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Of all the ways that I’ve mentioned so far about protecting yourself from con artist contractors one of the main ones is looking out for red flags. There are certain things that a contractor will do or say in order to get you to pay more money up front, or buy into something that you don’t need. I’m going to list six of the big ones:
Requesting that YOU obtain things: It is not your job to buy anything. Whether it is materials (unless you’re really picky…then you can buy them) or building permits you shouldn’t be required to pay any extra money that isn’t just paying your contractor straight up. The permits are something that your contractor should always provide, and materials should be built into the cost of the project. If you want to be picky and provide your own materials (paint seems to be a big one with this) you are more than welcome to.
Pressuring you to make a decision: Contractors want to make money, I understand that, and obviously a contractor is going to want your business so I am not talking about regular good old fashioned salesmanship. What I am talking about is a contractor who is pressuring you to make a decision RIGHT NOW. This is not something that any contractor should do. Another tactic they do to try and get you to buy RIGHT NOW is that they will offer one-time discounts if you sign up that day. Tactics like this may work at a clothing store to get a store credit card, but not with things like contractors. A contractor should try and sell you himself and his business like a professional.
Solicits door-to-door: This should be a no brainer. When was the last time you bought anything from a door to door salesman that wasn’t some Thin Mints? This is especially true for anything home improvement. and while it still does happen
For today’s Newsday Tuesday I want to highlight a story about a form of contractor scam that isn’t the “takes your money and runs” type of scam. When a salesperson (in any field of business) convinces you to buy something or invest in something that you don’t need, or doesn’t work for you, then this is a type of scam. In this article the BBB warns against homeowners who buy into solar paneling on their homes (which can cost as much as $60,000!) because a contractor convinces them to do it, even though it’s not needed.
I am all for doing things to green up your home, and finding cool and interesting ways to save money, but solar paneling can take a lot of work and cost a lot of money without seeing the benefits of it. There are literally hundreds of other instances where you might be going out and shopping for something and a salesperson will try and upsell (industry term) you to a “better” (and more expensive) product. Selling things to people that they don’t need is just as much stealing money from them as grabbing their wallet is.
Whether it’s solar paneling, a “better” water heater, or a “more efficient” HVAC system be sure to be on your guard when purchasing a product. Make sure that the pros out weigh the cons, and that the investment it takes to install a newer and better model will pay off in the end.
Build (and buy) safe out there.
Safepact was created to give homeowners peace of mind when dealing with contractors. I have used the blog many times to explain what to look for in a contractor, or give examples of bad contractors, and basically to talk about contractors the entire time, but it really took until just now for me to realize that not everyone knows exactly what a contractor is; I’ll change that now.
What we call a contractor is actually a shortened term for a “general contractor”. A general contractor is someone who is hired by either a client (you guys out there) or an architect to perform some type of job on the house.The general contractor is also the point person that you will be working with and talking to throughout the building experience. In order to be a contractor they need to be licensed in various tasks for the specific state they are working in. What the specific state requirements are to be a contractor vary from state to state, but usually they say something along the lines of “anyone who intents to work professionally on a building needs to be certified by the (insert state here) licensing board”. Here is a website that goes into specifics of each state. A contractor will also be in charge of any subcontractors that he hires.
A subcontractor is a general contractors version of “I got a guy”. If there is a specific task that your contractor isn’t licensed for, or if there is something that needs to be done that he just isn’t very good or experienced at, he will call in a subcontractor as explained in the second paragraph.. A subcontractor is someone that is provided by the contractor to do a certain type of job, usually something very specific like plumbing or electrical. If a contractor is going to call in a sub he should state that on the contract that you sign and the per hour cost of that person should be in the price that your contractor quotes you. Often times your contractor will never actually pick up a hammer and help with the construction but will choose to get the work done solely by hiring subcontractors, this is a very normal thing and shouldn’t deter you from hiring that contractor. In a previous blog post I outlines a bunch of things to look for before hiring a contractor.
As always, build safe out there!
For the past two Fridays I have been listing some jobs that you might wanna do around the house, and then listing how difficult they are. I started with the really easy stuff, then I got to the medium jobs, and now I’m going to tackle some hard jobs. These are jobs that, while not extremely difficult (that’s next week), they do take some pretty good handyman skills.
