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Proper Caulking

Proper caulking is vital to window installation success. Even if you carefully follow every other aspect of proper installation, a poor caulk job or the wrong choice in caulking product could yield disastrous results. Caulking is also important for effective window insulation –for both warm and cold months of the year.

To avoid mistakes that could prove costly, note the following important tips:

  • When gaps between the window frame and wall surface exceed 7/8 of an inch, use solid fill strips to make gaps narrower before caulking. Likewise, when the depth of gap is deep, use foam backer rod or another type backup material to partially fill the cavity before caulking.
  • When caulking, install the product to the proper depth using a continuous bead, free from voids. Beads should be about as half as deep as they are wide, and bead depth should never exceed bead width.
  • Before caulking, carefully rid the area of any old caulk, dirt, oily substances, moisture, and any other debris which would prevent the caulk from properly adhering.
  • Follow the window manufacturer’s recommendations when selecting caulk; a waterproof product made specifically for exterior use.
  • Caulk formulas made using polysulfide, polyurethane, and silicone provide the best seal for window installation and will adhere well to most materials while still remaining flexible. This is especially important for the top of the retrofit unit to prevent damage to the frame should the header flex or sag.
  • The wrong type caulk on vinyl window frames could not only compromise the seal and stain frame fins, but cause severe damage to the frame, as well. In some instances, dissolving the vinyl. Use only caulk formulas recommended by the window manufacturer.
  • If you plan on painting the exterior of the new window frame, make sure the caulk you use can also be painted, or that the color caulk will be compatible with surrounding materials.
  • Pick a day to install the new window when temperature is mild, and within the range required by the caulk used for a successful seal. Note: changing temperatures cause joints to expand and contract. Applied on too-hot surfaces can cause caulk to tear once substrates contract in the winter. Applied in too-cold weather can cause caulk to become over compressed by substrate expansion during summer.

Proper Caulking

Next, be sure and caulk in all the right places, otherwise the window will leak:

  • Finned windows should be caulked around the entire fin perimeter.
  • Caulk corners of mechanically joined frames and other joints where leakage could occur.
  • Caulk any wood strips installed to fill gaps left where siding was removed – except when finishing trim has been installed over shim strips. In such instances a neat bead around the edges suffices and will look more professional.
  • Caulk the gap between the window frame and the opening of boxframe windows using one continuous bead, free of bubbles.
  • Caulk gaps between the edge of the siding and rough opening. However, never caulk weep holes in the sill jamb; these are important for condensate drainage.

Remember, improper caulking procedures compromise the entire window installation process and leave your home vulnerable to unnecessary energy loss. A seal that does not adhere properly will not be weather tight, and can result in moisture penetration and water damage. The area around the window frame will not be well insulated, resulting in less effective internal heating/cooling efforts.

Be found. Be Seen. Connect with New Customers

Connect with new customers and grow your business faster and cheaper

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HandyAmerican.com is consumers one-stop resource for finding local contractors, articles and advice. Making it possible for you to increase monthly revenues without costly advertising.

Why not join today and start receiving phone calls and emails from consumers in your area looking for qualified service professionals for their home improvement jobs, new construction or remodeling projects. Stop missing out on revenues that could help push your business to the top. Use our system as a platform to network with fellow contractors, and take on some of those larger projects; increase your visibility in your community, and make your credentials glow!.

Be found. Be Seen. Connect with New Customers

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Help local customers find you the moment they’re ready to begin their project. With our easy-to-use profile manager, you can make sure your company information is fresh and accurate. With our system, it’s easy to edit your company information. With just a few keystrokes, you can help attract customers who might never find you otherwise.

By providing a digital platform for ease of communication and commerce, HandyAmerican.com benefits both project owner and contractor. Providing an efficient, low-cost solution for successful business partnering and smooth-sailing project development.

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HandyAmerican.com is quickly becoming an online leader by offering the most advanced and easy to use tools and features to help contractors connect with consumers for residential and commercial project owners.

Contractors Enjoy High Visibility

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By using Handy American online services you advertise your company’s services directly to the people who need them. Regardless if you are a general contractor, roofing contractor, a plumbing service contractor, or custom home builder. Sign up with Handy American and begin utilizing our online homeowner/business owner-to-contractor member directory and matchmaking services today.

Once you become a member, your business is added to our contractor directory, where consumers search daily for service providers just like you to complete their projects.

Use the profile page to feature your business and flaunt your credentials. Highlight testimonies from satisfied clients on your client review pages, and showcase your best projects and professional staff in your own photo gallery.

Use our system to network with other contractors, and land some of those large commercial projects. Increase visibility, and watch your company grow!

If you offer any of the following services then HandyAmerican.com is the right solution for your organization.


How To Find And Hire Good Plumbers

Be it a leaky faucet or a broken water line that has water pooling around your ankles, no homeowner enjoys a plumbing emergency and the thought of having to hire a plumber to repair whatever’s gone wrong can be just as revolting for some homeowners. True enough finding reliable plumbers can be a bit of challenge but it doesn’t have to be as bad as some of the horror stories you read out there. Read on to learn how to pre-qualify plumbers and how to ensure the plumber you hire for your repair job is a well-qualified plumber at a competitive price.

Finding Plumbers in Your Area

Before you start looking for plumbers it’s important to recognize that there are two types of plumbers. There are plumbers who handle basic repairs and plumbers who specialize in the installation of plumbing systems typically in brand new homes or remodeling projects. Before you start your search for a plumber make sure you’re looking for the right kind…

Obviously a good place to start is by asking your friends, family and work acquaintances. If they’ve had recent plumbing work done there’s a good chance they have a good idea about how their plumber worked and how competitively priced he was. While this is great information, there’s still some work that needs to be done if you want a god plumber at a good price. In order to get a good plumber at a good price, you’ll have to review and compare several bids from several plumbers. So while a referral from a close friend is great you should still want to see at least a couple of more bids so you can assure yourself that the plumber you end up hiring isn’t overcharging you.

How To Find And Hire Good Plumbers

To find more local plumbers in your area you can check out local home improvement stores and major plumbing materials suppliers in your area. Real estate agents can also be a good source for plumbers as they often use plumbers to make repairs on homes they are getting ready to put on the market. To round out your list you can use the Handy American contractor directory for several well-qualified plumbing professionals in your area.

At Handy American we recommend beginning with a list of at least 3-5 plumbers. We also recommend that you pre-qualify the plumbers prior to having them bid on your project. The pre-qualification process we recommend isn’t terribly intensive but it will eliminate a lot of the bad plumbers you don’t want to work with.

How To Screen And Pre-Qualify Plumbers

The key to pre-qualifying plumbers prior to having them bid is to ensure that you’re looking at comparable bids when you get to that stage of the process. There’s no point in reviewing several bids if you don’t pre-qualify the plumbers because you’ll end up comparing bids from low-quality plumbers with bids from higher quality pros that have several years in the business and who will inevitably produce estimates that are higher. That’s why it’s a good idea to pre-qualify the plumbers and ensure that they’re all of the same caliber and quality if you plan on reviewing and comparing several bids. This way you’re comparing “apples to apples” and you can focus on hiring the best plumber at the most competitive price.

One of the first things we recommend doing is checking for a license. You can easily check for a license online by doing a search for your state’s licensing board. When you get to the web page for your state’s licensing board just look for the link that says “check a license”. All you’ll need to check to see if a plumber has a license or not is the plumber’s name, business name or his license number. To obtain a state license a plumber will have to undergo a background test, the plumber will be finger printed and will also take a basic plumbing competency test so checking for a state license is a good place to start.

