As our wonderful home of Gulf Shores is feeling the rainy effects of Isaac, it leads me to think about all the rain damage that he will do to the Gulf Coast area. We are getting some good rain and wind over here, but if Isaac does what The Weather Channel thinks he will do he is going to drop a lot of rain. All of this rainfall (especially in non elevated areas like New Orleans) can build up very quickly and start to flood or even leak into your home through rain soaked roofs. Because of this there is a good chance your drywall could get soaked.
Now depending on the severity of the water leakage you might not need to replace the entire drywall from you attic or walls. You might get lucky enough that your drywall is only damaged (as opposed to ruined) and damaged means it can be repaired. This website, full of tons of disaster ready information anyway, has a link to a great video that talks about your drywall and what to do if it does get water damaged.
I want to make sure that when you guys are dealing with a contractor on your home improvementproject you are getting the best deal you can and are treated fairly, and this is not only making sure that the cost of your project is reasonable, but that the way you pay is reasonable too.
This story, in a Q and A format, highlights some of these issues I think the main thing to take away from this article (aside from the answer, which is a good one) is that you need to make sure how the payments you are making is working when it comes to your contractor and any subcontractors that he might be hiring.
You will probably only have to pay your contractor for the work being done by everyone, the pay for the contractor and his subcontractors will be built into the price (just like in the story above) but it’s how you pay for your contractor that you should pay attention to.
As another great week starts up it’s time for another Word of the Day. And like I have the past couple weeks I’m taking today’s word of the day from the official Safepact YouTube channel. Today’s word of the day is about contractorbonds, what types of bonds there are, and what they mean for you guys out there.
We spend a lot of time in our offices. We spend a lot of time (but never enough am I right?) at home. Sometimes we can get lucky and have a work from home day every once in a while, and more often than not we will need to work at home sometimes anyway. Because of this home offices have become increasingly popular. Just like every other aspect of your home, there are plenty of ways to save money by having a more energy efficient office.
Let’s start with the biggest energy sucking culprit and that’s your computer. As I explained in part one of my Energy Savings Guide whenever electronics are plugged into an outlet or a power strip they are sucking out energy…whether they are turned on or not. Since I don’t need to tell you guys to turn off your computer when you aren’t using it (I don’t have to, right?) I’m going to suggest that everyone plug their computer/printer/other associated electronics into a power strip that can be turned off. By turning off the power strip after you shut your computer down you are saving the energy it takes to power the strip whenever your computer isn’t being used. There are a lot of power myths when it comes to computers and while I would love to go into detail on each and every one of these, I’m just going to go ahead and let the experts do it for me (it’s not laziness, it’s efficiency).
When shopping for your paperwork items for your home office do the best you can to try and be efficient in the products themselves. Instead of buying separate printers, copiers, and fax machines, try to buy an all-in-one machine. Using these hybrid machines takes out the energy cost it would be to run three or four separate machines in your home.
As always, with electronic,s look for an Energy Star logo on the products you buy. Energy Star covers a wider variety of products that you probably think, and that’s everything from your computers, monitors, copy machines, fax machines…just a whole host of items.
This isn’t the end of my Energy Savings Guide just yet, so stay tuned next Friday when I’ll have yet another installment.
The blog post today was asked of me by one of my internet friends, Joey P, whom I know from the World’s Greatest Message Board. Here is his question to me:
“…could (you) also explain permits as well. Should you get a permit? Should you trust a contractor who doesn’t pull them? Should you call city hall and make sure they pulled them? Why should they be pulled?
How big should the job be before you need one pulled?
If all I’m doing is having a water heater replaced or an outlet installed do I really need to have one pulled? [Of course, you’ll say yes…now explain why. I usually tell people that if there’s a problem, the blame is now shifted from the homeowner to the inspector, but I don’t know if that’s correct]”
That’s a pretty loaded set of questions, but they’re great ones that I’m sure a lot of you have. So in order to answer it I’m going to start at the beginning and answer these one by one.