Reupholstering Furniture: This is probably the easiest job on the list of hard jobs, but it takes a skilled eye in order to complete it. The hardest part about this is making sure that your patterns match. Because furniture isn’t a flat surface, and because of the individual parts that need surfacing (a back, the seat, armrests, cushions, etc.) you need to be very careful that the patterns on your furniture match with the rest of the set. It also can take some pretty advanced sewing skill to make the seams hidden and tight enough so that the wear-and-tear that your piece of furniture goes through will last. And, of course, the internet is always there to help you.
Regrouting Tile: Think of this as a trickier and more complicated mixing cement job. Just like cement if you are planning and doing this yourself you are going to need to go to our friends at Home Depot and get the materials for the grout there. You can buy some pre-mixed grout, but even then you run into troubles of whether you got enough and how old the mixture is. If you aren’t getting pre-mixed than you have to mix it yourself and pay attention to thinks such as the grout’s viscosity (cool animation!) and moisture content. You also need to make sure that you have enough spare grout to refill areas that have shrunk when drying. Finally, you have to make sure that the grout is uniform all around the tile so that when you are finished the floor is smooth and flat.
Drywall Repairs: I am really weary of any job that requires me to go open up a wall of the house, and drywall repair is a major job that requires this. This is usually listed as a DIY job (and as that website says an “easy one”), and since you are only repairing the drywall instead of all out replacing it, the level of difficulty is less than replacing an entire room, but it still requires a lot of skill to do. Even reading other sites’s drywall section are complicated and use a lot of jargon and assumes you already know what needs to be done. As you can see from the supposedly “easy” step-by-step from my link above, there is a lot of very small particular work that needs to be done. And since drywall is hidden from view, doing it wrong can lead to major problems down the road. I’m not one to tell you what you can and can’t do, but this process is quite complicated for even your advanced DIYers.
Figuring out whether to do a job yourself or whether to hire a contractor takes a lot of real self evaluation. The jobs that I listed in the last two weeks could probably be done by most people, however the jobs this week and ESPECIALLY the jobs next week really require a good honest look at yourself and your handyman skills. Far be it from me to tell anybody what they can and can’t do, but if you are thinking about tackling any one of the jobs up there I really recommend making sure you honestly have the skill to do them, and that you DO YOUR RESEARCH BEFORE HAND!
If you need a contractor to help you with any of these jobs Safepact recommends Zambooki (that name just might come up in the future too….wink wink). And if you need any help paying for that contractor or need a secure way to do so always remember to use Safepact. Contact us here or wall message us here
Build safe everyone =)
Happy Summer everyone!
Now that we are officially in the hottest part of the year I want to talk a little about your HVAC system. HVAC stands for your Heating, Ventalating, and Air Conditioning system, and whether you are using your heat or your A/C the process of using it in your home is the same.
Whenever you put in a temperature that you want, say, 75 degrees, into your thermostat you are creating what is called a “setpoint”. Your setpoint is going to determine when your HVAC system turns on, and when it turns back off, and actually what it’ll do is wait for the temperature to get a little above the setpoint, and turn off after it goes a little below the set point so it’s not turning on and off as much.
The “setpoint on and off” system is how it works for every HVAC system installed in any home in this country, the problem with these types of systems is that they aren’t always the most efficient way to regulate the temperature of your home. For probably 90% of homes the thermostat is going to be on the first floor of your house, usually in the living room or kitchen or something. But what about the rooms that are on a second floor? Or what about a basement? These rooms are going to have a drastically different temperature than the first floor, center of the house, thermostat. In order to combat this they have Temperature Zoning Systems.
A Temperature Zoning System is a way for you to have multiple thermostats for each area (zone) of your home. You can heat and cool each area of your house independently from the others. This is especially handy if you have a room that gets really hot at a specific time of day (like a western facing room) you can have the air blowing in just that room vs. having air going into the whole house. A zoning system can also be handy for entire second floors or basements. Basements tend to be cooler than the rest of the house because they are underground and out of the sun. Because of this it can be good to have a zoning system in place so that your basement can get a constant supply of heat without having to wait for the setpoint in the living room to dip below your desired temperature.
