Make sure you follow these 10 tips when choosing your contractor:
1. Hire only state-licensed contractors.
Disaster Preparedness, check it out.
Contractor license classification (CSLB)
(A) General Engineering Contractor
(B) General Building Contractor
(C) Specialty Contractor
C-2 - Insulation and Acoustical Contractor
C-4 - Boiler, Hot Water Heating and Steam Fitting Contractor
C-5 - Framing and Rough Carpentry Contractor
C-6 - Cabinet, Millwork and Finish Carpentry Contractor
C-7 - Low Voltage Systems Contractor
C-8 - Concrete Contractor
C-9 - Drywall Contractor
C10 - Electrical Contractor
C11 - Elevator Contractor
C12 - Earthwork and Paving Contractors
C13 - Fencing Contractor
C14 - Metal Roofing Contractor [repealed]
C15 - Flooring and Floor Covering Contractors
C16 - Fire Protection Contractor
C17 - Glazing Contractor
C20 - Warm-Air Heating, Ventilating and Air-Conditioning Contractor
C21 - Building Moving/Demolition Contractor
C23 - Ornamental Metal Contractor
C26 - Lathing Contractor [repealed]
C27 - Landscaping Contractor
C28 - Lock and Security Equipment Contractor
C29 - Masonry Contractor
C31 - Construction Zone Traffic Control Contractor
C32 - Parking and Highway Improvement Contractor
C33 - Painting and Decorating Contractor
C34 - Pipeline Contractor
C35 - Lathing and Plastering Contractor
C36 - Plumbing Contractor
C38 - Refrigeration Contractor
C39 - Roofing Contractor
C42 - Sanitation System Contractor
C43 - Sheet Metal Contractor
C45 - Sign Contractor
C46 - Solar Contractor
C47 - General Manufactured Housing Contractor
C50 - Reinforcing Steel Contractor
C51 - Structural Steel Contractor
C53 - Swimming Pool Contractor
C54 - Ceramic and Mosaic Tile Contractor
C55 - Water Conditioning Contractor
C57 - Water Well Drilling Contractor
C60 - Welding Contractor
C61 - Limited Specialty
ASB - Asbestos Certification
HAZ - Hazardous Substance Removal Certification
HIC - Home Improvement Certification [repealed]
Bathrooms for 2011 are the Number One Remodeling Project
Think spa. Lots of space, big whirlpool and soaking tubs. Multiple shower heads or even steam attachments in the shower.
Dual sinks are a given in a master bath and luxuries like heated floors and towel warmers are popular.
Dear clients & friends
As you probably already heard, in the past few years the U.S. treasury department & IRS have been allocating resources and concentrating on unreported foreign bank accounts of U.S. citizens or where U.S. citizens have a signatory authority. Also, there is a requirement of annual reporting for U.S. citizens with ownership/management in foreign corporations & reporting of foreign corporations doing business in the U.S. In this regard, penalties for not filing required reports are enormous, including possible criminal prosecutions (foreign countries, including Switzerland are providing to the U.S. records of U.S. citizens’ bank accounts, etc.) Currently, we are in a second and possibly last chance for voluntary disclosure, which comes with substantially reduced penalties. The deadline for COMPLETING the voluntary disclosure is August 31, 2011 (not to come forward by that date but to complete the reporting process by that date!)
Solar electric energy demand has grown by an average of 30% per annum over the past 20 years against a backdrop of rapidly declining cost and price!!!! It is a fact that green homes sell faster……The Sun is the worlds largest power plant. It provides more energy to the Earth in one hour than that produced by all nations in a year
Some Tips and Statistics
Seismic retrofitting - It is cheaper to retrofit now than after an earthquake.
Doing structural repairs after an earthquake is even more expensive due to the fact that there will be a sudden high demand for licensed contractors, professional engineers in the impacted area.
Even if you just do a partial improvement of the weakest areas of your home, it may be a considerable value.
You should secure anything that is heavy enough to hurt if it falls or fragile and expensive enough to cause significant loss if it falls.