Let’s start off with what exactly a permit is. A permit is a document (probably closer to “set of documents” to be honest, but then it’s hard to call it a “permit” when it’s plural ya know?) given by a city or county that gives approval to a homeowner to make changes to their home. A permit makes sure that the work you are doing is consistent with city or county’s law about building codes.
What is a building code? Whenever you hear someone talk about a building being “up to code” what they are really talking about are the rules and regulations that cities set in place to ensure the “minimum acceptable level of safety” for a building or building-like structure (a shed or something). There are separate codes in place for residential buildings and businesses. Business codes are more strict than residential ones encompassing such things as fire safety, proper ventilation, emergency exits, and sanitation; so if you are planning on converting a part of your home to run a business out of (like a barber shop, nail salon, or dog groomers) you need to make sure that you bring your home up to the established business codes of your city/county.
On to Joey’s firstset of rapid fire questions: Probably, Depends on your definition of “contractor”, Not necessarily, and more than you think.
The explanation to those is going to be in the explanation to his final two questions:
“How big should the job be before you need one pulled?” and “If all I’m doing is having a water heater replaced or an outlet installed do I really need to have one pulled? [Of course, you’ll say yes…now explain why. I usually tell people that if there’s a problem, the blame is now shifted from the homeowner to the inspector, but I don’t know if that’s correct]”
There’s obviously no “rule of thumb” when it comes to permits because, at the end of the day, you should always look into whether or not your home improvementproject needs a permit, and you should always obtain one if it does because this is the law we are talking about and I’m not about to suggest to you guys to break the law; however, the dirty truth is that honestly a lot of times it’s more of a hassle to get one than it’s worth and a lot of people just don’t. Joey does a really good job in pointing out the two biggest culprits of this: water heaters and extra outlets.
You do need a permit if you are changing out your water heater or if you are adding an extra outlet to your wall. Usually anything that is electrical or plumbing needs one, and this is because it’s the city’s way of making sure that you are using a licensed plumber or electrician to do your job, but changing a water heater is essentially just plug in/plug out job, and adding an outlet is just splicing a wire and running it around the wall; as jobs for experienced and licensed handymen these are nothing…walks in the park. As the homeowner who is hiring these licensed professionals to work on your house you are going to assume that they are going to do it correctly and without flooding your basement (water heater) or setting your house on fire (outlet) so why go through the hassle of buying a permit? Fact of the matter is most homeowners don’t, and most handymen won’t ensure that you do.
Things brings me to my “depends on your definition of contractor” answer. A contractor is supervisor. He is the one who makes sure that the subcontractors he hires are doing the work, doing it properly, and up to code…which includes permits. On giant add-a-room-to-my-home projects most would probably hire a contractor, on changing-out-my-water-heater-but-not-really-doing-anything-else jobs, most probably wouldn’t; therefore they ARE the contractor and the manager of the project and it’s (technically) THEIR job to make sure things are up to code…which includes permits.
When hiring an electrician or plumber yourself the burden of permit proof lays on you. Your handyman won’t balk at your or not do a job you’ve hired them to do if you don’t have a permit for it, and he will probably say something to the effect of “You don’t have a permit? Well you should….but I’ll do the work anyway” to cover his bases, but, if a rival of his notices the truck in the driveway a long time and calls an inspector on you (true story!) than you, as the manager (read: “contractor”) are the one to blame. It’s also noting that when this situation does occur the city still sends out an inspector to look over your project and could very well find other bits and pieces of your project that aren’t up to code, and he very well could make you add additional jobs to your project to bring it up to code.
This brings us to the final and six million dollar question: Do I really need to have them pulled and what size project should it be?
If your project is big enough that you are hiring a contractor to manage it than you should make sure that your contractor pulls the permits. If you are somehow messing with the structure of your home, the wood, the walls, and things like that…you should pull a permit for it. And lastly if you are adding anything to your property that could expand the space you take up (like a fence, additional room, more driveway etc) you should make sure that the expansion or renovation you are doing is within your neighborhood codes.
