Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Ten Biggest Mistakes Homeowners Make When Hiring A Home Remodeling Contractor

A successful home remodeling or building project is dependent upon finding an ethical, reliable, competent and experienced contractor. The responsibility of hiring an ethical and experienced contractor falls on the homeowner. Doing the necessary research and background checks on the potential contractor is key to finding that contractor and avoiding an encounter with the contractor from hell. Unfortunately, many homeowners simply don’t bother with thoroughly vetting their contractor and end up in a nightmare they never imagined. As a consumer advocate for homeowners over the last 8 years I’ve identified the ten biggest mistakes homeowners make when they begin their search for a contractor.

The Homeowner:
1. Doesn’t bother to check the remodeling or building contractor’s license status at all, if just to verify that he/she has one and that it is in good standing. Checking the license is a necessary formality but it does not guarantee a favorable outcome. (Not all States require licensing)

2. Assumes that just because a building contractor is licensed in his/her state that they will be ethical, will abide by the contractors laws in their state and perform quality work that meets industry standards. Many homeowners stop here without doing further background checks on the contractor.

3. Doesn’t thoroughly interview the contractor, asking key questions about job performance, employees or subcontractors and material suppliers he uses, projects he has done similar to yours and how he handles problems when they come up – because they will come up.

4. Has an uncomfortable “gut” feeling about the contractor but ignores it and hires him/her anyways because they want to get going with their project.

5. Does not verify if the contractor maintains a permanent physical business address – not a PO Box or Postal Annex type address with a suite number – a mailing address, published phone number, fax, and cell phone or voice messaging system.

6. Doesn’t verify that the contractor has all the necessary insurance coverage – Surety Bond that is active; Workman’s Compensation Insurance if there are employees; and General Liability Insurance by contacting the companies to confirm coverage.

7. Signs a construction contract they don’t thoroughly understand and has little detail with regards to the scope of work to be done, materials used with brand names you chose included.

8. Assumes the oral agreements made when discussing the project will be part of the work performed when in fact they don’t make it into the contract and when later the homeowner questions the contractor about it, it becomes a “change order”. And the law is on the contractor’s side; anything not in the contract is considered to be a change order.

9. Gives the contractor a large sum of money up front to begin the project. Every State has specific laws relating to the amount of money the contractor can legally ask for to begin the project.

10. Hires the remodeling or building contractor based on trust alone. Trust is something that is earned. If the homeowners did their homework and background checks on the contractor, they will come to trust their contractor based on his performance, behavior, professionalism and knowledge.


Friday, August 24, 2012

Pre-Loss Condition is the Number One Cause For Dispute

Tropical Storm Issac could make landfall in South Florida in a few days as a category 1 hurricane. While it will probably not be a Katrina we are reminded to be prepared. As you are digging up your shutters from under the piles of junk in the garage and stockpiling supplies don't forget to protect yourself in case you need your insurance coverage.

1. Find your policy and make sure its in effect.

2. Program into your phone or email yourself the policy number and claims phone number.

3. Documenting the condition of your house is critical Pre-loss condition is the number one cause for dispute between insurance companies and property owners following a loss.
Documenting what you have and what condition its in before the loss is more important then after! Please take the time to photograph or video tape your property before the storm. Use video or photo to take pictures of all the surfaces in your home including walls floors and ceilings, do the same for contents. Take pictures of the exterior of your home and roof, doors windows and any special features. Lastly, scan all documents you have from recent renovations or purchases. Take the video, pictures and files and store them on the web. You can email them to yourself or use free cloud services such as Dropbox or similar.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Smog Eating Tiles Could Reduce Pollution

The American Lung Association's 2011 State of the Air Report states more than 154 million people in the U.S. suffer from pollution levels that often are too dangerous to breathe. Additionally, the World Health Organization recently estimated 2.4 million people worldwide die annually from causes directly attributed to air pollution.

Smog can cause various health conditions, including premature births, infant deaths, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, allergies, asthma, lower lung function, premature death, lung cancer, heart disease and heart attacks.

A method has emerged that involves using titanium dioxide in roof tiles to reduce pollution and its effects. Titanium dioxide's depolluting capabilities reportedly have been successful in previous uses.

The Photocatalytic Innovative Coverings Applications for Depollution Assessment (PICADA) Project, which was conducted by a consortium of leading European contractors, manufacturers and research centers, demonstrates titanium dioxide's capabilities as a key ingredient in coatings to reduce pollution caused by nitrogen oxide and volatile organic compounds—the key ingredients of smog.