Once you’ve checked for a license we think it’s a good idea to look for existing reviews and feedback online. The easiest way to do this is by doing a Google search for the plumber’s name or business name. In the results you want to look for websites that provide feedback or reviews from past clients. If you don’t have any luck finding any reviews in the search engine results, you can also do searches on websites like citysearch.com, yelp.com and insiderpages.com. However, it’s best to stick with a website like Handy American that validates all of its user reviews prior to posting them online because not all websites that post reviews online validate them for authenticity. So although we recommend you look for feedback and reviews online, be aware that all of the reviews you see may not all be from reputable, or even real for that matter, users.

It’s also a good idea to check for some basics. Ideally you’ll want to hire a plumber that has been in business for a long time in the same community but at the very least you should look for a plumber that has a permanent address and place of business in the community as well as a local phone number. A plumber who has been in business for a while in your community is a good sign of a stable plumber who knows how to work with his customers.

It doesn’t sound like much but these are the types of things that you can check prior to having a plumber come in and bid on your project that will ultimately increase your chances of finding and hiring a good plumber. The purpose of the previous exercises is to eliminate some of the “bad apples” that could skew your bidding process. Once you’ve put together a list of 3-5 plumbers that don’t have any glaring red flags calling for your attention, it’s time to start getting some bids on your project.

Getting Bids On Your Project

Before you call any plumbers in to bid on your project you’ll want to make sure that they won’t charge you for the visit. Some plumbers charge per service call so you want to make sure you ask them about that prior to asking them to come out and give you a bid on your project. (If there’s a plumber on your list who you really want to see a bid from but he bills for every service call you may want to see if he’ll give you an estimate for the job over the phone.) Once you get that out of the way you can proceed to having at least 3 plumbers come out to bid on your project. The more bids you see and compare the better your chances are for finding a good plumber at a decent price.

When you have the plumbers come over to bid on your project make sure to ask them about references. Past client references are the best way to try and foretell how a plumber will do on your home repair job. Any good plumber should have at least a few references for you to look at. When you get the references make sure you call them and have a list of questions prepared.

Along with checking references you’ll probably also want to look for existing complaints from unsatisfied customers. You can check with organizations like the Better Business Bureau, your state’s Licensing Board and on websites like ripoffreport.com. Angry homeowners will typically turn to your state’s Licensing Board and to the Better Business Bureau first so those are great places to start.

Something else you should check for is insurance. General Liability insurance is a must for any contractor working on your home to cover and protect you against any damage caused by the contractor. And Worker’s Compensation is also a must if the plumber will have any employees working for him on your job. Worker’s Compensation will protect you in the event of any injuries or accidents that occur on your property.

The last step in the bidding process is to make sure that you get a written estimate for the work from the plumber. Generally speaking plumbers will either bill you by the hour or for the job. In either case it’s a good idea to get a written estimate from the plumber on how much he believes the project will ultimately end up costing you.

If you are hiring a plumber for a repair project you should also inquire about any warranties or guarantees on materials or workmanship. For a repair job there usually should be some type of guarantee on the work performed and you’ll definitely want to specify a length of time with the plumber. The last thing you want to do is pay for a repair job twice…

Your goal at this point should be to have several well-qualified plumbers that are all making it hard for you to make a decision. This is exactly the position you want to be in when you first set out to find and hire a good plumber. If you’ve done your job pre-qualifying the plumbers then this is the time when you can and should look at things like price and warranties/guarantees because all of the plumbers that have made it this far have proven that they are well-qualified and reputable plumbers.

7 Cheap and Green Landscaping Tips

Landscaping TipsLike home building, landscaping encompasses many skills, each of which is subject to changes from year to year. Flowers are an example of this where certain species are in vogue one year and then another takes center stage the next. Landscaping designs and practices also change because our yards are really micro-climate areas and ecosystem dynamics that require individual attention.

However, one of the biggest trends that seemed to be sticking is the move toward “green” landscaping. This may seem like an oxymoron but many landscaping principles are not self-sustaining and have to be repeated year after year in order for the landscape to flourish. A water-dependent lawn that requires chemical fertilizers for its survival is an example of unsustainable landscaping which costs the homeowner hundreds per year in upkeep/

The good news is that you don’t have to spend a fortune on being “green” in your own yard. There are many steps you can take to have a beautiful garden at a fraction of the cost of what you may be spending now.

1. Composting

A lot has been written about the dangers of pesticides and chemical fertilizers leaching into water supplies but many people also get sick from the airborne dust and spray from these compounds. The first real alarm went off when Rachel Carson wrote “The Silent Spring” and this led to the ban of DDT pesticide from commercial crops.

There are many environmentally-friendly products on the market for fertilizing but anything that comes in a bag will cost money. Composting, however, costs nothing and can rid you yard of leaves, vegetable matter and grass clippings. By simply following a composting plan you can let the microorganisms bacteria and worms make your fertilizer for you.

2. Inexpensive Perennials

Every spring there is a multitude of sales of perennials in church halls and in flea markets. These come from all over the spectrum of plant life and have be grown from clippings and rooted. As well, they are extremely cheap. This is a great way to included some amazing color and variety to your garden without spending big nursery dollars.

3. Start Your Flowers and Tomatoes

Again, nurseries charge you for sticking seeds into a pot and adding water. Do it yourself. Buy the seeds and get them ready to go out after the last frost. By then they will be almost ready to bloom.

4. Keep your Pots

When you do feel the need to buy potted flowers keep the little plastic or peat pots they come in for next year’s crop of flowers.

5. Natural Plants

In an effort to save water many homeowners are looking at the wild plant life that was around thousands of years before the settlers brought in their own varieties. Grasses and plants like wild onion have a subtle color of their own and will in perfectly with the rest of the yard. Look around and speak with a garden curator about where to find these gems.

6. Bird Houses, Bat Houses and Feeders

If you want to lounge on your patio at night but don’t want to be mosquito food you can go out and buy a propane-powered mosquito killer for a hundred dollars or more and keep filling the tank with expensive propane. Or you can attract birds.

Sparrows and other varieties love snacking on caterpillars and other insects who would make a meal of your plants. In addition, good bugs like ladybugs feed on aphids and other small insects which harm plants. They so god at what they do that The Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, releases thousands of them into its indoor gardens for pest control.

A mature swallow eats its weight in insects a day while bats will eat as many of these bloodsuckers, plus moths and beetles. You can purchase these domiciles for around $20 or build your own out of materials from around the home. The internet has dozens of bird and bat house building plans.

7. Rain Cistern

Many homeowners watch every rainfall without thinking about the availability of free water for their garden long after the rains have stopped. This is especially true in areas where water is at a premium and water for gardens becomes scarce in hottest months.

Here is an amazing statistic: A 1-inch level of rainfall on 1,000 square feet of roof with eaves and a downspout produces 600 gallons of water. With a rain cistern system you can get free water for the whole season. And if you can get rain barrels and more containers for cheap from a flea market or free from other sources you are ahead of the game. But even buying them will save you money in the first year, money that would have spent buying water from the utility company.

Top 10 Carpet Care Myths

New carpet is a major investment for any new construction or existing home. Most homeowners have several misconceptions about carpet cleaning and general carpet care, but the truth may be nothing short of amazing.

Here are ten common myths dispelled, to help homeowners achieve a higher level of proper carpet care maintenance, sure to add many years of durability and appearance to their investment.

Myth #1: I can Save Money Buying Inexpensive Carpet

This is the first mistake most homeowners make when selecting new carpet for their home. While savings offered by choosing cheap carpet from a discount carpet dealer may be attractive, it really is not a good investment.

Discount carpet is made with less durable carpet fiber in the pile such as olefin, which has a very low wear resistance. In addition, bentonite, a type of clay filler, is used in the latex backing. In only months an unsightly high traffic area can become visible, causing permanent and irreversible damage.

Mid to upper price range carpets with nylon fiber and stout latex backing will render the best wear resistance, and will remain attractive even after 20 or 30 years. Most interior design experts are privy to these facts, and will recommend only the best quality carpet.

Myth #2: I can Save Money Using Inexpensive Pad

This is another costly mistake homeowners make by trying to save on carpet installation expense. When an inexpensive carpet pad under the carpet breaks down, the carpet becomes prematurely worn and damaged. Not a good scenario, especially if it is top price carpet. Better to purchase good quality carpet pad, instead.

Top 10 Carpet Care Myths

Myth #3: My Carpet is Only 1 or 2 Years Old, so it Doesn’t Need Cleaning

This is one of the most common and costly misconceptions about carpet care. Almost every homeowner is under the false assumption that new carpet doesn’t require cleaning until it looks dirty. Unfortunately, by the time the soil is visible, much damage has already been done to the carpet.

It is the soil you cannot see that causes the most damage; tiny microscopic pieces of dirt and soil that destroy the protective fiber coating and break the fiber down. The fuzz in your vacuum bag or canister is your carpet going out the door, one clump at a time.

Myth #4: I Don’t Need Professional Carpet Cleaning; I Have my Own Machine

Many homeowners purchase a home carpet cleaning machine or rent a commercial carpet cleaning machine. Cleaning with these type machines is one of the worst things that can be done to a carpet.

These machines put a lot of water into the carpet, but cannot effectively extract it back out. The carpet takes days to dry, leaving it open to mold, mildew, and premature break down of the backing. Not to mention a build-up of soap residue left behind that attracts rapid re-soiling and makes carpets look dull and dingy prematurely.

Myth #5: Carpet Stain Products purchased at a Grocery or Department Store are as Good as Any Other Product!

There are a number of consumer carpet stain removal formulas that should be left right on the shelf at the store. These products have harsh chemicals in them in order to effectively address a wide variety of stain removal applications. Including ink, blood, red wine, coffee; and grease, rust, and oil stains.

Unfortunately, these products will also remove color from about 1/3 of the carpets that are on the market. Specially formulated, professional fiber-specific stain removal products work best, are safer for carpets, and will help increase carpet longevity. Another carpet care tip: oxy products work well when used as directed, but repeated use will damage carpet fiber.

Myth #6: Vacuuming my Carpet 1 – 2 Times a Week is Plenty

Even the most meticulous house keeper may believe that vacuuming the carpet once or twice weekly is a good routine to keep soil under control. However, all carpet manufacturers and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommend daily vacuuming.

In any indoor environment, outside air is ventilated to the indoors. Outside air contains many air born particles such as dust, pollen, and industrial contaminants. Indoor pollutants include animal hair, dander, dead skin, and dust mites. In calm indoor air, all of these nasty contaminants settle by gravity into the carpet, which is the most effective filter in the house – even more so than a furnace filter.

Daily accumulations can be considerable. The only effective way to deal with them is daily vacuuming. This is the single most important part of carpet care. Not only helping to improve indoor air quality, but removing microscopic dirt particles that damage carpet fibers; adding years to the lifetime of your carpet.

Myth #7: Steam Cleaning Leaves my Carpet Damp. Therefore I Should Use Only Dry Carpet Cleaning Services

When it comes to carpet cleaners, there are several methods that professional carpet cleaning services use.

According to the Institute of Inspection, Restoration, and Cleaning Certification (IICRC), the EPA, and all carpet manufacturers, the recommended method of cleaning is with a truck mount carpet steam cleaning machine.

A dry carpet cleaning machine such as a bonnet carpet cleaning machine will make the carpet look very good on the surface and appear very clean. When in actuality a considerable amount of soil is left in the carpet pile; which will quickly surface and re-soil the carpet. This type method is desirable in-between steam cleaning, in places such as libraries and museums where moisture could create problems.

Truck mount steam cleaning is actually a method of pressure washing a carpet clear down to the backing, and sucking up the solution and soils with a high powered vacuum – all in one stroke. When properly done, it removes 75% to 85% of the moisture used in the process. The remaining moisture dries quickly; usually within 2 – 6 hours, with good ventilation.

Myth #8: I Can Best Keep my Carpet Fresh with Sprinkle-on Deodorizer Powder

This is another terrible thing to do to a carpet. Sprinkle-on powder products contain talcum powder, which is not water soluble. This fine powder accumulates with repeated use, and becomes embedded in the carpet, backing, and pad. It does not completely vacuum up as touted.

When subjected to moisture through proper cleaning methods, it creates problems. The drying process causes the fine residual powder to wick to the surface, creating white stains on top of the carpet, which are impossible to get rid of. As cleaning is repeated; the powder wicks to the top again and again.

There are known instances of this problem resulting in removal of 1 – 2 year old carpet. Certainly not a cost-efficient situation.

Myth #9: a Water Pipe Burst and Flooded my Carpet, but I Can Dry it Myself

Wrong! Water damage carpet care is a tricky process that should be left to the professional.

When a flood happens, there is a 48 to 72-hour window for effective drying before the onset of mold or mildew. After 48-hours have passed without affected areas yet dried, the formation of mold is possible. After 72-hours have passed without complete drying, mold or mildew activity of some type is certain. There are over 1 million strains of mold, many of which are highly toxic.

Homeowners and many professionals such as plumbers (who are usually the first ones called when a pipe bursts) are under the false assumption that sucking up the water with a shop vacuum and turning on a few fans will get things dry. It is impossible to adequately dry carpet with carpet padding in place within the time window to prevent mold or mildew.

Carpet acts as a moisture barrier, and carpet pad is highly absorbent and cannot be dried in time even if removed and hung out to dry. The carpet pad must be removed completely, and carpet and structure dried using industrial ventilation and dehumidification equipment.

There is professional technology to dry a carpet and pad left in place in certain circumstances. But it also requires the use of specialty ventilation and dehumidification equipment.

Myth #10: “Fido” Soiled my Carpet; Now I Will Have to Tear it Out to Get Rid of the Pet Odor

While in extreme cases of pet urine odor a carpet is discarded, most of the time it can be effectively treated with an enzyme based pet odor remover.
One of the most effective enzyme pet odor eliminator products available is Odormute; available in concentrated powder form at many vet supply warehouses.

Enzyme formulas eliminate the pet urine stain at the source; enzymes digest and neutralize the urine residue, often removing any stain along with the odor. In extreme cases, the carpet may need to be taken loose and pad removed. The floor is treated with an oil based primer to seal any odor in the subfloor. After treatment and cleaning, carpet is then re-installed with new pad, and odors are gone.

By dispelling these top 10 carpet care myths, homeowners can achieve a cleaner, healthier, and more attractive carpet. While at the same time adding years to the life of their carpets, and savings to their bank accounts.

What General Contractors Do

A general contractor is a highly skilled construction management professional who oversees the various aspects of a building project. This includes but is not limited to structure design, construction methods, the budget, materials, scheduling, work team hiring and supervision (building crew, construction laborers, and subcontractors for specialized services).

General contractors are usually regarded as business owners; a provider of construction management services rather than a laborer. Even so, a general contractor with hands-on skills may help to complete certain aspects of a project from time to time.

A good general contractor often has their own work crew; an in-house team of handymen and specialty contractors.  But they may also hire renovation experts and occupation specific subcontractors. Such as architects, plumbers, electricians, cabinet makers, and masons.

A good general contractor will ensure the Association of General Contractors (AGC), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and other government regulations for job safety and health protection are met; as well as standards for environmental protection. In fact, effective job safety planning should be a top priority for every AGC general contractor sincere about the quality of construction management services provided.

Besides AGC, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other government standards and guidelines, general contractors must abide by state and local codes. A safety-minded AGC general contractor will also stay abreast of ever evolving OSHA requirements. The main thrust of OSHA is quality control, preservation of the environment, and effective job safety planning; for purposes of job safety and health protection.

In fact, OSHA coordinates with AGC and similar agencies, lobbying for better construction regulations for more effective job safety laws. And helps set the standard for job safety and health protection in the construction industry. By educating AGC general contractor members via effective job safety training seminars and construction site safety auditing.

general contractors

Individual states help unify efforts of OSHA, AGC, and similar associations for improved job safety planning and training programs. In Washington, for example, the Department of Labor and Industries operates the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH). Defining safety and health standards and forming accident prevention programs for safer construction practices. A Seattle general contractor, therefore, would not only recognize and comply with OSHA standards; but DOSH, as well.