You should also secure items in your garage to reduce damages that can be done to vehicles as well.
What Kind of Contractor Do You Need?
This step helps you get started determining what type of contractor you need, and making sure they are qualified and properly licensed.
Determine what type of contractor you need.
13 guidelines to hire the best contractors
Homeowners are back to tackling home improvement projects this year, but too many are skipping two important steps in the hiring process. In a recent Angie's List survey, one-third of the consumers who responded admit they don’t verify a contractor's license status. Plus, 16 percent confess they don’t fully read the home improvement contract before they sign it.
These two items are crucial to a job's success. Trade licenses are important indicators of quality, reliability and the ability to cover any unexpected injuries or other problems. Contracts literally spell out what the contractor and the homeowner are obligated to do — if a job goes poorly, you'll know what was agreed upon to help protect yourself from financial loss.
Follow these 13 hiring guidelines to help make sure your project is problem-free and high-quality.
How unlicensed contractors can cost you
It's down to two. You've vetted a long list of contractors. Wheat has emerged from chaff. Now the final decision gets tough. Each appeals to you for different reasons. They're almost identically qualified, with one difference: one's licensed, the other isn't.
Questions float through your head: What does it really mean to be licensed? Why are some contractors licensed and others not? And the ultimate question: Does it matter?
You're not alone in your confusion. Contractors feel it, too. Licensing rules vary state to state. Most states require a license for at least a few home-improvement trades, some don't. Some cities and counties require additional licenses, some don't. Some states and municipalities strictly enforce their licensing laws, most don't.
Once contractors think they've got the rules figured out for where they work, another unhappy epiphany dawns: not everyone — homeowners or contractors — knows the rules. And not everyone plays by the rules. Contractors pay a tidy sum to play by the rules, which makes it hard for them to compete against those who don't. Homeowners can pay the price when they fail to distinguish between the two.
What follows are several stories about homeowners and contractors across the country negotiating the complicated world of trade licensing. In each you'll see the complexities and frustrations encountered in a system that can be called many things, but definitely cannot be called simple.
Go green, save green with a solar metal roof
Jerry Walsh Skelly says it's not unusual for people to stop and compliment him on the metal roof of his Louisville, Ky., home when he's out doing yardwork. What they don't guess at first glance, though, is that the black panels are capturing solar energy.
"It's not obvious to the naked eye," says Walsh Skelly, who opted for a standing seam metal roofing system with thin-film solar panels to re-roof his Colonial home. "Nobody knows there's solar up there."
Unlike traditional photovoltaic panels that jut out from a roof's exterior, thin laminate strips adhere to the metal roof, allowing them to blend in with the surface.
Walsh Skelly is among the growing number of homeowners who consider the environment when they choose metal roofing systems, which are partially made from recycled materials, and can increase a home's energy efficiency and therefore lower utility bills. When combined with solar technology, the cost savings can be dramatic.
In 2008, Walsh Skelly's annual electric bill was $2,133. He installed the solar laminate roofing in the fall of 2009, and in 2010 his bill dropped to $878. That year he was also able to sell $800 worth of extra electricity he generated, bringing his total electric bill to $78 for the year.
Walsh Skelly paid about $30,000 — $10,000 for the metal roof and $20,000 for the solar — and netted $7,000 in tax rebates for the system, which was installed by highly rated Cornett Roofing of Franklin, Ind. "Our company's mission revolves around permanent Earth-friendly products," says company president Richard "Chan" Cornett, who adds that solar laminate was a natural fit with the recycled steel roofing his company produces. "It was synergy!"
Interest in solar laminate roofing has increased since the company began offering it three years ago, and Cornett says he's now installing it about every 10 days, though other contractors have had a more difficult time piquing clients' interest. He says the cost of a solar metal roof can be recouped in as few as six years through lower utility bills and net metering, which involves selling extra electricity to companies that, in turn, sell it to utilities.