"In the studies conducted in Europe, where they actually applied titanium dioxide to roadways, the air was measurably cleaner," says Michael Chusid, president of Chusid Associates, Tarzana, Calif., a marketing and technical consultancy on building products. "It works."

Often formed in industrial processes and automobiles, nitrogen oxide is found in high concentrations in metropolitan regions where freeways are common. When activated by sunlight, smog-eating tile reportedly converts nitrogen oxide into calcium nitrates, which later are washed off the roof with rain and act as a ground soil fertilizer. According to studies conducted in Los Angeles by the Environmental Protection Agency, during one year, 2,000 square feet of smog-eating tiles can destroy about the same amount of nitrogen oxide that a car produces after being driven 10,800 miles.

Boral Roofing, a division of Boral USA, Roswell, Ga., has produced BoralPure Smog-Eating Tile, which employs the titanium dioxide method. Popular Mechanics magazine recently awarded Boral Roofing's concrete roof tile as its breakthrough product of the year.

According to Boral Roofing, titanium dioxide is a proven depollutant that occurs naturally and is safe for humans. The compound commonly is found in a number of items we interact with daily, such as paints, cosmetics, toothpaste and white roof membranes. It also is being used in hospitals on operating room walls for sterilization purposes.

"It is a stay-clean technology that can break down organic substances that commonly accumulate on roof surfaces," according to John Renowden, Boral Roofing's vice president of product development. "Substances such as mold and algae are destroyed when ultraviolet light hits the roof surface. The visible organic materials on the roof then become transparent, maintaining the appearance of the structure."

According to the Steep-slope Assembly Testing of Clay and Concrete Tile by Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tenn., concrete tiles are an energy-efficient solution that helps homeowners achieve up to 22 percent in energy costs. Concrete tiles are made from locally sourced raw mineral materials—a mixture of sand, water and cement—and reportedly have the inherent energy benefits of high thermal mass, emissivity, reflectivity and an insulating air space between the tile and deck.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

When is it Time to Replace Your Roof?

Missing Granules.  It’s normal to have some granules dislodge from the shingles and collect in the gutters, especially when the roof is new. However, if granules are missing on the surface of the shingle, exposing the asphalt or fiberglass mat below, it can decrease the life of your roof. On aging shingles, areas of missing granules indicate it might be time to replace the roof.
BucklingA number of factors can cause shingles to buckle: improperly applied felt, wrinkled underlayment, poor roof ventilation or new shingles applied over an existing layer of shingles. If buckling is caused by wrinkled felt below the shingle, a roofing professional can simply remove the affected shingles, cut the wrinkle and replace the shingles. If the cause is poor ventilation, you’ll need to add ventilation to the attic space to allow heat and moisture to escape and keep attic temperatures lower.
If buckling shingles are left untreated, the shingles will begin to crack and tear and will need to be replaced immediately to avoid significant damage to the roof or roof deck which can lead to leaks and rotting. Consult a roofing professional for this job. If your roof has more than one layer of shingles, the top layer will eventually conform to and reveal any imperfections of the layer below. The only solution is a complete tear-off and re-roof.
Curling.  Curled edges on shingles can be a result of improper fastening (such as high nails or too few nails), poor roof ventilation or lack of a back-coating on the shingles. Curling is more common in organic shingles such as wood and will often start at the bottom edge of the shingle. However, it’s important to note that if roofing is installed on a cold day, some temporary curling or cupping is natural. As soon as the temperature increases the shingles should lay flat. If the problem persists, contact a roofing professional as soon as possible to avoid further damage to the roof.
Rotting.  Rotting is caused when the mat at the core of the shingle absorbs moisture. Rotting is more common when the mat is made from organic compounds. Replace rotted shingles with ones made from non-organic compounds, such as fiberglass, which resist moisture and are less likely to rot.
Detecting the warning signs of a rotting roof is easier than you’d think and doesn’t require a roofing expert. By simply standing on the ground and looking up at the roof, look for shingle irregularities. Depending upon the roof, these irregularities appear as discoloration, black spots or large spaces of missing color granules. Because granules protect the shingle from the harmful affects of UV light, without granules the asphalt is exposed to the elements and will turn black and begin to rot.
Blistering.  Blisters are sometimes found in non-organic shingles and are caused by trapped moisture in the shingle. Not all blistered shingles need to be replaced. But, if blistered shingles break open they can leave shingles susceptible to other damage such as granule loss, color fading and may even lead to water leakage and should be replaced. While blistering shingles are rarely visible from the ground, a punctured blistered shingle will be easily spotted because it will likely appear to have black spots – which are actually the exposed asphalt shingle.
Ceiling Spots.  Stains on your indoor ceilings may be caused by a leaking roof. Check your attic to find the source of the leak, and examine the rafters for leaks that travel away from the original source. On the exterior, check the chimney and vents for cracks in the flashing. Also, look for damaged shingles and check the eaves for ice dams that cause water to back up. It is advisable to have a roofing professional who is safely harnessed to the home, conducting checks on these key areas. 
Roofs with wood shake shingles present additional challenges. Like shingles, shakes can experience many of the same problems mentioned above and it may be time for a roof replacement. Other problems to watch for with wood shake shingles include:
Moss/Algae growth.  On a shingle roof, algae growth is unsightly but doesn’t affect the service life of the roof. With wood shake shingles, algae can reduce the long-term performance of the roof. Moss and algae growth are most coming - in damp or humid climates or on shaded areas of the roof. Replace damaged shakes with moss/algae resistant ones.
Splitting.  Splitting can be the result of natural aging or caused by stress, such as walking on the roof. The condition is aggravated by water infiltration in wood, cement tile or fiber?reinforced cement shakes and is compounded in damp climates with repeated freezing and thawing. Small cracks can be caulked, but larger ones required the damaged shakes to be replaced.
Termite damage.  Wooden shakes provide sustenance for termites. To exterminate termites, the home must be tented and fumigated. After the termites are gone, replace the affected shakes with new ones.
If it is time for your to get a quote:

How to Avoid Storm Chasers and Scam Artists

Roofing scams are not entirely uncommon, and are more frequent after a high wind or hail storm where communities receive significant roof damage. Particularly at risk are the elderly and handicapped who may have more trouble assessing the damage themselves. That means it is important to get background checks on your roofing contractors, to see if they are legitimate contractors as well as to assess the quality of their work.

Roof Scam Examples

Roof scams are usually initiated by a ’salesmen’ going door to door offering to do roofing repair for a low price. He may even say the crew has leftover material from a nearby job they just finished allowing them to pass some savings on to the next customer. The ’contractor’ will typically ask for cash up front, and will not leave legitimate contact information, references, or even show a business license. The roof will be sloppily finished or left unfinished as the person or crew leaves before the homeowner realizes what has happened leaving the victim with little or nothing to go on.

How to Avoid Being taken in a Roof Scam

Warning Signs:
  • You are being pressured to hire the company because of a great price that is a "limited time offer". Particularly if there has been wide spread damage in your area you should be wary of someone pushing a cheap rate.
  • You are asked to pay for a significant percentage or all of the job in advance.
  • The roofers are not from your local area. Storm chasers (Travelers) will follow the most recent damage looking to make some quick money with the opportunity brought by hail and thunderstorm damage, etc...
Tips to avoid being scammed:
  • Never agree to pay cash up front before the job is completed. This should be a strong indicator off the get go as legitimate contractors will not usually ask for cash up front.
  • Be sure to ask for references, and check to make sure they have their contractor license and insurance up to date.
  • Call the Better Business Bureau for your area (or the area of the company) to check if there have been any complaints against them.
  • Request a written contract with the details of the work to be done as well as the agreed price.
  • Always get a phone number and an address for the roofing ’company’ they represent. Call and/or visit the company to confirm that they do exist and employ the person you have talked to.
Lastly, remember that a scam will usually involve the work to be done immediately since the con man doesn't want to give you extra time to discover what they are. If the salesperson insists on starting the job as soon as possible be sure that you have checked the company out thoroughly before handing over money.

There is a website that will do the research for you and save you the time and hassle...


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Avoid Paying for Your Roof Twice!

Be careful not to be exposed to possibly paying for your roofing materials twice!

Each state has it's own version of a mechanics and materialmen lien law. These laws allow a contractor or material provider to lay claim of lien on your property if labor and materials are not paid for!

To prevent this potential problem -- ALWAYS require your contractor to present you with a Final Wiaver of Lien from both himself and any material supplier that delivered goods to your roofing project. Do not accept any excuses or believe that these documents "are not needed". Doing so can put yourself in a position of having to pay twice for your roofing project. This is an area of construction law that many property owners are unfamiliar with.

Specific State laws can found here: