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Spring 2013

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Unlicensed Contractors, and why you should avoid them

An unlicensed contractor is someone who performs work without state certification. It can be dangerous and costly. Choosing a licensed contractor can keep give you the peace of mind that the work will be performed with quality in mind. After all, the licensed contractor seeks to further his good reputation. Happy customers means good business.

Every state has a different set of requirements for contractor eligibility, but they all share a few key components. Reviewing these will give you a sense of the legal process that licensed contractors must undergo to perform state–certified home improvement services.

  • At least 18 years old with a high school diploma or equivalent education
  • U.S. citizen or legal resident
  • Other occupational license documentations must be shared
  • Explanation of citations, violations or liens resulting from construction work

Additionally, many states require that applicants take a written examination in their field of practice. Applicants may have to prove that they are financially viable to properly operate a business, they have on–the–job experience, and may also be asked to supply letters of reference from previous employers, customers, and bankers.

  • If you’re unsure about your contractor, take heed of the following signs:
  • Door–to–door solicitation with lofty claims of service.
  • Feeling rushed: if you sense that your contractor is being aggressive or pushy.
  • Some states make it a requirement that all certified contractors need to publish their license number on their vehicles, estimates and advertising. If your state requires this and you don’t see it, that may be a sign of evasion.
  • If your contractor asks for the total fee upfront or a large percentage in advance.

If you suspect that your contractor is not exactly telling you the truth about his licensing, ask to see a physical copy, and feel free to contact your state licensing board to look up any available background information. The board is not only there to provide reference, but also to help you resolve disputes and conflicts between you and your contractor—if you negotiate with an unlicensed contractor, you are on your own.


Emergency Plumbing Tips

What do you do in the event of a plumbing emergency, if say your toilet starts leaking or a pipe bursts? Of course you should call a plumber, but in the event a plumbing emergency happens to you, there are some important steps you can take when the plumber hasn’t arrived yet.

Stopping the Flow of Water

Your number one priority should be to stop the flow of water from whatever pipe, appliance or device is leaking. For all non–drain leaks this means turning off the main water valve, usually located just outside or just inside your home at the meter. Spend some time familiarizing yourself with the water valve and how to turn it off during a non–emergency situation so you can react more quickly when there is a real problem.

Second, once the water stops flowing to your home, find the specific problem. For example, if it turns out the problem is your toilet, there should be a shutoff valve behind the toilet that will stop all water flowing to the toilet. These valves exist for most water–using fixtures in your home – including sinks, your bath tub, the washing machine and the water heater. Simply turn off that valve and you can turn your main water valve back on.

A note here – if water is leaking from a water line or pipe, it is best to leave that main supply valve off for now. A plumber can trace the pipes and find the source, but to avoid additional damage, your best course of action is to leave everything off. Additionally, if there is standing water at all in your basement or another room of your home, turn off the electricity. Electrocution is a very real risk whenever standing water and live electrical sockets are involved.

Clear Away Valuables

Only once the water is turned off (and possibly the electricity, if necessary) should you start moving away your possessions and cleaning the mess. The plumber will arrive soon and can assess the damage but don’t expect that it will be fixed right away. Keep down any towels used to absorb the water and clear away anything you want to protect in case the problem recurs. A plumbing emergency is a stressful event – by remaining calm during one you can reduce the damage done and prepare the area for a plumber to make repairs as quickly as possible.


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