Contractors Board Offers Tips to Prevent Disasters When Winterizing Your Home
Homeowners should "Look for the License" before hiring for winter repairs
SACRAMENTO — Many Californians make home repairs to keep the chill out of winter. Many also risk hiring the wrong person to do the work, and can find themselves left out in the cold. Homeowners can be taken advantage of by unscrupulous operators who are out to make a quick buck. These unlicensed individuals will offer a homeowner repair services at a fraction of the cost. Sometimes they will just take the money and run. They have also been known to cause thousands of dollars in property damage with their fake repairs.
It may seem like a challenge for homeowners to find a contractor, especially for an emergency job during the winter season. But, it's worth the extra time to do homework and get the right contractor. To prevent problems and scams the CSLB suggests that homeowners check a contractor's license status before hiring them. "Make sure they are who they claim to be," said CSLB Registrar, Steve Sands. "Checking a contractor's license is imperative and should be at the top of the list when looking to do home repairs. This is the best way to protect your property and avoid getting ripped-off."
The following are some things homeowners should consider when hiring a licensed contractor for winterizing their home:
- Check roofs for leaks and/or missing shingles. Ignoring needed roof repairs could cause major damage to the roof's interior when storms hit;
- Keep gutters clear of leaves and debris. Clogs or overflow in the gutters can lead to roof and overhang damage;
- Have tree branches trimmed. Overgrown branches can damage roofs or get caught in nearby power lines;
- Check out the water heater. Winter is often the time when marginally performing water heaters fail. Be ready, and don't get burned by this common winter headache;
- Having heaters inspected. Properly running heaters not only save energy, but may also prevent life-threatening gas leaks; and
- Fireplace safety. Chimneys should be cleaned and checked prior to use each season to avoid dangerous problems
Home improvement contractors who perform work on projects that cost $500 or more, including labor, must be licensed with the CSLB. Although home improvements are often associated with large jobs, they can range in size and price and include projects such as caulking and weathering windows, installing storm windows, adding rain gutters and replacing or repairing heaters and fireplaces.
"One good way to find a reputable contractor is to ask neighbors, friends and family to recommend a contractor they have hired in the past," said Sands. "Professional associations such as roofing associations can refer their members, who are often held to high professional standards, to perform home repairs."
The CSLB offers the following tips for anyone doing home improvement projects:
- Hire only licensed contractors;
- Get three references;
- Contact the CSLB at www.cslb.ca.gov to verify the contractor's license;
- Get at least three bids;
- Pay 10 percent down or $1,000, whichever is less;
- Don't pay cash;
- Don't make the final payment until you are satisfied with the job; and
- Don't rush into repairs or be pressured into making an immediate decision
The Contractors State License Board operates under the umbrella of the California Department of Consumer Affairs. The CSLB licenses and regulates California's 292,000 contractors, and investigates more than 20,000 complaints against contractors annually. In fiscal year 2004-05, the CSLB helped consumers get more than $36 million in restitution.
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