Hurrican Shutters

Installing "Peace of Mind"

Archive for December, 2011

Types of Hurricane Shutters

Posted by cat5shuttersllc on December 30, 2011

Types of Hurricane ShuttersHurricane shutters can be a great help once a hurricane is in town. Hurricanes are tropical cyclones that produces several thunderstorms and possesses strong winds and heavy rains. Its intensity strengthens as it passes through tropical oceanic regions. When hurricane hits a place or a country, it can do a drastic amount of damage. Depending on its strength, a community may be very badly hit or the damage may be controllable. Hurricane shutters are one way to mitigate hurricane damage.

What Types of Hurricane Shutters are Available

There are a lot of hurricane shutters available nowadays. There is the Automatic Rolldown Shutters – they are pre installed PVC or metal louver shutters. These are stored in a box above every window and is simply rolled down and locked at the bottom. These hurricane shutters, if motorized, can be closed in just a click on the switch.
Another option is the Accordion Shutter – just like the Automatic Shutter, they are pre-installed when the storm comes, but this time they are folded at the sides of the window and are simply pulled closed and locked in the middle.

Awning Shutters are another type of hurricane shutter. However, unlike the first two types, the Awning Shutters can also be used as a shade if not used as a shutter. It is simply folded down and locked onto the wall whenever strong winds such as hurricane come.

What is the Most Durable Material for Hurricane Shutters

With hurricane’s unpredictable strength, you must plan carefully for all possibilities. Choosing the strongest and most durable material will surely provide enough protection for every hurricane. Above are some of hurricane shutters that are also of great help. But, the Storm Panel Shutter is definitely the most option of all because it is made up of steel or aluminum plates. They are hard to install, however, because they require a steel channel on top and bottom of the window. They are removed when not in use.

Which Types of Hurricane Shutters Provide the Most Protection

Every type of hurricane shutter is considered protection already. But if the hurricane to arrive is too strong and, you must use the option that can cover and protect the most. Just like the Storm Panel Shutter, another hurricane shutter that can provide enough protection is the Automatic Rolldown Shutters that are made of metal. It is rolled down from top to bottom of the window, which ensures full coverage of your house. Since it is made of metal, even a strong wind can bounce and not damage your property. Also, large windows and doors that have this kind of shutter uses reinforcing rods as additional strength to the shutter.

Hurricanes are considered a kind of calamity nobody would want to be of experience. Being alert and protected is the best way to ensure one’s safety. Installing hurricane shutters is an important step towards protecting your property and your family.

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Window Shutters Means Savings

Posted by cat5shuttersllc on December 28, 2011

Window Shutters Means SavingsHomeowners insurance policies are never set in stone. They vary on a number of factors not the least of which is the amount of risk you present to you provider. High risk clients will yield high premiums while low cost clients will find low cost premiums and more opportunities for discounts. Installing storm shutters is one way you can lower your homeowners insurance premiums and become eligible for discounts that go with being a low risk homeowner.

If you want to find the very best homeowners insurance quotes on the market you should compare different companies online. Storm shutters are most common in regions with high a high susceptibility to hurricanes.

In Florida, for example, you can save a bundle on your homeowners insurance by installing storm shutters.

  • You can save up to 29% on your premium by installing basic shutters. That means a premium of $1,000 could be reduced by as much as $300.
  • Installing hurricane rated shutters could save you up to 39% on your premium.
  • Going above and beyond and installing other upgrades like hurricane straps on your roof could yield you further savings.

All of these numbers come courtesy of the Florida Department of Financial Services.

Storm Shutters

Storm shutters are products designed to limit damage to window and door openings caused by high winds and flying objects. Commonly, they are popular in coastal areas, but storm shutters are rapidly growing in popularity in all areas threatened by high winds, hurricane conditions, or tornadoes. Why storm shutters:

  • Storm protection
  • Protect Your home and valuables
  • Save on Home Insurance

Available in a wide array of designer styles and colors, hurricane shutters will add value to your property!

