Four Contractor Scams to Avoid

Recently while working with customers and potential customers I have encountered some of the old and a couple of new contractor scams that you need to avoid.

“Yes, I pulled a permit”. – When I am looking at a job to replace an existing structure such as a patio cover or sunroom I will ask the customer if they have a permit on it. Frequently the customer will tell me that the contractor told them he pulled the permit. When I ask to see it they have no idea where it is and never received anything from the previous contractor. This usually means that the contractor did not have an approved license or insurance or did not want to bother. If a permit is pulled it is the property of the homeowner and not the contractor. Insist on receiving your copy along with the receipts for fees paid and the job card signed by the inspector.

“I need a 50% deposit” – Unless otherwise agreed upon, California Contracting Law states that a deposit must be $1000 or 10% of the contract price – whichever is lowest. It grieves me when I hear of customers who give the contractor a large deposit and then never hear from them again.

“I will pull an owner/builder permit and you will need to sign for it”. – This is another signal that the contractor has no license, an expired license, no insurance or has been suspended by the state licensing agency. It also means that you as the homeowner will be responsible for any accidents or injuries to workers on your project.

“Insurance is the responsibility of the homeowner”. – I was amazed when recently I encountered a customer who took the time to read the small print on a proposal and they saw in small print “insurance is the responsibility of the customer”. This means that any injury to a worker or any damage to your home will be your responsibility. A licensed contractor is required to at least carry workers compensation insurance if he has any employees. It is OK to ask to see a copy of the insurance policy. Look to see that it is current and in the name of the contractor.

Hope this helps.

Thinking about solar panels for you home? Usually they are installed on the roof but sometimes there are reasons why that will not work. Lately we are getting more requests to not only build a patio cover to add outdoor living space but also to serve as a platform for solar panels.

We have a 4″ thick insulated roof panel that is our best patio cover roof but it is now becoming a popular solar panels platform. Full Shade Patio Covers.

This product is very strong. It is walkable and easy to maintain. It also qualifies for the Energy Star rebate program. The panels can be built at any length up to 20′. Each panel is 4′ wide and they connect with a tongue and groove system that is leak proof. We can built the patio cover in any width.

Engineering can be created to meet and exceed any building code to enable you to pull permits. Before beginning it is important to bring your solar contractor and patio cover contractor together to determine how the panels will be installed on the patio cover roof.

This type of project will help you not only save money on electricity but you will also shade a large portion of your home and reduce your air conditioning expense.

We frequently receive calls from people who are uncertain on how to get started with the process of planning, obtaining bids and selecting a contractor for their patio cover project.  Here are some suggestions.

1. Spend some time looking at your patio area and think about how much space you want to cover.  Look at my other blog for help with this. – Free DVD | Patio Covers that add value to your pro

2. Make some calls.  Many people look on the internet, select companies from direct mail ads or talk to a friend or neighbor who has already added a patio cover.  Be wary of companies that will not discuss your project with you on the phone and pressure you for an appointment.  Most companies will come to your home and give you a free estimate but you have every right to discuss the project briefly on the phone.

Also, think about the style of patio cover you want. Lattice, full shade, clear, insulated, etc. Your estimator will bring pictures and should have samples to show you of the various materials available.

Schedule appointments with the companies you select.  Showrooms are also excellent.  Many people want to see an installed patio cover in a nearby residence.  That can sometimes be arranged but many times people do no want strangers coming to their home.  That is why a showroom is so useful.

Remember, the low bid is not always the best bid.  Most jobs that went wrong for the homeowner have one thing in common – they were the low bid.

Examine the contract carefully and be sure that every detail is in writing and your expectations are stated clearly.  Take nothing for granted and never assume.

References are good but many times overrated.  Ask to speak with somebody in charge at the company that supplies the materials.  You can usually get more relevant information from them.

Hope this helps.

Our most popular option when building a patio cover is adding lights on the posts or in the ceiling. Sometimes the patio ceiling is too low for an overhead light fixture and recessed lighting would be perfect.  Now we can offer a new product called “Lightstrip”.

The strip is a row of recessed lights than can be inserted between the ceiling panels.  Each row is 7 1/2″ wide and be from 8′ to 20′ long depending on the size of the patio cover.  Lightstrip clean and weather resistant.  The are UL listed and can be used with our flat panFull Shade Patio Covers or insulated patio covers.

They are also a perfect lighting option for a patio enclosurePatio Enclosures.