TERMITE CONTROL: Answers for Homeowners
by Mike Potter, Extension Entomologist
Entomology departments often receive more calls about termites than any other household insect. Subterranean termites are serious pests, whose control is best left to professionals. Termites and termite management services can be confusing, however, and there are more options available today than ever before. Some of the most common termite questions raised by homeowners are answered below.
NOTE: The answers contained in this publication are based on conditions and regulations as they exist in Kentucky, USA. Timing of termite appearance and regulatory/legal considerations may be different in your local area. You may also wish to consult your local cooperative extension agency or government department about specific recommendations for your area.
Q: Why worry about termites?
A: Termites cause billions of dollars in damage each year. They primarily feed on wood, but also damage paper, books, insulation, and even swimming pool liners and filtration systems. Termites can injure living trees and shrubs, but more often are a secondary invader of woody plants already in decline. While buildings may become infested at any time, termites are of particular importance when buying or selling a home since a termite inspection/infestation report is normally a condition of sale. Besides the monetary impact, thousands of winged termites emerging inside one's home are an emotionally trying experience — not to mention the thought of termites silently feasting on one's largest investment.
Q: Why are infestations often discovered during March - May?
A: Spring typically is when large numbers of winged termites, known as "swarmers," emerge inside homes. In nature, termites swarm to disperse and start new colonies. Triggered by warmer temperatures and rainfall, the winged termites emerge from the colony and fly into the air. Above: Winged termites emerging indoors are a sure sign that the building is infested.
The swarmers then drop to the ground, shed their wings, pair off with a mate, and attempt to begin new colonies in the soil. Few swarmers emerging outdoors survive to start new colonies. Swarmers emerging indoors are incapable of eating wood, seldom survive, and are best removed with a vacuum. They do, however, indicate that an infestation is present.
Q: How will I know if my home is infested?
A: Discovering winged termites indoors almost always indicates an infestation warranting treatment.
People often confuse winged termites with ants, which often swarm at the same time of year. Termites can be differentiated by their straight antennae, uniform waist and wings of equal size. (Ants have elbowed antennae, constricted waists and forewings that are longer than the hind wings.)
The swarmers are attracted to light and are often seen around windows and doors. Termite swarmers emerging from tree stumps, woodpiles, and other locations out in the yard are not necessarily cause for concern, and do not necessarily mean that the house is infested. On the other hand, if winged termites are seen emerging from the base of a foundation wall or adjoining porches and patios, there's a good chance the house is infested also and treatment may be warranted.
Other signs of infestation are earthen (mud) tubes (shown right) extending over foundation walls, support piers, sill plates, floor joists, etc. The mud tubes are typically about the diameter of a pencil, but sometimes can be thicker.
Termites construct these tubes for shelter as they travel between their underground colonies and the structure. To help determine if an infestation is active, the tubes may be broken open and checked for the presence of small, creamy-white worker termites.
If a tube happens to be vacant, it does not necessarily mean that the infestation is inactive; termites often abandon sections of tube while foraging elsewhere in the structure.
Termite-damaged wood is usually hollowed out along the grain, with bits of dried mud or soil lining the feeding galleries. Wood damaged by moisture or other types of insects (e.g., carpenter ants) will not have this appearance. Occasionally termites bore tiny holes through plaster or drywall, accompanied by bits of soil around the margin. Rippled or sunken traces behind wall coverings can also be indicative of termites tunneling underneath.
Oftentimes there will be no visible indication that the home is infested. Termites are cryptic creatures and infestations can go undetected for years, hidden behind walls, floor coverings, insulation, and other obstructions. Termite feeding and damage can even progress undetected in wood that is exposed because the outer surface is usually left intact.
Termite damage to baseboard. Hidden infestation was discovered when vacumn cleaner attachment penetrated surface of baseboard.
Confirmation of infestation often requires the keen eye of an experienced termite inspector. However, even the most experienced inspector can overlook infestation or damage which is hidden.
Q: Can I treat the house myself?
A: Ridding a home of termites requires special skills. A knowledge of building construction is needed to identify the critical areas where termites are likely to enter. Many of these potential points of entry are hidden and difficult to access. Termite control also utilizes specialized equipment such as masonry drills, pumps, large-capacity tanks, and soil treatment rods. A typical treatment may involve hundreds of gallons of a liquid pesticide, known as a termiticide, injected into the ground alongside the foundation, beneath concrete slabs, and within foundation walls.
In short, termite treatment is a job for professionals. A possible exception would be if a mailbox post, sandbox or other small wooden object not attached to the house was infested. "Do-it-yourself" products, sold to homeowners at retail stores or bought over the internet, will seldom eradicate an existing termite problem.
Q: How do I choose a termite control company? Why is there such variance in price?
A: These are complex questions. The company should be licensed by the Department of Agriculture or agency responsible for regulating termite control in the state. Membership in their state pest control association and/or National Pest Management Association suggest the company is an established firm with access to technical and training information needed to do the job correctly. As with any service company, references are invaluable. Consider calling at least 2-3 companies. Requesting inspections and estimates from more than one will help verify the existence of a termite problem and allow you to compare services. Companies offer different types of treatment methods and warranties. If termites happen to return, most will retreat the affected area(s) at no additional charge. Some companies also will repair damage occurring subsequent to their treatment, although dating onset of damage is a hard thing to determine. In some cases, no warranty will be offered if wells, cisterns, subslab heating ducts, drainage systems, or inaccessible crawl spaces make it impossible to treat in accordance with industry standards.
Take your time when selecting a company. Termites damage wood slowly; the amount of damage caused by taking an additional day, week, or month to make an informed decision generally is insignificant. Avoid firms that try to pressure you into signing a contract immediately with "specials" or scare tactics. The overall quality of the job depends less on the sales person than on the individual who does the work. A safe and effective treatment requires an experienced technician, not someone who was hired a few weeks ago.
Q: Which treatment methods and products are most effective?
A: Another challenging question. There are two general categories of termite treatment, liquids and baits. Soil-applied liquid termiticides have been around for decades. Their purpose is to provide a long-lasting chemical barrier that excludes termites in the ground from entering buildings. In most cases, termites in the structure die off as well, since they cannot return to the soil. Most former products were repellent rather than lethal to termites foraging in the soil. Newer materials, such as Premise® (imidacloprid), Termidor® (fipronil), and Phantom® (chlorfenapyr), are non-repellent and termites tunneling into the treatment zone are killed. Overall the non-repellent products are proving to be more reliable in their ability to resolve termite problems in the first attempt. All registered termiticides (both repellent and non-repellent) can be effective, however, and homeowners should not base their purchasing decision on product alone.
The other broad treatment category is baiting. Termite baits consist of paper, cardboard, or other palatable food, combined with a slow-acting substance lethal to termites. The baits are installed below ground out in the yard in cylindrical plastic stations. Others are sometimes placed indoors over active mud tubes. Foraging termites consume the bait and share it with their nestmates, resulting in a gradual decline in termite numbers. On some properties, baits may constitute the only form of treatment; on others, they may be combined with liquid applications. to areas where termites are observed.
Termite baiting is a very complex subject. For further information, see our entomology extension publications, Entfact 639: Termite Baits: A Guide for Homeowners. Regardless of which method or product is selected, it's important to have an experienced technician, backed by a responsible pest control firm.
Q: Does the entire house need to be treated... or can they just treat areas where I see termites?
A: Subterranean termite colonies may contain hundreds of thousands of individuals, foraging in many different directions. For the homeowner, localized or "spot" treatments are generally a gamble except in cases of retreatment. Most reputable pest control firms will not warranty spot treatments, since it's likely that termites will eventually find other points of entry into the structure.
Some companies may offer to do a so-called "perimeter" treatment, using one of the non-repellent liquid termiticides (Termidor, Premise, etc.). Typically this will involve a thorough application around the entire outside foundation wall of the building, and spot-treating any infested or high-risk interior areas. If the homeowner is considering such a treatment, they should inquire whether it will be accompanied by a service agreement in case termites return. (Service renewal agreements usually state that if termites return, the company will return and retreat the affected areas at no additional charge provided the renewal agreement is maintained.) It's a bit of a gamble to purchase any termite treatment option without an ongoing service agreement.
Q: How long will the treatment last?
A: All liquid termiticides are supposed to control termites for at least five years when applied according to label directions. The actual length of control on a given structure will depend on such factors as thoroughness of the application, environmental conditions, and density of termites in the area. If termites swarm again and continue to be a problem the year after treatment, it's usually not from degradation of the termiticide — but because termites have found an untreated gap in the chemical barrier.
Q: Will the chemicals harm my family or pets?
A: Termiticides are tested extensively for adverse effects on health. Before a product can be used, numerous studies are conducted by the manufacturer and independently evaluated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Based on the current body of knowledge, registered termiticides pose no significant hazard to humans, pets or the environment when applied according to label directions. Despite the negligible health risk from a properly performed termite treatment, people with lingering concerns should consult their physician. Most of the newer liquid products have essentially no odor. Clients who are still apprehensive may want to consider having their home treated with baits.
Q: Have I been "cheated" if termites continue to infest my house after treatment?
A: Not necessarily. Unlike other services such as plumbing or electrical work, termite control involves living creatures. The best treatments performed by knowledgeable firms may fail at times, when termites find their way through tiny, untreated gaps in the soil. While the intent is to establish a continuous, impenetrable chemical barrier, this is all but impossible to achieve in actual practice. In the case of baits, it may take several months for termites to initially find the below-ground installations and several months more to achieve control. The key is to hire a reputable pest control firm employing experienced, conscientious technicians. Companies will return and retreat affected area(s) at no additional charge provided the service agreement is purchased and maintained.
CAUTION! Pesticide recommendations in this publication are registered for use in Kentucky, USA ONLY! The use of some products may not be legal in your state or country. Please check with your local county agent or regulatory official before using any pesticide mentioned in this publication.
Of course, ALWAYS READ AND FOLLOW LABEL DIRECTIONS FOR SAFE USE OF ANY PESTICIDE!
Photos: Mike Potter, University of Kentucky. Other images: University of Kentucky Entomology.
Memorial Day is an important day in the United States; people typically go to the beach or lake, host a pool party or throw a backyard barbeque. Many homeowners consider this extended weekend holiday as an ideal time to prepare for the summer. If you are one of those homeowners, we are going to introduce you to 5 home improvement projects that can be accomplished over this 3-day weekend.
Day 1: Power Washing Siding, Decks, Gutters, Walkways and Driveways
Power washers, also known as pressure washers, are terrific machines for home beautification projects. Whether you own a power washer, or rent one from places like Lowes, Home Depot, or a local hardware store, a warm Labor Day weekend provides a great opportunity to wash the exterior and surrounding areas of your home.
Power washers typically come with different nozzles to control water pressure. Before using the power washer, it is crucial to test the pressure of each nozzle to decide which is best for each surface that will be cleaned. Less pressure should be used around painted woodwork to avoid chipping as well as on wood decks to prevent splintering. A rocket nozzle provides the strongest water pressure and is most effective at removing mold, mildew, grime, dust and dirt no matter the surface. It is also the preferred nozzle for hard-to-reach places like the second story of a home. Rocket nozzles are also very effective in eradicating leaves and pine needles from gutters.
Be mindful that this project is a full-day project and could easily take about 8 hours to complete. Additionally, it challenges both the shoulders and arms. Power washing, however, provides tremendous satisfaction to homeowners because it results in the immediate brightening of your home. The effort you put forth will not go unnoticed.