  • Accordion Hurricane Shutters
  • Bahama Hurricane Shutters
  • Colonial Hurricane Shutters
  • Roll Down Hurricane Shutters
  • Storm Panel Hurricane Shutters
  • Roll Down Hurricane Screens
  • Stainless Steel Screen
Being Cautious Saves On Homeowners Insurance

If you live in Florida then you know more than anyone how astronomical homeowners insurance can be as a result of hurricane season. So it is important to be as low risk as possible and installing storm shudders will accomplish this and bring in low premiums. However, even if you don’t live in Florida, installing shutters can be helpful in establishing a low risk reputation with your insurance company. If you want to find out more about other low risk behaviors you can practice in your home then go online using our easy and free quote forms and talk to a home insurance agent today.

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Hiring a Licensed Contractor

Posted by cat5shuttersllc on December 26, 2011

Hiring a Licensed Contractor

Here’s some advice from Florida’s Construction Industry Licensing Board
  • Don’t be victimized by someone making a door-to-door presentation offering to do repair jobs or home improvements “on-the-spot” and requiring a cash deposit.
  • Ask to see their Florida state registered or Florida state certified contractor’s license. Visit My Florida License or call the number below to verify that the license is valid.
  • Get at least three bids, and ask for references of work the contractor has completed in your area. Make personal contacts and ask about the quality of work.
  • Require a written contract with the contractor’s license number on it. Don’t sign if there are any blank areas and until you fully understand the terms.
  • Don’t pay cash, don’t let payments get ahead of the work completed, and don’t pay the full cost of the job up-front. Make sure that building material costs are paid; ask for receipts.
  • Check workers’ compensation coverage by requesting to see a certificate of insurance. If injuries occur on your property, you may be liable.

You can verify if a Florida contractor has a state license by visiting myfloridalicense or by calling the board office at (850) 487-1395.

Hiring a Handyman in Florida

What should you look for when hiring someone to work on your home or property?

The State of Florida does not license or regulate handyman practitioners, although some local jurisdictions may. Therefore, a handyman is only able to perform minor repairs (e.g., general cleanup, painting, fence repairs, trim work/repair and hanging/repairing sheet rock/wallboard, etc.), and cannot do any structural work, such as laying foundations, removing or adding structural walls, performing room additions, plumbing or electrical work. When a handyman moves from the realm of minor repairs to structural repairs or construction work that he or she is not authorized to do, they are entering the area of unlicensed activity and are subject to prosecution.

Realtors often hire handymen to make repairs to properties they list for sale. This is legitimate – provided the handyman makes only minor repairs (as outlined above) that do not fall under the scope of work of regulated licenses (outlined in Section 489.105, Florida Statutes).

When shopping for home repairs, the first criteria that should be met are:

  • (a) whether or not the person is properly licensed, and
  • (b) whether a permit is required for the work in question

Check with your local building department to ensure whether handymen are regulated within their jurisdiction. Next, make sure he or she has an occupational license – you don’t want to risk having your local building department place a stop work order on your project when it is half completed.

Proper liability and workers’ compensation insurance coverage is of equal importance. Suppose your handyman backs into your neighbor’s privacy fence, damaging two sections, while delivering materials to your job site. Should you or your insurance company pay for the repairs? You will if your handyman doesn’t have insurance. Let’s use a more extreme, but common, example. Your handyman falls off a ladder while making repairs to the ceiling of your front porch. He falls through your plate glass window, suffering severe lacerations and breaking his arm. If he is not insured, who will pay his lost wages (workers’ compensation) while he is recuperating, and for the replacement of your plate glass window (liability)? You will. Your liability could be indefinite if he suffered restricted use or loss of mobility in his arm as a result of the fall. Think about this scenario as you prepare for your next repair or remodeling project.

Ensure that the project is properly permitted at the local building authority. You, the homeowner, could be fined, have your project stopped, or both, if it isn’t. Don’t let a handyman talk you into pulling the permit, even if it will save you money. The person pulling the permit is responsible for any code violations, and correcting them may cost you extra. Only the homeowner or a properly licensed practitioner, whose license is recognized by the building authority, or his designated representative, may pull permits. Permitting protects you and your neighbors by ensuring that your project meets the building specifications for your area.

