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Tue, Oct. 15

Unlicensed contractors leave customers high and dry (or broke and wet)

In response to a recent column, the Yavapai County Contractors Association received many calls from local residents who hired contractors that turned out to be unlicensed. In one case, the resident hired a painting contractor who quoted a verbal price for the work. The resident told him to proceed and paid him for the original work quoted for $1,800. The contractor was then asked to do extra work, presented a price, and was told to proceed. After the job was completed, the bill was presented, and the additional work quote of $500 had escalated to $1,200. That was a red flag for the owner, who called YCCA to ask if it is normal for change orders and additional work to be inflated so much. YCCA discovered that this contractor was unlicensed and unbonded and, more than likely, uninsured. It was as if the "contractor" felt he had developed trust and attempted to pad his pockets.

We made suggestions to the owner as to what steps to take. The owner later called back to gratefully report a positive outcome: the contractor agreed to honor the original quote. Only time will tell if the paint stays on the exterior of the home and does not wash off with the next major, rain or grow fainter in color. There was no paint left with the homeowner indicating the brand and type of paint. For all this homeowner knows, the paint could have been diluted with water with a little color added. This owner is without protection from the Registrar of Contractors.

Another unfortunate example of an unethical unlicensed contractor involved a roof replacement. Unbeknown to the owner, the "contractor" did severe damage to the roof, which started to leak during our recent rains. The owner tried calling the contractor after major leaks started appearing in the home and got no answer. This unlicensed contractor took the money ($17,500) and ran, ran, ran. After major roof repairs, drywall repairs and paint repairs, the owner paid an additional $9,500 for repair of the damages.

We cannot stress the importance of using licensed contractors. Call YCCA with your questions. Let us help and guide you through your construction process and eliminate any surprises that can potentially be a monetary loss to you.

Here is an abbreviated checklist of what you need to do when hiring a contractor: Make sure your contractor is licensed. Ask for references. Obtain a minimum of three detailed bids. Obtain a written contract. Make sure you understand the terms of the contract prior to signing. Be cautious of advancing money for work not yet completed. And it is critical that you obtain a construction change order, a very important form and part of the construction agreement, to prevent adversarial relationships. It is extremely important when you enter into a bid with a contractor to be sure the bid spells out all services and materials to be provided. If problems arise during the process or if the client changes his mind and wants to upgrade or remove an item, a change order must be executed. The change order is your protection for the new plan, new products, new services, and/or deductions of the same. The change order becomes a valid contract which the contractor and owner must agree to and abide by. A change order is protection for both parties and prevents any misunderstandings at a later date. Failure to write up change orders and sign change orders can be costly for all involved.

Q: How can you tell when it is time to replace windows?-Martha and Craig, Dewey-Humboldt

A: The first and most unmistakable sign is telltale condensation that appears on the glass when it is humid outdoors and the inside of your home is cool and comfortable. Water condensation droplets on your glass window usually mean that the window's interior seal has failed, and this causes your home air conditioner to work extra-hard. Inevitably, all double-paned windows will fail at some time. This happens because of deterioration caused from heat, sun, power-washing and use of chemicals to clean the windows.

If you happen to have a window in your home with moisture issues, and all of the windows were installed at the same time, it is quite possible that all windows have failed and you should look at replacement or replacing the thermal pane window unit.

All window frames have desiccants installed, and this a product used for moisture-free areas, which are able to extract water from the window frame. Desiccants are similar to the little bags of crystals that are found inside of vitamin bottles, handbags, and shoe boxes and will last approximately five to 10 years. If you have windows that have white streaks on them, this is caused by the desiccants staining the window because of air space in your window panes being heated from the outside and cooling from the inside and the air expanding. These white streaks are pitted into the glass and cannot be removed. If you have aluminum windows, a local glass company can replace the glass. Wooden windows should have a wooden window expert called in to address those issues. Wooden windows are very tricky.

Another way to tell if you need to replace windows is to wave a lighted candle around the edges of your windows. If the flame flickers, it is a sign that the widow is drafty and that means that cool air is escaping from your home and hot air is entering your home.

If you have to struggle and tussle and make great effort in opening and closing your windows, then maybe it is time to investigate new windows.

Can you hear too much outdoor noise when you are inside your home? Then possibly new windows with dual pane glass and energy-efficient air space will help deaden the noise.

Can you see daylight around the perimeter of the windows? That is a sign of broken seals.

Do you have to scrape and caulk and paint your wood windows? Then maybe it is time to replace with a more user-friendly window frame product.

And, if you are planning to sell your home, low-maintenance, energy-efficient windows can be a selling point, and they can certainly make your home more attractive and energy-efficient.

Yavapai County Contractors Association (YCCA) is a professional association representing licensed, bonded and insured contractors, suppliers, distributors and business entities. YCCA is your local resource for all of your construction, building, sustainability and basic technology needs. Don't start without us!

YCCA is pleased to answer your questions and assist you in obtaining information from local reliable companies and business owners. Call YCCA for more information on hiring a contractor at 778-0040. Submit questions and concerns to ycca@cableone.net or through www.ycca.org and watch for your answer in the Friday real estate section of the Daily Courier.

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