Day 2: Roof Maintenance, Window Caulking and Ceiling Fan Cleaning & Reversal
After the physical challenge of power washing on Day 1 of the Labor Day weekend, equally important but less demanding projects can be accomplished on Day 2. The roof of a home serves as its guard; therefore, its good condition is vital to secure living. Inspect the roof for loose or missing shingles and add replacement shingles where necessary. This basic inspection and simple maintenance can avert disaster. Unattended drafty or leaky windows can be costly to homeowners—both in lost energy and as a breeding place for mold and mildew. Consider using Day 2 to inspect all windows for air leaks and moisture, remove any old caulk with a razor knife, and add a clean, white caulk line that properly insulate the windows. To ensure a clean line, place the masking tape approximately ¼ inch from the top and bottom of the area where the caulk will be applied.
Often times ceiling fans can become very dusty and grimy after rotating. Use a durable cloth and a mixture of 1 part Dawn dish detergent to 20 parts water and wipe the blades clean. After cleaning each blade, dry the surface completely. This is also an ideal time to reverse the rotation of the fan from a clockwise fall and winter rotation to a counterclockwise summer rotation.
Day 3: Add Insulation to Your Home’s Attic
The United States Department of Energy ("DOE") states that home attics should be ideally insulated with 15.5" of product. The DOE reports that very few homes meet this standard. As a consequence, a stunning 45% of a home's energy can be lost through an inadequately insulated attic.
Insulating an attic may seem daunting to some homeowners, but it is a relatively simple project, especially if it means ensuring a comfortable living space while controlling energy costs. Prior to inspecting an attic for adequate insulation, or ultimately undertaking an insulation project, homeowners should first be certain that: (1) Proper clothing is worn (long sleeve shirt, long pants, safety glasses, protective mask, gloves and work boots; (2) The space is adequately lit with a work light; and (3) Plywood is placed across the attic's joists to create a stable working area of sufficient size.
Upon inspection, the first layer of insulation should run parallel to and flush with the attic's joists. If the first layer is depressed and not flush with the attic's beams, additional unfaced insulation (i.e., insulation with no paper backing) will have to be added. The reason why the additional insulation should have no backing is because it will avoid trapping moisture between the inadequate layer and the additional layer. A final layer of unfaced insulation will then be required to be laid perpendicular to the joists/beams. Ideally, these multiple layers should result in approximately 15.5" of attic insulation as recommended by the DOE.
In order to determine how many packages of insulation will be needed for a project, measure the square footage of the attic and how many layers must be set down. Each package of insulation is sold according to how much square footage it will cover.
Once the product is purchased, a razor knife and straight edge will be needed for cutting the insulation to size. When laying the insulation, it should always be set down from the boundary of the attic toward its center to avoid working into a small, unmanageable space. As a matter of safety, insulation should be laid at least 3 inches from chimneys, heater flues, recessed lighting or any other heat producing objects.
Follow these instructions and you could turn a usually lazy Memorial Day weekend into a productive few days that is sure to enhance the beauty, cleanliness and energy efficiency of your home!
Homes in California built prior to 1950 were not required to have retrofitting during construction. Retrofitting simply means two protective phases in securing a home against shifting during a quake. The first part, which is necessary, is to have retro bolts installed between the frame sill plate and the foundation of the home. The second part is placing plywood on the lower uncovered walls in two story homes. These are called "shear walls." It adds reinforcement against swaying during an earthquake.
If you have an older home and don't know if it is retrofitted you will need to go under the crawl space of the home and look for bolts every 16 inches along the sill plate. If they are not present, they can be installed by your or a contractor.
The expense primarily depends on the size of the home and whether its a single story or multiple story home. To retrofit the home yourself, you'll need to rent a power drill that will drill through cement and purchase the retro bolts at your local hardware store. Then you can call for several estimates from licensed contractors and compare prices.
Retrofitting is an absolute must in earthquake country. Without the retrofit you home can shift off the foundation. During this process fires easily ensue from broken gas lines, water pipes break and create additional damage and the property inside the home takes a severe beating. Depending on the magnitude of the earthquake and the shift that takes place, without retrofitting, loss of life or serious injury could result.
In most cases the cost of retrofitting could be equal to adding a deck on the back of your home. Not cost prohibitive, but a wise investment in protection of life and property.
Cool Life Coat