Steps to Consider in Your Search for a Contractor
The weather has been harsh in the Louisville area this year. The winter was cold, with no shortage of snow, and spring barely settled in before heavy rains and flooding became the norm. Summer has just arrived, and heavy rain and severe thunderstorms continue to relentlessly roll through the Ohio Valley. Just last week on June 30, 2015, parts of Goshen, Prospect, Crestwood, and Louisville, KY, endured a major storm that produced marble to golf ball size hail, downed limbs and trees, and caused extensive property damage in some areas. Future forecasts give little hope that this weather situation is going to lighten up as we are warned to gear up for showers and storms in the coming week.
All of these storms are more than just a nuisance, especially to those who live in flood zones or who have experienced damaging hail. Many homeowners are dealing with property damage, including water intrusion, because of hail and wind damage to roofs and gutters. Unfortunately, major problems often mean major expense, inconvenience, and uncertainty. Hiding from the problems or pretending they do not exist is a natural response when one is not sure what to do next. However, this tactic will not help the situation, and will likely allow small problems to get worse.
Proper action is key if you suspect that your property has fallen victim to any type of storm damage. You need a thorough inspection by a reputable contractor who is trained to identify damage, and then if necessary, help you navigate through the insurance claims process. Sounds simple, right? But the first question “Who should we call?” is often not a simple question to answer. We have all heard stories about nightmare contractors who take your money and leave you with shoddy workmanship, which leaves most homeowners wondering, “Who can you trust?” Here are a few steps to consider in your search for a contractor:
Step 1: Do Your Homework
If you want to protect your home, your family, and your pocketbook, the very first step one should take before hiring any contractor, and arguably the most important one, is: Do Your Homework! Start by talking to your neighbors, but do not stop there. Contractors are not “one size fits all.” Your expectations for a project may be different from your neighbor, so take their advice and heed their warnings, but also continue to investigate your options. Some questions to answer include:
- Was my home in the path of a potentially damaging storm?
- Who are the reputable contractors in my area?
- How long have they been in business?
- What is their BBB rating? (Angie’s List is another good resource, if you are a subscriber.)
- Do they come recommended by friends and neighbors?
Step 2: Schedule an Inspection
Once you select a company with which you feel relatively comfortable inviting out to your home, the next step is to call them to schedule an inspection of your property. Things to note during the initial contact:
- Did someone answer the phone?
- If you had to leave a message, did someone return your call promptly?
- Did the person you spoke to sound knowledgeable and professional?
- Is there a charge for the inspection? (A reputable company will not charge you for this service.)
On the day of the inspection:
- Make every effort to be present.
- Spend time talking to the contractor before his or her inspection. (What types of evidence of damage are they looking for? Are they working with any other neighbors? How long have they been in business?)
- Note the condition of the vehicle in which he or she arrives.
- Is it really a local company? (Take a quick glance at his or her license plate.)
- Be watchful for vandalism. Does the inspector take unnecessary tools on the roof, such as a putty knife? (A putty knife is commonly used by unscrupulous contractors to break the original seal on a shingle in an effort to create the look of wind damage.)
Step 3: Proof of Damage
A thorough damage inspection should be completed by an individual trained to identify storm damage, specifically wind and hail. The contractor should be able to answer any questions you might have regarding the specific damage done to your property. A list of items to request from the contractor after the inspection include:
- Pictures of the damage to your home via text or email
- Notes regarding what areas of the house are damaged
- Proof of the contractor’s insurance
- Repair services they provide
Step 4: Identify Your Comfort Level
Once you have completed steps 1 through 3, as outline above, you have a decision to make: Am I comfortable enough with this contractor to trust him or her to complete the necessary repairs to my home?
An immediate “Yes!” response to that question is a good indicator that you are ready to move forward with your insurance claim and home repairs. Your contractor will be able to advise you on your next steps. If you are filing an insurance claim, make sure to keep your contractor informed each step of the way, and insist with the adjuster that your contractor be on site during the insurance adjustment. This is your best bet at making sure you have fair representation during the claims process.
On the other hand, if you are not comfortable with the contractor after completing steps 1 through 3, consider it a very large red flag. There is no good reason to rush into the claims and restoration process with a company or individual that is not a good fit for your project. Your job is now to go back to step 1 and reevaluate your options. Continue to ask around for good references, and keep an eye on the projects going on in your neighborhood. There is no shortage of contractors, so make sure to be diligent in your research as you narrow down the perfect fit for your project.