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.