Through general contractor schooling, OSHA, AGC and similar agencies helping to foster effective job safety practices, job safety planning has become a highlighted facet of general contractors services. And why not, when the federal government considers construction site safety a major concern.A fact supported by 2006 data that reveals over 59% of all federal inspections performed by OSHA nationwide took place at construction work sites.

General Contractor Education Requirements

Although no set educational requirements for an aspiring general contractor exists, some type good general contractor schooling is recommended if he/she wishes to succeed in the industry. Schooling also helps provide the training necessary to pass the compulsory written test. Essential for obtaining a general contractor license; mandatory in every state.

In the very least, an aspiring general contractor should seek a combination of some type general contractor schooling and hands-on experience. An Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree from an accredited general contractor construction management program, for instance. Education that includes such courses as:

  • Construction technology
  • Methods of construction
  • Construction site safety
  • Math
  • Finances
  • Managing contractor contracts

Courses that teach good general contractor skills as students study such topics as:

  • Construction terminology
  • Good work ethics
  • Budgeting
  • Bidding
  • Hazards and job safety planning
  • Materials science
  • Project planning
  • Hiring
  • Working with a crew
  • and more

Construction management classes and other types of general contractor schooling should also provide the aspiring general contractor a working knowledge of construction related associations and agencies. Including the Association of General Contractors – AGC, ACI, OSHA, and others. Providing valuable construction and effective job safety orientation for the serious minded aspiring general contractor.

A bachelor’s degree in construction technology, construction management, civil engineering, or building science can greatly enhance a general contractors chance of career success. As well as better prepare for certification. Although typically preferred for an established general contractor managing large-scale projects, such a degree is not essential. Experience, skilled subcontractor connections, a level head and sharp eye for detail can be equally important.

In summary – an aspiring general contractor should be knowledgeable about various construction methods, job safety and health protection laws, effective job safety planning, mathematics, cost estimation, hiring, overseeing a work crew, and other aspects of construction management. Certified building and renovation experts; skilled at handling all phases of a construction project, from start to finish!

The General Contractor License

Most states require general contractors to posses a general contractor license, obtained after passing an exam. While a few states omit the need for a general contractor license, or require a general contractor license only under certain circumstances. For example, general contractors in Alabama must be licensed only when working on residential projects costing more than $10,000; in North Carolina, licenses are required for jobs exceeding $30,000.

General contractor license exam requirements may vary state to state. But exams are usually in the form of a written test comprised of questions pertaining to various aspects of construction. Including: techniques used by repairing building contractors, contracting, and various job safety and health protection laws.

As a rule aspiring general contractor candidates must be 18 or older to apply for a general contractor license. Other requirements for general contractors may include:

  • Proof of US citizenship or legal residency.
  • Certification of business licenses (for that state).
  • Passport-sized photos – usually 2.
  • Description of any violations, liens, or citations resulting from construction work.

A general contractor license is valid only in the state from which it was acquired. For instance, a Seattle general contractor with a Washington general contractor license could bid on a construction project in Boise. But he/she would have to obtain an Idaho general contractor license before beginning work in that state.

Combined with general contractor license requirements, general contractor schooling, job safety planning education, and high construction management standards, a favorable reputation can more easily be built. Enhancing the chance of greater success in the construction industry. Good news for every aspiring general contractor serious about the profession!

Note: an aspiring general contractor who accepts work without meeting general contractor license requirements can be fined; in some states, in the upwards of $1,000 per site, per day. In addition, the lack of a general contractor license may void legal protection. Even to collect funds promised in construction management contractor contracts.

Other General Contractor Requirements

Contractors insurance is another requirement. State mandates differ, but a general contractor is usually obliged to carry Workman’s Compensation and general liability.Washington requires a set amount of public liability and property damage insurance. Therefore, a Spokane or Seattle general contractor must carry at least $50,000 in property damage insurance, and at least $200,000 in public liability.

General contractors in some states must also carry business automobile insurance; protection from damages to work vehicles while at the construction management job site.

Even after obtaining a general contractor license and general contractors insurance, certain other requirements must be met before construction management services can be rendered. For example, general contractors must be pre-qualified before bidding on a state project.

Corporations conducting business in any state must be registered with the Secretary of State. Independent general contractors are usually required to register with the Department of Labor. General contractor renovation experts living in Dallas would be exempt, since Texas does not require registration. While a Seattle general contractor must register with the Department of Labor and Industries*, because Washington general contractors must be registered before obtaining a general contractor license. In many states general contractors are also required to hire only registered subcontractors. *Registration cost for a Washington general contractor is currently around $115. Registration is valid for two years and available online; applications must be notarized.

Note: penalties for conducting work without proper licensing and/or registration exist; sometimes up to or exceeding $1,000 per site, per day!

Each state’s tax authority has the right to set conditions before general contractor renovation experts can conduct business in that state. And many states require professionals with a general contractor license to post a “state license bond” or “surety bond.”  Assurance that the contractor’s business will operate in compliance with local and state government standards. A Seattle general contractor, for instance, must post a $12,000 license bond; required from all Washington general contractors. Note: a state license bond offers no protection from accident or fire liability. General contractors insurance and worker’s compensation coverage is still required for each state in which construction management services are rendered.

Some states may also require general contractor candidates to verify sufficient financing to operate a construction management business.And/or demand construction experience verification and references; endorsements from former employers, coworkers, and clients.

Career opportunities and earning capacity for any trade contractor is excellent; on average, over $760 weekly. General contractors, however, enjoy an even greater earning capacity, due chiefly to the ability to nab larger-scale, more prominent jobs. The annual median salary for a good general contractor exceeds $80,000. The earning capacity of a Seattle general contractor, and those in other large cities, exceeds $90,000.

What to Expect From a Good General Contractor

In addition to the above, good general contractors provide a wide range of construction management services. A good general contractor will:

  • Be highly skilled. Preferably have good general contractor schooling combined with construction work experience.
  • Evaluate construction management needs for customized service.
  • Be honest and straightforward with clients, and avoid making unrealistic promises.
  • Provide competitive but realistic bid that includes not only the base amount, but also “schedule of values.”  Outlining individual costs by breaking the bid down into separate components. And then transfer that same breakdown of costs to contractor contracts, if accepted.
  • Be meticulous about the construction management services provided; with focus on the small details as well as the large.
  • Be “AGC general contractor conscious”; remain up-to-date on Association of General Contractors initiatives and other construction-related government associations and agencies.
  • Monitor the work site for health and construction site safety risks and procedural violations.
  • Plan ahead to identify and eliminate potential hazards before they occur. *
  • Require laborers and subcontractors to wear appropriate “personal protective equipment” (PPE), for increased job safety and health protection; safety glasses, knee pads, hardhats, harnesses, etc.
  • Organize effective job safety strategies into a formal safety plan. Then made available to all construction management supervisors and laborers, or else taught by the AGC general contractor in a formal class setting. **
  • Keep accurate records.
  • Ensure compliance with all relevant codes, rules, and regulations; including the Association of General Contractors – AGC, EPA, and OSHA. In addition to city and state codes and regulations.
  • Ensure pertinent building permits are obtained before starting the project.
  • Contact local authorities to discover if any city or county lines run under or near the structure.
  • Contact city officials before digging, to avoid damaging underground sewage pipes, waterlines, gas lines or cables.
  • Keep up to date and educated through good general contractor schooling opportunities.
  • Comply with all general contractor license and contractors insurance requirements; ensure both are kept current.
  • Effectively mediate between developers, builders, renovation experts, and subcontractors.
  • Hire only laborers, renovation experts, and subcontractors they know and trust.
  • Hire only highly skilled laborers, renovation experts, and subcontractors offering specialized skills; with appropriate contractor license and contractors insurance, when relevant.
  • Foster AGC general contractor job safety planning skills, effective project planning, optimal crew performance, and timely project completion via diligent construction management services.
  • Schedule necessary inspections.
  • Draft and manage contractor contracts.
  • Provide detailed contractor contracts.