A “handyman” trade is not one of the 22 construction-related licensing categories regulated by the State of Florida. Therefore, if you choose to hire a handyman, you will not be covered under the umbrella of protection of Florida Statutes. Section 489.113(2), states “This statute does not affect the application of any local construction licensing ordinances.” Again, one should contact their local building department to check those credentials. But always play it safe and only hire properly licensed people to work on your home.

To check to see if a contractor is properly licensed, log on to myfloridalicense and search for the Department of Business and Professional Regulation or call us at (850) 487-1395. You can also call the DBPR Regulation/Compliance regional office nearest you and file a Uniform Complaint against a person or company. The Division of Regulation/Compliance is charged with investigating alleged unlicensed activity within professions and businesses regulated by the department.

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Storm Shutters Protection for Windows

Posted by cat5shuttersllc on December 23, 2011

Storm Shutters Protection for WindowsHigh winds and windborne debris can easily break unprotected windows and cause doors to fail. Once wind enters a structure, the likelihood of severe structural damage increases, and the contents of the building will be exposed to the elements. The most reliable method of protecting windows and doors is installing permanent storm shutters. Alternatives include using temporary plywood covers, mesh or screen systems, and replacing existing windows and doors with impact-resistant windows and doors.

Permanent storm shutters are usually made of aluminum or steel and are attached to a building in such a way that they can be closed quickly before a storm arrives. One type is the “rolldown” shutter (see figure on this page), which is contained in a housing mounted above the window and lowered when necessary. Manually operated and motor-driven models are available.

While permanent storm shutters can usually be closed quickly and easily, temporary covers can be an economical alternative and can be installed fairly quickly if the necessary preparations are made. Plywood covers can also be used to protect sliding glass doors and French doors.


Helps to prevent damage to a structure and its contents


Keep these points in mind when you install shutters or use temporary plywood, fiberglass, metal panel, or mesh covers to protect your windows and doors:

  • Always consider using permanent storm shutters if you live in an area where you know you will need to act quickly to protect your windows. If your property is in an area where you will have little warning of high winds, permanent shutters that can be closed quickly, such as the rolldown shutter, are better than temporary plywood covers, which must be retrieved from storage and mounted with bolts or screws. Rolled Down Shutter
  • If you decide to buy permanent shutters, look for models that meet the wind load and impact standards established for your area. These standards can be obtained from your local building official. If you have any questions about the strength of a specific model, check with the manufacturer. Permanent shutters are available in a wide range of sizes, so you can use them to protect many types of windows and doors, as well as large areas of glass.
  • If you decide to use temporary plywood covers, you may want to hire a contractor or handyman to make them for you. If you do the work yourself, you will need to cut the plywood and drill holes for screws or lag bolts in each cover and in the wall around each window. You should follow a prescriptive deign appropriate for the windspeed of the are. DO NOT use oriented strand board (OSB). The screws or lag bolts should be placed along the top, bottom, and sides of each cover, and they should be long enough to penetrate the wall studs around the window, and not just the siding or wall covering.
  • Don’t wait until a hurricane or high wind warning is issued to make temporary covers; you probably won’t have time. Make them during the “off season” so that you’ll be ready to install them at any time. Store the mounting screws or lag bolts with the covers, in a place where they are readily accessible – don’t stack heavy boxes or other hard-to-move materials on top of or around the covers. Use a numbering or lettering system that shows which cover goes with which window.
  • If you buy motor-driven shutters, make sure they also can be operated manually if the power fails.
  • If you are constructing a new building in an area subject to high winds, avoid designs that include large areas of glass, windows with multiple panels, and double entry doors. The widths of individual doors and windows should not exceed 3 feet.
  • Check the local building code for windborne debris protection requirements in your area.

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Building a Hurricane Safe Room

Posted by cat5shuttersllc on December 21, 2011

Building a Hurricane Safe RoomA safe room is a windowless box inside your house where you and your family can escape the danger of wind-borne projectiles during hurricanes or tornadoes. Safe rooms have several advantages over outside shelters. For example, safe rooms are usually less expensive: A simple lean-to shelter in a basement will cost around $2,000, while a fortified safe room in a new house will add an extra $3,000 to $6,000 to your construction costs. If timing is critical, you also don’t need to venture outside to access the safe room, since you can reach it from inside the house.

