You can get taken advantage of when you try to get your house fixed. The good news is that you can screen out many problems by heeding some common-sense precautions.
- Don't blindly take the lowest bid. Low bidders may be offering a great deal. Or, they might be inexperienced or worse, prone to taking shortcuts.
- Maintenance matters. "When it got cold last fall, we tried to turn the furnace on," says a homeowner from Michigan. "It wouldn't start, so we called for service and were told that the blower motor was bad. The furnace filters hadn't been changed in quite a while. That wrecked the blower motor. And it overheated the furnace, causing the cracks."
- Relatives are not always trustworthy. A California homeowner says, "We wanted to save money on our home remodel so we hired a handy family member who needed a job. We ended up paying at least as much as a licensed contractor would have charged, but nothing is finished."
- Experts can screw up, too. In Wisconsin, one consumer survived a brush with death last fall, after he started a new furnace that a heating company had installed. His wife's complaints about headaches and fatigue didn't register until he saw a doctor discuss carbon monoxide poisoning on TV. When he called the gas company, their carbon monoxide meter went off the scale. It turned out that a seal was missing from the new furnace, so it was filling the basement with fumes.
- Ask questions first. Be sure to ask the pertinent questions before you sign the contract.
Planning may be a hassle, but it's cheaper than lumbering blindly onward.
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