*i.e.: A good general contractor should know that vehicle and equipment related accidents account for most construction site injuries. Followed by falls, electrical shock, “caught-betweens,” and falling objects. A good general contractor will also plan ahead to identify and eliminate as many potential construction site safety hazards as possible, creating a safer work environment.

** i.e.: OSHA offers a 30-hour course (endorsed by the Association of General Contractors – AGC) in job safety and health protection. Construction workers are trained in first aid, CPR, and emergency response; receiving certification after course completion. Through OSHA safety training, participants become more construction site safety aware and better equipped to handle a job site catastrophe, should one occur.

The Association of General Contractors – AGC and similar industry related associations also offer effective job safety planning instruction, which teaches job safety and health protection strategies. Essential skills for good general contractor and construction management representatives.

Note: both OSHA and AGC have been instrumental in helping general contractors across the nation develop better construction management skills. With focus on implementing construction site safety programs for a safer, healthier, and more environment friendly work site.

A good general contractor will also find ways to save you money and get more value for your dollar. For instance, due to a declining economy and high construction costs, a Seattle general contractor might suggest utilizing existing space. For instance, subcontract with renovation experts to remodel present office space, instead of constructing new. Slashing costs while creating a roomier, more efficient and productive work environment. With the added bonus of a more modern and attractive setting to greet clients. The results?  A smoother run operation and increased business for less money.

Again, a good general contractor will be an AGC general contractor; displaying effective job safety planning skills. He/she will provide construction management services with an emphasis on job safety and health protection. Knowledgeable about Association of General Contractors – AGC, OSHA, EPA, and similar government agency regulations and construction site safety and health guidelines.

One way for an AGC general contractor to cultivate construction site safety is to incorporate a 3-prong approach to job safety planning. This strategy includes:

1.) Pre-Planning – daily/weekly.  Assessing tasks to be performed; planning ahead to identify and eliminate potential construction site safety hazards.

2.) Training – pre and mid project.  Utilizing effective job safety and health protection materials available through the Association of General Contractors – AGC, OSHA, etc. First aid training and CPR also made available.

3.) Site Inspections – daily/weekly. Performed by the AGC general contractor or designated construction management representative.Who will document work procedures and site activities; making changes and recommendations for better job safety and health protection as required.

Screening and Hiring Tips

Locating qualified general contractors is much the same as finding the best person for any type job; achieved through a process of research, screening, interviewing, elimination, and selection.

It is important to screen general contractor candidates for many reasons. Costs alone for projects requiring construction management services demand screening. Not only to help ensure a successful building venture, but also protect the developer’s investment. And because competition is fierce between general contractors some may guarantee the moon when vying for a job, to increase their chance of winning the bid.

Many project owners, lured by enticing promises and a low-cost bid, make a hasty hiring decision. Without first screening for an established general contractor; making sure the candidate had contractors insurance, or knew anything about effective job safety planning. Or had a valid general contractor license, or was licensed to practice construction management in that state.

Calling the first general contractor you find in the phone book can be a big mistake. And hiring a construction management professional because their yellow page advertisement was the largest can be costly. You run the risk turning your long awaited construction dream into a financial nightmare. A situation easily avoided by screening candidates for a good general contractor before signing on the dotted line.

Tip: many experienced general contractors are Association of General Contractors (AGC) members, or members of similar construction management agencies and associations. With up-to-date job safety and health protection training and general contractor license requirements.

AGC endorses a common-sense approach to construction site safety. Such as Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards; encouraging good general contractor construction management skills. For superior workplace ethics and a more productive workforce. While implementing more effective job safety planning for fewer workplace injuries.

Before connecting with any construction management candidate, know the general contractor license, contractor insurance, and general contractor schooling or hands-on experience requirements in your state. Outline the minimum level of general contractor performance and experience requirements you prefer; list concerns or project needs you want emphasized.

Also research construction expenses before meeting with candidates. Talking with renovation experts and loan officers at your bank, for instance, will help provide a realistic picture of what to expect to pay. Such preparations will save time once initial contact is made, minimize the screening process, and create a more uniform verbal platform. Making it easier to more fairly critique general contractors being interviewed.

Another bit of advice. In your quest to find a good general contractor, select one with specialized safety training. An AGC general contractor, for instance. An Association of General Contractors member with formal construction site safety instruction and effective job safety strategy skills. Increasing your chances of project success from a safer and more secure work environment.

Contractor Contracts

Once a good general contractor has been selected, schedule an appointment to go over the project in detail.Make sure you understand the role general contractors play as a construction management professional. If you don’t already have a handle on everything the project entails, ask the general contractor for clarification. Including project scope, type of materials required, material and labor costs, and projected time frame.

Also ask about project aspects requiring the special skills of other professionals. Including repairing building contractors, electricians, plumbers, masons, architects, or other types of renovation experts and skilled craftsmen.

When discussing costs insist the contractor provide a bid, not an estimate. Contractor contracts will include price quotes, not estimates. Why?  Because estimates are not binding and can change without warning. Whereas bids or quotes are considered statements; assuring the developer that construction costs will not exceed that amount. A good general contractor with experience in calculating costs will be able to provide a realistic figure.

After you have several good general contractor candidates, collect formal bids from each. Bids need not be as detailed as contractor contracts, but should provide adequate information; including magnitude, cost, and time involvement of the project. As well as reflect the general contractors skill level and quality of work to expect from specialty contractors.

Once you have made a selection get everything in writing, including costs.Detailed and signed contractor contracts are invaluable. Regardless of the general contractors integrity or faith you have in the construction management services provided. Not only are oral agreements worthless in the face of a misunderstanding. But oral agreements, real or implied, are too easy to forget or misconstrue.

If the project is relatively simple a signed work agreement may suffice. Even then, specific project details and proof of contractors insurance and general contractor license certification is basic. However, most projects requiring general contractor skills are complicated and extensive enough to warrant fully documented contractor contracts.

Handy Tip – once work begins, an effective resource to help resolve construction management problems is the state license board. Of course, the general contractor must have a general contractor license for this resource to be useful.

Note: an AGC general contractor will be mindful of the Association of General Contractors – AGC, OSHA, EPA, and similar government approved job safety and health protection regulations. An AGC general contractor may also require construction site safety training and certification for all laborers, and include job safety planning strategies within contractor contracts. Why?  Because a well trained safety-minded work crew combined with an effective job safety plan can result in fewer jobsite accidents. And most likely, lower contractors insurance rates. Savings that a good general contractor will pass on to the developer, providing a more competitive bid.

Our user-friendly search tools make accessing dependable and affordable general contractors in your area quick and easy. Experienced renovation experts and general contractor members are on standby; ready to bid competitively on your project right now.

Search our directory for qualified AGC general contractor, renovation experts. Review contractor profiles and portfolios, or post your construction management services project online, without cost or obligation.

At HandyAmerican.com it is simple to find local general contractors; highly capable and experienced in construction management and strategic job safety and health protection planning. And best of all, services to find an established general contractor or “safety-first AGC general contractor” are free!  You will not be required to hire anyone, or share contact information, if you prefer not to.

Whether you need a Seattle general contractor to handle a commercial project, an AGC general contractor in New York for job safety planning and training. Or a talented California general contractor with the artistic talents to transform your out-dated high-rise into a castle in the sky. HandyAmerican.com is the place to connect with reliable general contractors. With the skills required to make your construction dream a brilliant reality!