When you plan a remodeling project for your home it is always helpful if the project will retain its value when you sell the home.  If you spend thousands of dollars you want to think that there is some return on your investment.  Obviously some jobs provide a higher return than others.  Here is a list of the top five as reported by Remodeling Magazine.

  • Steel entry door replacement.
  • Garage door replacement.
  • Wood deck addition.
  • Fiber cement siding replacement.
  • Minor kitchen remodel.

I am reporting on the values as described for the Pacific Region which includes Calif., Oregon, Washington, Alaska and Hawaii.  The percentage recouped is as follows:

  • Entry door (steel) 112%
  • Garage door 96.4%
  • Wood deck addition 86.5%
  • Siding replacement 85.6%
  • Minor kitchen remodel  84.1%.

These projects were in the cost range of $5,000 to $25,000.

It’s a new year and we have a new set of guidelines for the federal government sponsored Energy Star Rebates.  All categories have been reduced including windows, doors, water heaters, etc.

As before the rebate applies only to the cost of materials.  Labor costs do not qualify for the rebate.  Your contractor will provide the information for the materials cost and help you with the forms.  As before the rebate is in the form of a tax credit to be taken with you file you tax return.

The rebate is 10% of the cost of materials up to $500.  Not as much as before but still worth the effort.  This would apply to the 3″ insulated patio covers only.

Patio enclosures and sunrooms continue to be an excellent way to quickly add living space and at a very low cost when compared to conventional construction.  New features include:

1.)  THICKER INSULATED WALLS –  Wall systems now are up to 4″ thick with EPS foam for an R factor of R-15 or Polyiso Foam for an R factor of R-28.  No more honeycomb cores that can delaminate.  Today’s walls are solid, that is, the insulation is injected between the wall panels.  No gaps or air pockets.

2.)  EXTRUDED ALUMINUM FRAMING MEMBERS – Factory finished with lifetime warranties, these extrusions come in colors and will last a lifetime.

3.)  WINDOW SELECTIONS – Windows are sliding with removeable screens and locks.  The standard window is tempered glass but there are many options.  Dual-Pane glass for insulation from noise and weather conditions.  Energy saving Low E glass is available as well as Solex tinted.  A vinyl window system with dual-pane glass and Argon gas  is also available.

You can also dress up your sunroom or patio enclosurewith dual-pane glass windows with grids for a french window and door look. Transom glass can be added above or below your widows.  This look provides more light and “opens” the room for a more spacious feel.

Recently I received plans to bid on a small overhead hanger rod canopy over a loading dock. The canopy was only about 90 sq.ft.  The engineer specified using Verco steel roof decking with puddle and button punch welds, structural steel framing and custom hanger rods.  These are the type of specifications to be used on very, very large canopies but not this job.  The canopy has to be fabricated by a structural steel contractor, the steel has to be primed and painted, there is on site welding, and  installation would take several days.

By using a pre-engineered and pre-fabricated canopy the cost of this job could have been reduced by at least 50%.  Aluminum hanger rod canopies can span up to 16′.  They include gutters, factory applied finish and can usually be installed in one or two days.  They are custom engineered to meet local building codes.

These benefits are also available with freestanding or attached metal canopies.  It seems that the challenge is to get engineers who design these jobs to recognize the benefits of pre-engineered and pre-fabricated canopies.

The benefits are lower cost and faster installation.

Untitled1_0004_005.JPGEXAMPLE 1. If you are having interlocking pavers installed and you intend to add a patio cover, you will need to have concrete footings installed below the pavers. Why not select your patio cover contractor before you start the project? He can meet with your landscape contractor and spot the location and size of the footings. You will save money and avoid the cost and mess of pulling up the new pavers so the footings can be dug out and poured.

EXAMPLE 2. Frequently we come to a home with a new concrete slab and the contractor has embedded steel straps for wood patio cover posts. The new aluminum patio covers can be surface mounted on a slab. This type of installation meets and exceeds all building codes. You will save the expense of the installation of the steel straps and the expense of having them removed.

EXAMPLE 3. This is the most common mistake, creates the most problems and is the easiest to avoid. The mistake is waiting until the landscape project is completed or nearly completed before bringing in your patio cover contractor. Not only do you need to learn about the new maintenance free materials but you need to incorporate your patio cover design into your landscape design. Before any work begins select your contractor and the style of patio cover you want and make sure your landscape contractor is in the loop.