There are plenty of HVAC installation options for a zoning system, but there is also the chance that you are going to have to install it yourself. All in all there are plenty of videos and websites online to help you understand more of what a zoning system is and how to get it in your home.
If you want a zoning system in your home, but don’t want to run the risk of getting scammed by your contractor be sure and request to use Safepact as your payment system. If you have any other questions about HVAC systems or a temperature zoning system be sure and contact us here or on facebook.
Everybody stay cool and build safe!
The most people know about bamboo is that pandas eat it (awww panda…) and you can buy kits of it at a store and grow it yourself in a little pot. What most people don’t know about bamboo is that it’s a highly effective plant that’s good for a lot of things, one of which is that you can use it as an alternative for hardwood flooring. Using bamboo instead of traditional hardwood flooring is not only good for the environment, but there is almost literally no downside to doing it.
The number one thing you will hear about bamboo is that the plant itself is much better than trees. Bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants in the world, growing as much as three feet in a day. What this means is that it reaches maturity much faster than a traditional wood tree. Depending on the tree a hardwood tree can take decades to mature enough for it to be harvested for wood. This makes the turnaround time for growing new trees even longer. A bamboo tree, however, will mature anywhere from three to five years. This makes the turnaround time much, much faster. Plus, a bamboo tree’s root will stay alive after the stalks have been harvested, meaning that one stalk of bamboo can regenerate multiple times.
Another positive to bamboo is that it is actually harder than hardwood flooring is, so it will last longer and take less damage than your traditional hardwood floors. This doesn’t mean that you can wear your high heels 24 hours a day, drop bowling balls on it, and have a roller hockey tournament in your rec room. What this really means is that over the course of your home’s life, with normal wear and tear resistance, your bamboo flooring will hold up better than a traditional oak or pine floor.
Finally, the best thing about bamboo flooring is that it is the same price, and often cheaper, than hardwood flooring. This pricing chart has a bunch of different woods, some are cheaper than my bamboo link, but a majority are more expensive and even the ones that are cheaper aren’t very much so (although it is worth mentioning that Cali Bamboo is one of the pricier, albeit higher quality, options) Here is the bamboo floor chart from the same site as my hardwood floor chart. By all means you should shop around your area to find bamboo dealers. Bamboo is a pretty cool alternative to hardwood flooring. It looks the same, is actually harder, grows faster, and is the same price as hardwood flooring, plus you get to have the warm and fuzzies knowing that you’re helping out the planet too. It also gives you something to talk about at parties and impress your neighbors and friends, and honestly isn’t that what we all want at the end of the day anyway?
If you have any other questions or suggestions about greening up your home be sure and leave a comment. Also you can get on Safepact’s contact page and shoot us a question that way. And obviously the most fun way is by Facebooking us.
Build safe (and green) out there
My article has premiered on Fraud Avengers! For my loyal readers you will recognize it as my “What is Escrow” column. I’ll be writing original articles for them about every two or three weeks and when I do I will be sure and post a link to it right here.
In the meantime check out their other articles by their fabulous and experienced writers and stay tuned to the blog to see when my stuff is showing up.
Read safe =)
We are always on the lookout for news stories about contractor fraud and we came across this one a while back. There are a lot of things wrong with that whole situation, not the least of which is that as scammers go these guys are really bad at it. How can you go from quoting someone $9.00 and then jump up to $900? Are you really thinking that someone is going to just be ok with a 10,000% increase in price? I actually did the math on that…it’s TEN THOUSAND PERCENT. Plus, who is actually dumb enough to agree to pay $900 to get your gutters cleaned? You can read in the story that after the homeowner refused to pay, the scammers got annoyed and ended up walking away from the deal. The homeowner contacted the police about it but didn’t raise too much of a stink because, hey, free gutter cleaning right?
This is an example of really bad scammers, but it does say that scammers are still out there and that you need to be on your guard. These guys also showed two of the biggest signs that the people who are working with aren’t legitimate: They didn’t have their quote written down on a contract, and they were selling themselves door-to-door (also targeting the elderly is a sign too). Don’t ever assume that someone who just randomly walks up to you quoting a home improvement price is a real contractor. Always get names, numbers, and business titles first, then check those those references with the BBB. Be sure and always get price quotes in writing as well.
Build safe out there =)