Bathroom Remodeling and Maintenance

Bathroom remodeling has many benefits for you and your family. Renovating your bathroom can help rejuvenate your homes appearance and increase it’s resale value. Browse through our bathroom remodeling section for helpful advice or visit our contractor directory to find the right contractor for your bathroom remodeling project.

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How To Replace A Bath Tub Or Shower All By Yourself
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Essential Design Tips for the Best Bathroom Renovation
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Top Five Considerations Before You Start Your Bathroom Renovation
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Save Money on Bathroom Renovations by Hiring the Right Contractor
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How to Hire a Bathroom Remodeling Contractor You Can Trust
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More Bathroom Lighting Basics
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Bathroom Remodeling Ideas
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Bathroom Contractors
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Bathroom Design
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Wet Rooms: Increase the Market Value of Your Home
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Bathroom Remodeling; Start a Planner for Bathroom Design Success!

Bathroom RemodelingAs one of the most used rooms in the house, bathroom remodeling requires careful planning for the best bathroom design. Building code requirements, complexity of bathroom plumbing, and other important considerations make do it yourself bathroom remodeling a challenging undertaking.

Many DIY bathroom remodeling homeowners depend on a reliable bathroom contractor or contractor handyman to help with at least some aspects of the project. This helps to ensure residential building code requirements will be met, and avoid costly errors.

Basic Standard Building Code Requirements

To make the task of meeting building code requirements easier, the Kitchen and Bath publishes a list of standard building code requirements. Helping homeowners design and build safe, accessible rooms. Some of the basic requirements are:

  • Toilet enclosures – bathroom stall enclosures must have at least 36” X 66” of space
  • Toilets – center at least 15” from walls and tubs; 21” clearance in front.
  • Faucets –for bathroom shower and combination tub/showers must include anti-scald devices
  • Bathroom Light fixture – at least one that is permanent, controlled by a wall switch
  • Wall switch – at least 60” from tub and showers
  • Waste and drain lines – must slope ¼” per foot toward the main DWV stack; to aid flow and prevent blockage
  • All receptacles must be GFCI-protected

Acquire complete NKBA guidelines by calling 1-800-843-6522, or visit the NKBA web site at www.nkba.org.

Start a Bathroom Remodeling Planner

If you design your own bathroom, start a bathroom remodeling planner to keep notes, ideas, and important aspects of your bathroom remodeling plans. Follow the steps below for planning success:

  1. Bathroom Floor Plan – Draw your bathroom floor plan and wall dimensions to scale. For help on how to do this, research the topic online or acquire the services of a bathroom designer. Buy or make templates; draw the existing bathroom layout, and then experiment with different layouts for the room. Include plans for fixtures and bathroom plumbing lines. Remember, relocating existing fixture drains can add considerably to cost and complexity of your project.
  1. Check Local Building Code Requirements – contact the Department of Building and Safety for local residential building code requirements. Pay particular attention to minimum clearances required around fixtures. In addition to space available, this will determine whether compact fixtures and/or built-in fixtures will be required. If you are designing a handicap-friendly bathroom, obtain a universal building code list instead of the standard. Use universal building code guidelines to create a more flexible bathroom design; one that meets the needs of persons of all ages as much as possible, regardless of size or physical ability.
  1. Detail Initial Bathroom Remodeling Plan – make necessary alterations in order to be up to code. Include all dimensions and fixtures; plumbing, wiring, and HVAC connections. Take into consideration bathroom lighting and bathroom exhaust fan placement, and everything else essential to the bathroom remodeling floor plan and bathroom design.
  1. Make a Material List – this will include all materials required to complete your bathroom remodeling project. This will eventually include specific types/models of fixtures and materials; where each can be obtained, and estimated cost. Here is another area where the expertise of an experienced bathroom remodeling contractor can help; even if you plan to do all or part of the work yourself.
  1. Visit the Local Building Department – have your bathroom remodeling planner reviewed to insure you have allowed for all building code requirements and have included everything essential for project success. The building inspector may recommend changes to your bathroom floor plan or building material list. Be sure you understand reasons for any changes and make necessary adjustments.
  1. Obtain Necessary Building Permits – one or more permits will be required, in addition to scheduled inspections. This usually means one after framing and rough-in plumbing and wiring have been completed; a second after the entire project is completed.

You are nearly ready to begin bathroom remodeling; all that’s left is obtaining the materials to complete the job, and perhaps acquire the services of a building contractor.

Find a home improvement contractor with experience in bathroom design and remodeling online at HandyAmerican.com. Post your project online with our easy-to-use tools; membership and posting is free! Service provider members in your area will bid competitively on your project. Offering the most skilled service at the best price possible!

Click here to post your bathroom remodeling project online at Handy American.com; it’s easy, it’s fast, and it’s free! Best yet, it makes your project visible to hundreds of contractors in your area; each reliable and skilled, ready to bid competitively on your project!

What You Should Know Before You Hire a Contractor


Regardless whether you’re a home remodeling/repair do-it-yourselfer or a homeowner who doesn’t know the different between an electrical socket and a socket wrench. At some time or another you will require the services of a contractor or similar type service provider professional. Whether for new construction, renovation, remodeling, repair, or landscaping purposes.

Depending upon the complexity and extent of project needs, the service provider you select will be spending time in or around your home for extended lengths of time. Daily or regular interaction between the service provider, yourself, and perhaps even your family members will be necessary. How to find a contractor is easy, finding the right contractor requires time and due diligence on behalf of the homeowner. Obviously, you will want to find a contractor hire someone you feel comfortable with and trust.

HandyAmerican.com; Helping Homeowners

As a homeowner who will be investing not only a large amount of money in the project, but trust in the contractor on a personal level as well, you need assurance the service provider you hire is as reputable and professional as possible.

At HandyAmerican.com we believe it is in the best interest of homeowners to take the initiative and inspect contractor qualifications themselves. Ensuring information provided is still accurate. And then make an informed decision based upon up-to-date information instead of information that could be out-dated. After all, it is they, the homeowner, who will suffer the consequences of hiring the wrong contractor.

 What You Should Know Before You Hire a Contractor

Know, for instance, the difference between a “certified contractor” and a “registered contractor.” A contractor who is certified has a certificate of competency issued by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, and can perform work in andy state.

A registered contractor is registered with the Department of Business and Professional Regulation after fulfilling competency requirements in certain jurisdictions. This means the contractor can only perform work within the jurisdiction in which they are certified. Once you find a contractor, use the following tips to ensure you’ve selected the right person or company.

Protect Yourself and Your Home

Take the Initiative. Check Available Resources

When hiring a contractor, homeowners are encouraged to check validity of insurance (Workman’s Compensation or other), bonding, licenses and other credentials. Check out references provided; ask about recently completed projects similar to your own. Get project owner names and contact information and then check those out, as well.

Questions to ask when contacting references include:

  • Did the contractor maintain open communication throughout the project? Did they keep you informed as to the status of the project, problems encountered, or changes necessary before making them?
  • Did he or she provide answers to questions to your satisfaction?
  • Did they seem receptive to your input
  • Did workers show up on time? Did they clean up the job site at the end of each day
  • Were there any unexpected costs? If so, what?
  • Was the project completed on time? Were there any unnecessary stalls or delays?
  • Were you satisfied with the overall results of the completed project?
  • Would you recommend the contractor? Would you hire the contractor again?

If appropriate, you might want to ask whether or not you could stop by the person’s home to see the completed job.

Other Resources

Other resources to use in determining whether or not to hire a contractor include:

  • The Better Business Bureau – check to see whether any complaints against the contractor have been filed. If there are complaints, check to see whether or not they are valid. Was any action required; disciplinary or otherwise?
  • Word-of-Mouth References – one of your best and most readily available resources. Get references from co-workers, friends, neighbors, and family members; thoroughly check out references provided by the contractor.
  • The Construction Industry Licensing Board; within the Department of Business and Professional Regulation at a state or provincial level if the contractor is certified. Or the local growth management department if the contractor is registered. Check to see if any complaints have been lodged against the contractor in question.