The secret to building an effective safe room is to fortify existing walls with plywood (the most economical choice), steel or concrete, and to make sure the whole room is properly fastened together. According to the Texas Tech University Wind Science and Engineering Research Center, adequate fasteners are important to the shelter’s structural performance. The shelter’s roof must be securely anchored to its walls, the walls to each other, and the walls to the shelter’s foundation. In addition, proper ventilation is a must if you’re using your safe room to protect you and yours from hurricanes.

At its Baton Rouge campus, Louisiana State University has included a safe room inside its Louisiana House (LaHouse), a showcase home was constructed to demonstrate storm-resistant building techniques and materials. Although the LaHouse has been officially used as LSU’s Home & Landscape Resource Center and offered educational outreach since Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in 2005, the home itself has only been fully functional since July 2008. The LaHouse’s safe room is off the master bedroom and can be used as a walk-in closet.

This safe room includes these upgrades:
Ceiling and walls fortified with thicker sheathing (plywood or oriented strand board)
More anchors, straps and fasteners (nails and screws) to hold the walls, floor and ceiling together
A hidden sliding steel door for more protection during storms
A ceiling structurally independent from the second story of the house built so that if the second story blows away, the safe room on the ground floor remains intact

A shelter or safe room may be empty, or it may be stocked with items like bottled water, non-perishable food, blankets, battery-operated lights, a radio and a first-aid kit. Unlike tornadoes, which blow through an area quickly, hurricanes can take hours to pass through. You’ll want your family to be warm and comfortable as the storm passes.

Property owners along the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean should strongly consider installing hurricane shutters. Category 5 hurricanes can result in structural damages in excess of 15 miles from the shore. Cat 5 hurricane shutters are recommended for all regions close to the shore.

Cats 5 Shutters has installed Hurricane Shutters, Storm Shutters, Roll-up and down shutters, Windows Shutters, Bahama Shutters, Accordion Shutters, Shutters for Windows and Hurricane Protection throughout multiple counties in South Florida.

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Prepare The Questions For Your Prospective Contractor

Posted by cat5shuttersllc on December 19, 2011

Prepare The Questions For Your Prospective ContractorJessica Toothman offers great insight on what to ask your prospective contractor:
Hiring a contractor can be similar to acquiring a brother in-law, except that when it comes to a contractor, you’re the one who gets to do the choosing — not your wayward little sister. This family aspect stems from the fact that you’ll probably be seeing quite a lot of your contractor, depending on the size of the project and the amount of subcontracting involved, so it’s important to find someone you can get along with who’ll do the job right.
In order to make a sound choice, there are several key questions you should pose to potential contractors — ideally at least three candidates so you can compare their responses — to ensure you’re getting a good match. This is your home, after all; you want someone who’s dependable and determined to see the project through to the end.
On the next page, we’ll jump right in and learn what you need to know about a contractor before you consider making him or her a temporary addition to the family.

5: The Business History

When you’re first getting into the process of hiring a contractor, you’ll want to dig deep to get an idea of his or her business history. This means requesting — and duly verifying — proof that he or she is currently state licensed, paying employees legally and carrying workers’ compensation, property damage and liability insurance. Membership with a reputable professional association is also a good sign.

It’s important to confirm whether the contractor has any recent relevant experience, so get a list of references that’ve had projects similar in scope to yours and follow up with them. Don’t be lazy about making phone calls and visits. Ask other customers questions about their experiences dealing with the contractor and their satisfaction with the finished product. You can obtain other third-party verifications from state licensing bodies, professional associations, state and local courts, insurance providers, suppliers, Better Business Bureaus and municipal departments.

4: The Supervision

It’s important to ascertain during the course of the interview how the contractor plans on handling site supervision and subcontractors. For starters, a lot of the questions on the last page (such as those concerning licensing, payroll, liability insurance and workers’ comp) are inquiries you’ll need to put to any subcontractors as well — everyone on-site must be covered fully.

