Educational Consumer Tips
Better Business Bureau
Category: Home Improvement
This report is general in nature and is not intended as a reliability report on any company, service or product.
When considering a contractor, check to see if they are licensed with the state of PA at www.attorneygeneral.gov or 1-888-520-6680. You may also ask whether they belong to a professional association with standards for membership and ask that they will obtain any necessary building permits.
- Check with your local building inspector or town clerk to see if a building permit is required
- Check with your local municipality to see what licensing requirements the contractor must have
- Solicit two or three bids for the work you are planning, make sure all bids are based on the same specifications and materials and length of time.
- Do not automatically accept the lowest bid, sometimes this can be due to inferior product quality or workmanship
- Once you have found a contractor, request proof of a current insurance certificate covering workman’s compensation, property damage and personal liability
- Read and understand any contract in it’s entirety, don’t sign a blank contract or any with blank lines, a copy of the signed contract is to be given to you at time of signature
- Do not pay for a job in its entirety or in cash.
The PA Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act (517.9. Prohibited acts) states for any sale of over $5000, the contractor cannot accept a deposit of more than 1/3 of the price, or 1/3 of the price plus the cost of special order materials. Never make a final payment or sign an affidavit of release until the job has completed any inspections and any subcontractors have been paid and you are satisfied that the work has been done to your specifications.
Effective Oct 1, 2010, all work in homes that pre-date 1978 must be done by contractors that have completed the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) course entitled: Certification to Conduct Lead-Based Paint Activities and Renovations. Contractors must provide the consumer with proof of course completion with a certificate. Certification may be verified by visiting the EPA website and using the search feature.
ENERGY STAR is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy helping consumers save money and protect the environment through energy efficient products and practices. Energy Star qualified products meet strict energy efficiency guidelines set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and offer long-term energy savings. To locate window products that are Energy Star qualified, click here.
To compare window performance ratings, go to www.NFRC.org and look up the windows that you are considering. The NFRC label must be on all windows manufactured and the information provided on the label will offer window performance criteria. In 2012 Pennsylvania adopted the 2009 Internal Energy Codes requiring all windows sold in the state to have a U-factor rating of .35 or lower. The rate of heat loss is indicated in terms of the U-factor of a window assembly. The lower the U-factor, the greater a window's resistance to heat flow and the better its insulating properties.
Questions to ask yourself before hiring a window contractor include:
- Am I just replacing the windows and doors?
- Or is this part of a larger remodeling effort?
- What improvements am I trying to make to my home?
- Realistically, how much can I afford? Try to come up with a range of what you're willing to spend that includes an absolute maximum.
- What are my "must-haves?" What are the "nice-to-haves?" For instance, having at least a single hung window in a particular spot might be a "must-have," while having a double-hung might be a "nice-to-have." If you and your contractor need to trim the budget, such flexibility will give you a good place to start.
- Do I need this done by a certain time? Or, can I afford to have the work done in the off season? Everyone tends to want work done on their homes in times of good weather. But often you can have more flexibility and the work done more quickly in off-season times.
Questions to ask when interviewing contractors:
- When can you start? When will you be finished?
- What time will you knock on my door each morning? What time will you quit for the day? Most people like a regular schedule they can plan on. See if your contractor has a particular start and finish time each day.
- Will you be working consecutive days until the job is done? This can be an important question. Sometimes contractors work on several jobs at once, returning to one when the materials are ready.
- Do you clean up daily? Do you take care of everything? Or will I have to do some touching up or painting?
- How much will it cost? Obviously, you want a bid. Be careful to make item-by-item decisions based on value and quality, not just price. Be sure to ask if there are any contingencies in the bid and what type of things might result in cost overruns. Contractors installing windows can't anticipate everything they might run into but you can ask for a ballpark estimate should they find dry rot when removing old windows.
For more information on tips from your BBB, go to www.bbb.org.