By contacting either of these two agencies you can discover whether the contractor has been convicted or found guilty of any crime in any jurisdiction which relates to contracting, used false names or documentation for obtaining contractual work, ever abandoned a job, or been found negligent – resulting in danger to life or property.

You can also find out if the contractor has ever committed mismanagement or misconduct while working; causing financial harm to the homeowner. Or, failed to obtain necessary local building permits or inspections for a project, falsely indicated the work is bonded and that payment has been made for all subcontractor work and materials, etc., or committed fraud or deceit in the practice of contracting.

Red Flags that Scream “Do Not Hire”

As with any other type service provider – whether licensed or not – some contractors may not operate within the law.

The following should serve as red flags that the contractor might be less than reputable; certainly, less professional and reliable than what you might desire.

Avoid hiring a contractor who:

  • Pressures you for a quick hiring decision
  • Requests that YOU obtain the required building permits
  • Accepts only cash payments
  • Solicits door-to-door
  • Quotes a final price without seeing the job
  • Offers only lifetime warranties (which are only as good as the life of the company)
  • Requires a large down payment to buy materials
  • Offers a discount for an on-the-spot hiring decision
  • Wants to use materials for your project, left over from another job
  • Has no business number in the local telephone directory
  • Provides only a PO Box address in lieu of a physical address
  • Suggests you borrow money for your project from a lender the contractor knows
  • Tells you your job will be a “demonstration”
  • Offers discounts for finding other customers
  • Requests complete payment upfront

Some states limit the amount of money contractors can request as down payment. Determine whether or not this is the case in your area by contacting the appropriate consumer agency.

Who Does What?

Depending upon the type of project you are planning, your first step in hiring the right contractor is to understand the difference between the various service providers and specific areas of expertise offered:

Architects – design homes, additions, and

Design / Build Contractors – handle all

Designers – have expertise in certain areas of home remodeling and décor; such as kitchens, bathrooms,

General Contractors – manage all aspects of a project, including hiring and supervising subcontractors, obtaining materials and building permits, and scheduling inspections. They

Specialty Contractors – install particular

While most plumbing, HVAC, electrical, etc. contractors must be licensed, not all states require that contractors and specialty contractors be licensed. In addition, local level requirements may vary from state to state.

Check with your local building department or consumer protection agency about licensing requirements in your area to find out whether the type contractor you need for your project needs to be licensed. When checking a contractor’s license, make sure it is current.

Finally, make sure the contractor you hire is adequately insured; take time to check out the policy information to ensure coverage is up-to-date.

Protect Yourself and Your Investment

Checking out a service provider’s credentials and references before making a hiring decision is basic to helping to insure the contractor you hire is the right one for you. It also helps to protect your investment by making sure contractor credentials are up-to-date, and that the project will be a success.

One basic requirement every contractor with employees should meet is the provision of Workers’ Compensation; a type medical insurance also known as “workers’ comp.” Any sub-contractor hired by the contractor should also be covered.

If the contractor is uninsured and/or has uninsured employees don’t even consider hiring them. Otherwise, you could be sued and held monetarily responsible for worker’s injuries sustained while on your property. A fate more than one project owner has been forced to deal with, simply because of a hasty hiring decision.

Workers’ Compensation coverage releases the project owner from responsibility should a contractor, subcontractor, or contractor employee become injured while working on the project. Workers’ Compensation, originally known as “workman’s compensation,” helps protect project owners from liability.

Before Hiring a Contractor

Before making a hiring decision, do the following:

  • Make sure the contractor has a sales tax ID number. This is a good way to verify a business’ existence and whether or not it is legitimate. Take note, however, that one man or part time operations with annual sales below a specific amount may be exempt. Confirm information provided by calling the state specific Department of Revenue in the US.
  • Make sure the contractor has a valid license or permit if any are required for the type project planned, whether at state or local level.
  • Some locals require a contractor have a pre-paid contractor’s license if they request money prior to completion of work. Check to see whether or not this is true is your locality. Note: in order to obtain the license, the contractor would have undergone a complete background check; notation of any previous complaints against them would be included.
  • Contractors with employees should be registered with Workers Compensation. Check out information provided with your state Workers Compensation office. Avoid hiring companies with workers who are not registered with Workers Compensation, or contractors otherwise uninsured. You could be held liable for any accidents and injuries acquired by contractors and workers, while on your property.
  • Find out if a business license is required in the contractor’s local; if so, check to make sure they have one.

Note: because of present day concern for victims of sexual harassment rights, some project owners (especially women) may feel a greater sense of security if the contract includes a clause. One pertaining to the level of professionalism expected from the contractor; stating that inappropriate behavior will be grounds for immediate termination of the project contract.

Take Precautions

In addition to the above, taking the following precautions will help protect your home project investment and increase chances of success:

  • Some states have a limit as to the amount of money a contractor can request as down payment. Check with your state, or local consumer agency to determine whether or not this is true in your locality.
  • Agree to make payments as the project progresses; contingent upon completion of a defined amount of work. This way, if work does not proceed according to the agreed upon schedule, payments are delayed as well.
  • Do not make final payment or sign an affidavit of final release until work completed meets agreed upon specifications, meets building code requirements, and that subcontractors and suppliers have all been paid. Lien laws in certain areas could allow subcontractors and/or suppliers to file a mechanic’s lien against your property until they have been paid. To discover whether or not this is true in your locality, contact your local consumer agency.
  • Do not sign a contract or any document you haven’t read thoroughly, or that has blank spaces that can be filled in after you sign.
  • Do not sign a contract or any document using vague instead of specific terms and references as to project requirements and work to be performed.
  • Never deed your property to anyone without first consulting an attorney, or a knowledgeable family member or other person you trust.
  • Do not agree to financing through your contractor without shopping around for better loan terms.

Also, let’s say you accepted an estimate for project cost instead of a quote and the contractor produces a bill significantly higher than that of the estimate, and you did not pre-approve the increase. Check with your local consumer agency and ask whether or not there is a limit in the amount a bill can exceed the estimate provided

One way to avoid this type surprise altogether is to request a quote instead of an estimate. Estimates are subject to change, whereas a quote is more or less a set price. Quote not only price for the entire project in the contract, but itemize costs for labor, subcontractors, materials, etc., as well. Detailed provisions for acceptable price changes should also be outlined within the contract.

For instance, an unexpected price-hike in materials required, alternate materials required due to unavailability of first choice materials – which could lower or increase overall cost, and unforeseen, unavoidable delays for which the contractor is not at fault.

Be Contract Specific!

Contract requirements vary from state to state. One thing that is uniform regardless of where you live, however, is that verbal agreements are worthless should a dispute break out. Therefore, although a contract might not be required by law, never hire a contractor without first obtaining a contract that outlines the project in specific detail.

The contract should be signed by both parties; the project owner and the contractor. Or all parties involved if some aspects of the work will be sub-contracted, or services of another service provider professional (architect, designer, etc.) will be required.

The contract should protect the interests of both the homeowner and the service provider. It should include:

  • A clear, concise, and complete description of the project. Who will be responsible for which aspects of completion; start and completion dates.
  • Project owner and contractor’s name, physical address, mailing address, and phone. The physical address of the project site; service provider insurance information as well as the license number of the contractor, if required.
  • Project quote; avoid the term “estimate.”
  • Payment schedule for the contractor, subcontractor, and suppliers; terms of payment schedule.
  • Who will be responsible for obtaining necessary permits; usually, the contractor – who has a much better understanding of building code requirements and restrictions than the average homeowner.
  • Detailed materials list; including product, size, type, color, model, and brand name. In addition to alternate materials that may be used if necessary; contingent upon pre-approval by the project owner.
  • Warranties (including length of time and limitations) that cover materials and workmanship, as well as the names and addresses of the warrantor; whether contractor, manufacturer, or distributor.
  • How “change orders” will be handled; a written authorization that allows the contractor to make a change or addition to the work described under certain conditions pre-determined in the contract. How and when payment for such changes will be made. Note: charge orders are common aspects of most remodeling jobs and can affect project cost and completion date. It is not unusual for remodelers to require payment before such work begins.
  • Any oral promises made.