Another reason it’s a good idea to find out whether the contractor has a work crew or intends to roll out a whole series of subcontractors is to obtain records of all the transactions between everyone to save yourself from getting burned if the contractor doesn’t pony up. You can also protect yourself by asking the contractor, subcontractors and suppliers for lien releases or waivers upon each payment.

3: The Schedule

Hiring a ContractorBefore you hire a contractor, you should ask them if he or she can provide you with a fixed start date and a completion date — including any cleanup duties. These dates should be included in the formal written agreement, along with a timetable of the work that’ll be done and a material list of everything that’ll be needed. It’s also smart to address how change orders will affect the project’s timeline in the contract.

During the project (provided you aren’t watching it unfold firsthand), you’ll probably want to check in once in a while to see how everything’s coming along. So it’s a good idea to ask the contractor how he or she plans on keeping you up-to-date and the process for scheduling site visits. Another related concern is determining the best way to stay in contact with the contractor so you can communicate any questions or concerns to him or her.

2: The Guarantees

Like the per payment lien releases we discussed on a previous page, warranties are a smart way to make sure you’ll leave the table happy. In addition to these measures, it’s a good general rule of thumb to hold off signing a contract until it includes everything you want — and that you understand all the terms and conditions. You’ll also want to keep assiduous records of all payments and invoices in case a dispute needs to be settled.

On a similar note, make sure the contractor guarantees he or she will complete all the necessary homework and obtain all the required approvals during the process. Without this precaution, some contractors might sweep under the rug any number of matters ranging from building permits to Homeowner’s Association bylaws, and you could find yourself uncovering a huge legal mess the minute the door closes behind them.

1: The Bottom Line

Along with the other top questions you want to ask during the process of hiring a contractor, you should also request itemized price estimates from each candidate. After you receive these, it’s best to examine each one carefully, paying particular attention to any that seem too high as well as too low. Estimates that fall in the shallow end of the pool can be a red flag for a hasty job that won’t leave you with a quality finished product. If an estimate seems a good deal pricier than others, that could mean the other contractors were missing some core obstacle involved in completing the project and therefore didn’t set a high enough estimate for a proper job.

You’ll also need to negotiate the payment schedule and determine how any surprise expenses or potential change orders will be factored in. Planning the payment schedule needs to be a give-and-take, but the more you can negotiate to keep in your pocket for as long as possible the better: You never want to pay for more than what you’ve gotten at any particular time. And don’t forget — don’t sign that last check until you’re completely happy with the completed project.

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All About Hurricane Shutters

Posted by cat5shuttersllc on December 16, 2011

All About Hurricane ShuttersStorm shutters are products designed to limit damage to window and door openings caused by high winds and flying objects. Commonly, they are popular in coastal areas, but storm shutters are rapidly growing in popularity in all areas threatened by high winds, hurricane conditions, or tornadoes.

Why Hurricane Shutters?

While storm protection is the obvious reason for all, there are many other reasons why people decide to purchase these products. The investment is made mainly to keep your home safe and protect the valuables you have inside. With hurricane shutters, you are not only protecting your home from hurricane damage but also limiting your chances to intrusion and sun damage. Hurricane Shutters

Installing Hurricane Shutters

Hurricane shutters are used to protect doors and windows from wind-borne objects and to prevent damage caused by sudden pressure changes when windows or doors fail. Shutters can be made of metal, wood or plastic and are available in different styles; the most common are steel or metal panels, accordion style and roll-down. Home improvement stores sell shutters and a number of companies in south Florida custom-build and install shutters. Many municipal building codes now require hurricane shutters for all new home construction.
If you’ve never installed your shutters, do a “dry run” before the hurricane season begins; install them to make sure you’re familiar with how they operate. You can identify problems with your shutters that might not be fixable as a storm is approaching. Make sure you have the appropriate tools and hardware necessary to complete the job.

