The days are growing longer, and spring weather has arrived. It must be fix-it season.
This is an annual rite for millions of Americans.
And Dickinson-Iron county area residents are no exception.
Each spring, hundreds of local folks take on remodeling projects to improve their homes and camps.
Americans spent more than $75 billion on residential remodeling each year. This investment includes do-it-yourselfers and homeowners who hire outside help for their projects.
For the most part, local remodeling experts give an honest day's work for an honest day's pay.
Nationally, it's a different story.
Except for car dealers and auto-repair shops, no other industry has lodged more complaints than the residential remodeling industry, according to the Council of the Better Business Bureaus.
Fortunately, there are ways homeowners can protect themselves from shoddy workmanship.
If the homeowner is unable to manage the job, a general contractor can maintain the work schedule, obtain work permits and resolve disputes with suppliers.
The best way to find a reliable contractor is to solicit references from friends and neighbors, and check the local ads in the newspaper.
Industry groups recommend you get a written estimate from at least three contractors, visit job sites and compare the quality of materials as well as price.
If you insist on bidding in detail, you have more assurance of getting what you expect from a very low bidder. The only reason to buy a bottom of the line product is that you can't get a favorable price on an improved version.
Keep in mind that surveys show that the lowest bidder often doesn't do the best job.
Homeowners are also urged to call the Better Business Bureau for a summary of the company's history.
Potential customers should also check license requirements. While licensing won't guarantee success, it does indicate a degree of professionalism and suggests the contractor is committed to his or her job.
According to experts, the following signs should signal a warning:
- A contractor who makes unsolicited phone calls or visits. Be especially wary of people who offer a bargain price, claiming they're doing a job in the neighborhood and have left-over materials. These are common scam tactics.
- A contractor whose address can't be verified, who uses only a post office box, or who has only an answering machine and no separate listing in the telephone book.
- High pressure sales tactics or threats to rescind a special price if you don't sign on the spot.
- A contractor who can't (or won't) provide references for similar jobs in the area, or whose license or insurance information can't be verified.
Once a contractor has been selected, make sure the contract includes:
- His or her name and address.
- License number.
- Timetable for starting and finishing the job.
- Payment schedule.
- Names of subcontractors.
- The scope of work to be done.
- Any other pertinent information.