If you are hiring a handyman yourself to quickly change something in your home, add something non-obtrusive, or simply improving the look of your home, a majority of people might not pull a permit. However keep in mind that you probably should pull a permit and the blame would be on your if anything should happen that isn’t up to code. Look into the second set of paragraphs on this website for a more complete list.
If any of you have any specific questions you want me to answer please tell me! Either here in the comments, on facebook, or the youtube channel.
Check out this article I found about a professional contracting company in Europe that got stuck with a ton of debt after a client pulled out. The thing that really gets me about this article is the numbers in it are just staggering. This company is left with 600,000 pounds (about 1.2 mil dollars give or take) of debt because their client pulled out, and that wasn’t even the biggest number quoted in that article!
“At the time of the administration, it owed unsecured trade creditors £1m and a further £869,000 to HM Revenue & Customs, with a potential shortfall of £1.6m.”
Granted this is a professional contracting company, so not your home kitchen repair guy, but it just gives you an idea at the vast amount of revenue that some of these professional companies have to deal with, and what can happen if a contractor has started a bid only to have the customer pull out.
The lesson here is that if you are hiring a contractor to so some home renovationwork make sure that you have the money for it to be done. A good way to make sure of this is save up the money for the project, and once you’re done saving put the money in Safepact.com‘s safe and secure servers so that it is out of your bank account and in a place where you know that money will stay until your project is done.
Chalk it up to laziness or just self promotion, but today’s Word of the Day Monday is another video from our Official Safepact Youtube channel that I made, this time it’s all about about contractorinsurance. Enjoy! Also please like me and feel free to write any comments!
Continuing my series posts of energy savings in your home, I am going to talk to you about how to get the most bang for your buck when it comes to household appliances. Household appliances are one of the things that you get used to when you have them, and realize how much you’ve taken them for granted when you don’t. There’s nothing worse than living comfortably with a dishwasher and a washing machine, only to move into an apartment complex that has neither and going crazy. Because of this you want to make sure that when you do have appliances to use, you use them wisely and get the right ones. I’m gonna go through appliance by appliance (the big ones at least…no toasters or blenders or anything) and let you know the best way to buy and save.
The first thing I’m going to mention is going to the be the Energy Star Appliance Label. This yellow tag is going to be attached to the pricing of every appliance that you look to buy. What this tells you is the annual cost of owning and operating that appliance, based on the amount of energy it uses. Since some appliances are always running (your fridge) or suck up a lot of energy when you do run them (washer/dryer and dishwasher) you should take this price into consideration when you’re buying. The lowest priced appliance that you can buy might save you some money initially, but if the operating costs of that appliance are much higher you could end up paying MORE for it than you would if you just bought the higher priced item right away. Keep in mind that the life of your major appliances is usually 10-12 years.
Your Fridge: Refrigerators are the biggest cost draw on your energy bill when it comes to appliances. This is obvious because this is the one that is always running. When you look at your fridge’s label look for how many Kilowatt Hours (kWh) it uses. The lower the kWh number the better because this means that it uses less energy to operate…which saves you money. Once you get a nice energy efficient model of fridge in your home the other best (and kinda obvious) way to save money after that is by not having your fridge and freezer set and the coldest setting. It’s recommended that you keep your cool area at around 35-40 degrees but, honestly, that’s pretty warm. I’m a fan of cooooooold milk so I’m not gonna hate you all if you have it closer to 35. Anything lower than that you run the risk of killing your vegetables. Your Freezer should be around 5 degrees. Invest in an appliance thermometer if you wanna be exact.
Dishwashers: With no offense to refrigerators I love me a dishwasher. I use a lot of pots and pans and nothing annoys me more than having to hand wash and dry everything because I’m lazy and nothing gets dishes clean like a dishwasher. Aside from making sure that you get your dishwasher with an Energy Star label, the best thing you can do to save money is by drying the dishes yourself vs. using the drying system that’s in the appliance. It’s probably a button or a switch that you can turn off, but what the auto-dry does is superheat the air inside of the dishwasher in order to evaporate the little drips of water still left on your dishes. The energy it takes to superheat the air can really add up over time. Try hand drying them with a towel, or air drying them by opening up your dishwasher door. You can also save money by pre-rinsing your dishes beforehand and skipping the first cycle on the machine. Lastly, to help with efficiency make sure that you fill (but not OVERfill) your dishwasher per cycle.
Washers and Dryers: This is the easiest way to save money on appliances in your home. All you need to do is never do any laundry and stick to Febreeze and you’re good! End of article.
Ok not really. The thing to remember about Washers and Dryers is that Energy Star doesn’t really do a label for these because they’re all about the same. When it comes to your washer you can save some money by using only warm water, or better yet just using cold. The hot water can be good for some things, or if you’re doing a load of white towels and you’re bleaching them, but for 90% of laundry a cold water load will do just fine. Be sure and use the correct “load” setting as well. If you are only doing a small load of laundry be sure and change the setting to small, this uses less water in the machine so you aren’t filling the entire thing up for only a little bit of clothing.
Your dryer can be more energy efficient by purchasing a new dryer with a moisture sensor. These kinds of dryers can tell how much moisture is still in the load of laundry and changes the drying time accordingly. This prevents over-drying your clothes, which is when your clothes are bone-dry but are still tumbling around and around. You can also think about air drying your clothes if you have the weather for it/the drying racks available.
For a good resource of facts, figures, and general information check out this cool pdf article about household appliances.
Home Improvement fraud is a two way street. I’ll tend to focus mainly on the times when a contractor is ripping off a homeowner, but for every homeowner who has been stolen from there is a contractor out there who is stuck with a bill because their homeowner refuses to pay them. So what’s a contractor to do? What steps can you do to lessen the chance of this happening? I’ve got 4 nice and easy things that you can focus on:
Join an organization: Joining some type of trade organization can actually do two things to help you. It can show your client that you are serious about your job because associations tend to have certain types of guidelines or requirements to join. These requirements can help because you can tell your client “I’m a part of (insert organization here) and in order to join I needed to have (insert professional guideline here).” Another thing a professional organization might have is a set legal team behind them so that in the event that your homeowner can’t (or refuses to) pay you it isn’t something you need to find yourself; you can rely on the team of lawyers that your organization has. Plus the costs of those lawyers will probably be worked into dues or fees, which will end up being cheaper than hiring one or keeping one on retainer.
Have a good contract: Having a good contract can be a good solid way of making sure your homeowner knows their rights and responsibilities. Make sure that inside of your contract you have a section that details these rights and responsibilities, and point them out to your homeowner. This way you can safeguard yourself from some of the ways a homeowner might try and stick you with the bill because you have something in your contract that is already explaining that situation.
Know your rights beforehand: If you aren’t going to join an association, or if you don’t have one in your area to join even if you wanted to, make sure that you consult with a lawyer to know your rights beforehand. You don’t necessarily have to keep a lawyer on retainer, and you don’t need to go to law school or anything, but at least set up a meeting with a lawyer (or find a friend who is one) and have them go over some laws and regulations about contracts and your local laws.
Follow up with your client: This basically means bug em death. Set up a billing period or a payment plan on your job and stick with it. This could be easier for you than for the client, but make sure that you are consistent and professional. Send bills on time, and if the payments aren’t enough or haven’t happened then send late payment notices until you’re convinced that the client will not, or can not, pay you. Give your clients a little bit of the benefit of the doubt, but by no means should you let them walk all over you.
Overall I would say that you need to have at least a little faith in your client that they do have the money to pay you, and that they actually will, when you are agreeing to do their project. However if you are worried that they might not have the funds available it’s perfectly fine to request that they use Safepact.com to ensure that the money that is owed to you actually exists and is ready to be paid.