If you’re using plywood to cover windows and doors, select at least 5/8″ stock. Pre-drill holes into the plywood sheets and into your masonry and use screws and anchors to secure the plywood; masonry nails are not recommended as they can fail in strong winds.

If you have metal panel shutters, handle them only with heavy work gloves. The panels are heavy and the edges can be sharp. When you use a ladder, make sure you work with a buddy who holds and stabilizes the ladder. Emergency rooms in south Florida report a number of injuries every hurricane season due to falls from ladders.
When a storm has passed and it’s safe to venture outside, remove the shutters or plywood from at least one window or door in every room. A fully-shuttered house may be safe in a hurricane, but presents a fire hazard by blocking escape routes. Establish an emergency escape plan and make sure everyone in the house is aware of how they should exit in the event of fire.

Legislation and Insurance Costs

The coastal areas of the US are rapidly requiring storm protection on new homes and even homes that are undergoing a major remodel. Check with your local building department to determine your local requirements. Florida has already passed legislation requiring this protection. You may find your municipality will be doing the same. You will be dollars ahead come resale time if you have already installed approved storm shutters.

Another reason consumers purchase storm protection is to satisfy insurance companies requirements to obtain reasonable cost insurance.

Protection from Storm Shutters

Even though no longer used by the U.S. National Weather Service, hurricane flags still may be displayed by the U.S. Coast Guard to signify an approaching storm. A single hurricane flag indicates a storm warning with a wind speed between 55 and 73 mph. Two flags indicate a hurricane warning with wind speeds in excess of 74 mph. It’s time to close the storm shutters!

Hurricane shutters protect from all types of storms. Cyclones in the North Atlantic Ocean, North Pacific Ocean, or South Pacific Ocean are called hurricanes. Tropical storms along the Northwest Pacific Ocean are referred to as typhoons. Property owners along the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean should strongly consider installing hurricane shutters. Category 5 hurricanes can result in structural damages in excess of 15 miles from the shore. Cat 5 hurricane shutters are recommended for all regions close to the shore. All openings must be protected or you have virtually no hurricane protection in the event of a real hurricane.

The Average Cost of Hurricane Shutters
  • Storm Panel Hurricane Shutters: Average cost: $7-$8 per square foot; Average storm preparation time: 15 minutes per window depending on the style.
  • Accordion Hurricane Shutters: Average cost: $18-$30 per square foot; Average storm preparation time: At least 45 minutes to an hour for an entire house.
  • Bahama Hurricane Shutters: Average cost: $18-$30 per square foot; Average storm preparation time: 15-30 minutes for an entire house.
  • Roll-Down Hurricane Shutters: Average cost: $30-$55 per square foot; Average storm preparation time: Minimum; probably the easiest shutter to operate.
  • Hurricane Glass: Average cost: $35-$50 a square-foot, including new window frames and layered hurricane glass; Average storm preparation time: None.
  • Overlapping Plywood Shutters: Average cost: $1 – $5 per square foot; Average storm preparation time: 1 – 1 1/2 hours per window.

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Contractor Referrals 101 Part 2

Posted by cat5shuttersllc on December 14, 2011

Contractor Referrals 101 Part 2

Questions to Ask When Considering a Contractor Referral Website

Who is paying? Check the FAQ section of a referral website to see if the user pays or if contractors pay to be listed. Typically, if a contractor pays to be listed, he or she can pay a premium to appear closer to the top of a search.

How many reports are there? While no site can have comments about every contractor in every trade in town, the good ones will have at least a few contractor options for each trade in your area. Be critical of the reports and ask yourself if they provide useful information or just the company’s contact information.

Are the contractors licensed? Most reputable sites only list contractors that have licenses and insurance, but both of these can expire without the website administrators’ knowledge. Always ask for a contractor’s paperwork and run it against your local or state licensing board’s current list of contractor licenses.

Do the contractors offer a bid in person? Though some standard projects, like installing an outlet or replacing a toilet, do not require a preliminary visit, a legitimate contractor typically will not bid on a large project without seeing it in person first.

