Unless you liken yourself to a modern day “Tim The Toolman” Taylor, the inner workings of your air ducts, the contents of your chimney or the quality of your roof remain somewhat of a mystery. So when a helpful contractor knocks on your door, telling you that your home is in desperate need of repair and he just happens to have some left-over materials for the job, it’s easy to believe him. Many contractors looking to make a quick profit take advantage of the fact that most people don’t know their way around a power drill or a rip saw. In fact, complaints about poor repairs or shady contracts are one of the most common reports to consumer organizations and federal agencies. Even big-time networks like HGTVand DIY have created shows dedicated solely to uncovering deceptive home repair practices.
So if you don’t find yourself wandering the aisles of Lowes or Home Depot each weekend itching for your next renovation project, if you prefer a good tailgate to power-washing your deck, then make sure to put yourself on notice for common home repair pitfalls.
Common Home Repair Mistakes
1. Air Duct Cleaning. More often than not, your home’s air ducts do not have to be cleaned. According to a report by Dateline NBC’s Chris Hansen, the EPA only suggests air duct cleaning if there is substantial, visible mold growth inside the ducts, the ducts are infested with vermin or the ducts are clogged with dust and debris that can be released into your home through air registers. Oftentimes “contractors” will use a small vacuum to stir up dust in your air ducts to give the appearance of neglected air ducts. If you think your air ducts could use attention, the best place to search for a contractor is through the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (yup, such a thing exists) for a reliable referral.
2. Chimney Inspections. Conjuring up childhood memories from Mary Poppins, we may be inclined to think all chimney sweeps are as endearing as Dick Van Dyke’s character, Bert. However, chimney cleanings and inspections are another area of home repair that are highly susceptible to deceptive practices. Experts recommend an annual inspection to check for creosote buildup (the black, sticky stuff that can cause fires) and the structural soundness of the chimney. This usually costs $100 to $250. If you see low prices, like $39.95, it’s likely someone who is either not certified or who is trying to hook you with a low initial price and will pile on more fees for “essential” services later. Hire only certified chimney sweeps who’ve been taught and tested by the Chimney Safety Institute of America.
3. Roof Replacement. Roof repairs are extremely expensive and the high price tag is especially attractive for making a quick dollar. A good roof should last homeowners 15-20 years so be wary of any contractor who suggests completely removing your roof and starting from scratch. Not only will this hefty price tag (upwards of $5,000) break the bank, it also may be completely unnecessary.
Read more about common home repair rip-offs here. Regardless of the specific type of home repair you’re seeking, not every contractor can be as trusted as Bob Vila. When selecting a contractor, be on alert for these universally applicable warning signs:
- Solicits door-to-door
- Offers you discounts if you find other customers
- Just happens to have materials left over from a previous job
- Only accepts cash payments
- Asks you to get any required building permits
- Does not list a business number in the local telephone directory
- Tells you that your job will be a “demonstration” to show potential new customers
- Pressures you for an immediate decision
- Offers exceptionally long guarantees
- Asks you to pay for the entire job upfront
- Suggests that you borrow money from a lender that the contractor knows
Your home is one of your most valuable investments. Take your time to shop around, ask friends for referrals and get multiple quotes. Feeling ripped off from your latest home repair? Share your experience with us on the blog and file a complaint with us here on Scambook.