Open up the newspaper and you’ll find a large amount of cases where homeowners have sued contractors and home repair professionals due to issues with the services provided. Although the majority of contractors and home repair professionals offer services of a high quality there are some that are of reputable quality. What I want to provide for you in this article are the main ways that dishonest service professionals will overcharge you for their services:
Plumbing materials are often surprisingly inexpensive. Expensive parts usually depend on the original parts that you placed in your house. What really increases the cost of repair is the service fee. Plumbers typically charge between $50 to $70 per visit. To save costs, it is best to have your plumber work on all available plumbing work in one go, so that you do not get charged a “mobilization charge” for each job that they have to fix in separate occasions. Material costs are tough to estimate, since damages are difficult to assess at first glance.
The best way to go in such cases is to get a detailed estimate of the work based on talking to your plumber on the phone- make sure to ask the details on how, when and how long the work will be done. Don’t reveal where you live before asking for a rough estimate of costs. Remember that plumbers usually charge depending on the community houses are situated in. The more affluent the neighborhood, the more they will charge.
Similarly, a plumber located at, or servicing upscale communities would charge more than those living in the suburbs. Keeping that in mind will help you cut down further on expenses.
Multiple jobs at a time scheduled in one visit is the best way to go. Call up 2-4 plumbers to get an estimate if you think the rough cost will be under $200. If the job will be more expensive then you’ll need an on-site estimate – you’ll usually need an on-site estimate if it involves plumbing behind the walls. Unless you keep a blueprint of your house, then troubleshooting for the issue may be tricky – often taking you from you think will be a small repair to one that escalates to being a huge one. If you think that you will end up having major repairs done, it is best to have a fixed-price set via the telephone in order to save yourself from paying more than what you expect.
For short jobs wherein the plumber charges hourly, it is best to know if s/he will charge as soon as s/he gets to your house, or as soon as s/he is en route to your place. This is an important distinction if the plumber that you hired will also be the one who will buy the materials and do all other errands related to the job that s/he is tasked to do. Every minute counts!
It also beneficial to know the parts of the plumbing that will get installed in your house. Some plumbers take advantage of their clients by using sub-standard materials that will last a shorter period of time compared to more durable materials. At the end of the day, it will be to your advantage if you know the materials being used in your house and that you had a choice in the materials used.
As for materials, the best way to know if your plumber is overcharging you with them is by comparing prices yourself from local plumbing suppliers. Knowing the retail price of the items is your best weapon from opportunity-seeking plumbers.
From an outsider’s perspective, you may think the type of coat used is the main culprit in expensive paint jobs. The truth of the matter is that prep work eats the most time (and money) in paint jobs. It’s also the most crucial step in doing paint jobs in order to ensure that the paint doesn’t get damaged, rot or wear-off easily. Make sure that when painting, a “primer” is used.
As with the plumbing example above, having a detailed estimate is the best way to go. When aiming to get an estimate, make sure to have at least 2 painters take a look at the scope of work to be done. When you ask them how they will do the work, ensure that they will clean and plaster the walls, apply one coat of primer and two coats of the finishing paint. Also, make sure that the estimates you get are within the same range.
If you want to cut down on cost, never cut down on quality paint. A single coat of really good paint lasts longer and is worth the investment.
For painters that focus on the exterior of buildings, check their previous jobs. Ask them for examples of homes that they painted in the last five years and visit them. Exterior paint jobs, good ones, have a lifespan of about seven years. Checking their previous work from the past five years will show you how well the paint job was done based on the wear around the gutters.
Be sure to remember, haggling with your potential contractors is good, but don’t push them too hard. They are doing this to make money and they put in around 20% up to 25% reserved for profit. Although you can always ask someone else to do the work to cut down cost, it might be helpful to consider that cheaper can sometimes means a compromise in quality of work.
Following national standards is mandatory for electricians. Make it a point to check if your electrician is a member of the National Electrical Contractors Association. If not, s/he should at least be a member of the local electricians’ union.
Dishonest electricians are not usually likely to take advantage when it comes to parts, but they may try to gouge you in terms of service. This means that the more labor intensive the work is, the more expensive it gets – sometimes disproportionally so.
With regards to materials provided by your electrician, knowing that they are “specification grade or better” is important. This standard is set by the National Electrical Manufacturers Association. This will last a lot longer than your “utility” and “residential” grade.
If you would like to test the electrician’s work, you might want to buy a $10 voltage tester to diagnose if your outlets are wired correctly.
Among the areas in the house where kick-backs from materials is rampant, this area tops the list. It is also prone to contractors taking short-cuts by insisting that leak-prevention can be done by just using latex paint coating, instead of actually replacing shingles.
The most common cause of roof leaks is flashing. The material used for this part of the roof is usually metal made of copper, galvanized steel or aluminum. This part joins the roof to the chimney and the vents and can be fixed easily by sealing it using asphalt cement. This fix will be good for three years. Replacing the flashing with a new one will keep your roof fine for the next 10 years. The average expense for fixing flashing (excluding the materials) would cost you between $30 to $50 per hour.
If the roofer tells you that your roof’s shingles need to get replaced, always check if they look brittle, curl up at the edges and crumble into powder when broken. Otherwise, it means that there may be another type of repair (possibly less expensive) that may be done.
Roof shingles cost around $30-$50 per “roofer’s square” (100 square feet). This will last between 15 to 20 years. Unless you’ll be staying in that house for a long time, you don’t really need to add a second layer that would be good for another 10 years. Doing this will save you from spending 20% more, and another $500 to $700 from renting a hauler to throw out your old ones.
Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning
A common scam when you get your air conditioning fixed is that a technician may put in used parts while pricing you for new ones. Make sure that s/he will return the repaired part and box(es) for the new item(s) to you. This is to ensure that you got new ones and that the replaced part was definitely due for replacement.
If you have suspicions that your technician may be pressuring you to make unnecessary and costly repairs, you can always insist on the specific kinds of fix you want to have done.
A question many people have is when is the best time to have air conditioning fixed. The best deals are given before winter. Also, it is best if you don’t go for extended payment offers if you’re able to afford to pay for them in one go.
Buying service contracts for regular maintenance is the best way to go. This makes sure that you get the service you need consistently and at the same time providing you with quality work for the rest of the year. Quality of work is also equated with the equipment being used for checking up your equipment. Check if your provider has a refrigerant-recovery machine and a refrigerant leak-detection device.
Just a few things to remember when replacing your air conditioner or furnace is to make sure to have information on hand about the measurement of your windows, the insulation type of your house and of course, where your house is located. Knowing these things can give you the information on how much heat is lost or gained from your house and will help you make a right choice in buying the equipment you need for your home.
Protecting yourself from unscrupulous technicians taking advantage of you is the best way to go. Although a contract is not a guarantee, it does help to have a contract backing the work done. This holds both you and your contractor accountable to meet the clauses in your agreement. Ideally, contracts should be in place for work having costs amounting to $7,500 or more.
When the jobs finish, contract or no contract, make sure to get a confirmation notice or certificate of completion from your hired trader. This is to make sure that you don’t get into trouble later when you sell or refinance your property.
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