Handling Disputes

How to Handle Disputes

Most conflicts that arise between a project owner and contactor can be avoided, or at least easily resolved.

Proper communication, keeping tempers under control, allowing the other to express concepts of the situation without interruption, and exhibiting mutual respect can go a long way in handling disputes that arise. Most of which can be due to a misunderstanding on the part of one or both parties.

While it is important to deal with conflicts with the contractor as soon as they arise, avoid discussing differences of opinion in front of others. Set up a private meeting free from distractions where the two of you can discuss the situation alone.

You want to meet the contractor halfway, but remember. As long as building code, safety, and contract guidelines are met, you do have the final say. The contractor was hired by you to complete a project you are paying for, to your specifications; not the other way around.

If contract terms are not being met and discussing the situation doesn’t bring desired results, send a letter outlining the problem and how you would like it resolved by certified mail to the contractor; request a return receipt. If the problem continues it may be time for outside intervention.

Try discussing the problem with a trusted family member or knowledgeable friend. If that doesn’t help, you may want legal advice from an attorney. You also have the option to connect with various organizations and associations that offer consumer assistance in resolving disputes with service providers.

How to Lodge a Complaint

If after trying the above suggestions to handle a project owner/contractor dispute the problem continues, complaining to one or more of the following might be your best course of action.

Check to find out what state, or local consumer protection services are available in your area. Also check to see if there is a dispute resolution program available. And finally, visit www.nahb.org to discover whether or not your area has a Local Builders Association (LBA) that can lend assistance.

Also consider the following resources:

  • The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) – created in 1914, the FTC has been given authority by the USA Congress to regulate consumer protection laws and such things as truthful advertising and ensuring that business practices are legitimate. Visit http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/consumer.shtm ; to download a complaint form, visit http://www.ftc.gov/ftc/cmplanding.shtm .
  • The Better Business Bureau (BBB) – find your local BBB by visiting http://www.bbb.org . The BBB assists consumers by providing complaint counseling or referrals to appropriate agencies and organizations. Helping consumers and businesses resolve over 2 million disputes annually, BBB conducted more than 3,100 investigations on companies using questionable business practices in 2005 alone. You can download a complaint form online.
  • The National Association of Consumer Agency Administrators (NACAA) – representing more than 160 government agencies and 50 corporate consumer offices in the USA and abroad. Providing consumer advocating services; helping to resolve problems and prosecute offenders. (To file a complaint, visit http://www.consumeraction.gov/state.shtml to discover what resources are available in your locality.)

How to Handle the Unthinkable; Sexual Harassment

Workplace Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is no longer considered just a woman’s problem. Men, too, are harassed sexually; although not as frequently as women.

Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination no one should be subjected to. It comes in the form of unwelcome sexual advances; requests for sexual favors, verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, sexual jokes, innuendos or taunting about a person’s body, attire, etc., leering and similar gestures, unnecessary physical contact, etc. This violates one’s “space,” creating an uncomfortable work environment. The victim does not have to be of the opposite sex.

Workplace sexual harassment violates Title VII of the US Civil. When a contractor is hired for residential construction and remodeling purposes, the home becomes a workplace, too.

Dealing with Sexual Harassment

If you feel you are a victim of sexual harassment, the following may prove helpful:

  • Unless the harassment has crossed the line from innuendos and leers to physical contact or verbal suggestions, telling the offender their behavior is unprofessional, unwanted, and out of line may be all that is required. You may feel more comfortable having a friend with you when you make the announcement. This lets the offender know you are serious about your request, and that you have discussed their inappropriate behavior with others.
  • A letter can be sent to the offender demanding the behavior stop; include documentation that deals with sexual harassment and outlines penalties under law.
  • If you verbally confront the offender, make sure it doesn’t come off as a request. By DEMANDING the behavior stop IMMEDIATELY, you will seem less vulnerable; less of a victim, more in control.
  • If the offender is employed by a company, write an official complaint to their employer; or telephone to discuss the situation with them.
  • If the offender is self-employed, threaten to report them to the BBB or another organization that protects consumer rights and helps to ensure service providers adhere to legitimate business practices.

If these suggestions fail to stop the offensive behavior, contact the authorities and file a formal complaint. If all else fails, file a lawsuit against the offender. Contact an attorney; or your states anti-discrimination agency.

You can research “sexual harassment” online. There are countless resources available that offer legal definitions, helpful resources, how to handle the situation, and how to file a formal complaint, etc.

HandyAmerican.com – a High Standard of Excellence

HandyAmerican.com expects high standards of excellence from service provider members when it comes to workmanship, professionalism, and reputable business practices. Our project-owner-to-contractor matchmaking services have helped countless homeowners connect with reliable contractors in their area with huge success.

This not only helps insure the project is a successful venture for the homeowner. It provides new employment opportunities for growing businesses and boosts the economy, as well. In addition, project owners save money; accomplished through competitive quotes as member contractors vie against the other to win that job.

Unfortunately, as with any other business worldwide, interacting with high volumes of people, it is possible for a contractor to behave less than professional. On the rare occasion when a project owner contacts HandyAmerican.com with a complaint against a contractor member, it is taken seriously. And appropriate measures initiated (when deemed necessary.)

This guideline offers persons with project needs useful information on hiring the right contractor for the job. And serves as an aid to help persons victimized by sexual harassment locate helpful resources and take action; both in helping to avoid potential situations, as well as counter situations that have already happened.


The tips in this informational are more than suggestions; they represent noteworthy guidelines that can help you make an informed decision when selecting the right contractor for your project needs.

Chances of connecting with the wrong contractor and having to deal with something as unpleasant as sexual harassment are greatly reduced when the project owner takes the initiative. “Does their homework” and checks out all available resources before making a hiring decision. One based upon credentials, professionalism, and expertise – and not the lowest price quote.

Things to Consider when Remodeling Your Basement

If you need more space in your home then one of the first places you should look is your basement. It is often easier to convert a basement into the required space through remodeling than it is to build another room or another story onto your home. Before starting your basement remodeling and finishing project there are a number of things that you should consider.

Finshed BasementThe first thing you will want to consider before starting your basement remodeling project is the air quality in your basement. If you have moisture issues then you should take care of these problems before you begin. You should also fix any cracks in the basement that could contribute to moisture problems.

Another aspect to consider is how the heating system in your home will handle the extra capacity of the basement renovation. If you are going to need extra heating capacity to handle this then you should look into it before remodeling.

Choosing Your Basement Contractor

You can use HandyAmerican.com to find a contractor for your basement remodeling and finishing projects either by finding a contractor yourself in by using our directory, or by posting your project and letting contractors and local remodeling companies bid for your work. Choose a contractor who gives value for money, has good references and who you feel comfortable dealing with.

Structural Concerns

You should also discuss structural concerns with your basement contractor before beginning your renovation project so that any necessary changes can be made in time. A service professional will be able to help you detect these problems and suggest solutions.

The Cost of the Renovation Project

The cost is really something that you will probably be thinking about all along. You will need to consider what you can afford to do with your basement, which contractor gives the best price, and any additional costs involved with the project. Construction and renovating projects seldom work out exactly as you planned and it is important to have some extra money set aside so don’t try to work to a very strict budget but you should have some idea of how much it will cost.

Remodeling and finishing a basement can be a great way of getting more space and adding more value to your home but before doing so you should think through the air quality, heating requirements, structural concerns and cost of this basement renovation. You can find a renovating contractor at HandyAmerican.com and should choose the one you feel comfortable with and who will go a good job.