable to going to college. And they’re learning how to do their jobs with hand tools and gas-powered chainsaws and drills.

Once the roof was done, Paul left two of his crew (one being his younger brother, Harley) to replace the porch ceiling. I kept hearing whistling from one of the boys, but I couldn’t figure out what song it was. Finally it donned on me: Harley was whistling “Islands in the Stream,” by Kenny Rogers. Of all the songs, I had to laugh about that, and it’s a small detail I’ll forever remember of our first experience hiring an Amish crew.

Long story short (too late), we found that getting a personal recommendation, being clear about project details, and having patience were key to hiring an Amish contractor for our roof replacement. We had such a good experience and were pleased with the quality of his work that we talked to Paul a little bit about putting on an addition to the back of the house so the kids can have their own rooms. Hopefully we can get penciled in his busy schedule in the next year.

Corinne Gompf is a writer and hobby farmer in Morrow County, Ohio. She is a graduate from the University of Toledo, with a BA in English, creative writing concentration. Along with her husband, Matt, and two children, Fletcher and Emery, Corinne raises poultry, Boer goats, rabbits, and chemical-free produce. Connect with Corinne on her Heritage Harvest Farm Facebook page.

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