Trade Association Websites:

Also helpful in your search for contractors are trade association websites. Among these are:

  1. National Association of the Remodeling Industry: Find a NARI-certified remodeler by entering your zip code.
  2. National Kitchen & Bath Association: Find a NKBA-certified kitchen and bath designer by entering your zip code.
  3. National Association of Home Builders: Find an NAHB-registered contractor using the directory of professional remodelers, with plenty of good information for anyone starting a project.
  4. Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association: Find a contractor registered with the PHCC by punching in your zip code.
  5. National Roofing Contractors Association: Find a contractor registered with the NRCA by punching in your zip code.
  6. National Electrical Contractors Association: Find a NECA-registered contractor by zip code.

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Contractor Referrals 101 Part 1

Posted by cat5shuttersllc on December 12, 2011

Contractor Referrals 101 Part 1If it’s no secret that referrals are among the top ways professional services firms get leads and new business, then why do so many providers struggle when it comes to getting referrals?

We know our buyers rely on colleagues, associates, and friends to recommend service providers. And we know when a prospect comes to us via this route that some of our work is already done for us. While most professionals recognize this, they don’t effectively tap into their networks to proactively generate referrals.

We invite you to follow our blog where we will cover useful tips on major referral services, websites and how to interpret them. These wonderful tips are offered by Sal Vaglica, This Old House online. Thank you Sal.

In a perfect world you’d have a black book filled with the names of reliable contractors who provide top-notch service at a reasonable price—and are thoughtful enough to wipe their boots before entering the house. Realistically, we usually rely on word of mouth, where finding a good plumber or roofer means asking a trusted friend, relative, or neighbor for a reference. But what if this networking fails to uncover a well-recommended pro? At that point, most of us turn to the Internet. Recently, it seems like websites dedicated to connecting contractors with homeowners are all over the web.

Wading through the plethora of websites offering to lead you to a qualified contractor can be daunting, so we’ve done some homework for you. We’ve researched contractor referral to create a cheat sheet on what to expect and how to use them successfully to get the best home improvement pro for your money.

Homeowner-to-Homeowner Websites

Angie’s List

This website is a nationwide, user-generated rating and referral system. It relies on homeowners to grade and comment on contractors. The site, which launched in 1995, has grown to include over 300 professional categories. In exchange for detailed reports based on other homeowners’ experiences with specific contractors in trades such as painting, carpentry, and gutter repair, the site charges users about $50 a year.

Homeowners evaluate contractors in areas like price, quality of work, and professionalism and award them letter grades from A to F—just like your high school report card. As an Angie’s List member, you can search for contractors by zip code within your market, select a pro, check out how other homeowners have rated his or her work, and read about their experiences working with the contractor. The website is driven by the experiences of homeowners, and that’s a responsibility that users take to heart. “There is this culture of ‘I’m supposed to report,’” says Angie’s List founder Angie Hicks. “The users understand the list is built by fellow members and they need to report on their experience with a plumber because if they don’t someone else won’t report on their roofer, and the system falls apart.”

Professional-to-Homeowner Websites is a more traditional referral service. You submit a specific project, like the renovation of a 100-square-foot bathroom. A team of former contractors reviews your project for accuracy and submits it to licensed and insured contractors in your area. Then you hear back from local contractors interested in working on the project. Response time varies, but typically within 24 hours you?ll have been contacted by at least three contractors.

Use of the site is free to homeowners; it’s the contractors who pay for the service. Contractors who fit the licensing and insurance qualifications of can pay yearly dues to be “certified” by the site, which entitles them to pay additional money for leads on projects submitted by homeowners. Contractors can also pay more for premium placement in the website’s contractor directory, which is visible to site visitors and includes homeowner-generated reviews and ratings.

Pro-to-homeowner referral sites similar to include:

  • Servicemagic: Matches homeowners with prescreened pros and also allows users to comment on contractors.
  • NeedContractor: Users submit the details of a project and are contacted within 48 hours by at least 4 interested contractors.
  • Bidclerk: Users submit the details of a project and are contacted by contractors bidding to do the work.
  • Users submit the details of a project first from 21 popular home improvement categories.
  • Provides contact information for pre-screened contractors based on project details.

A legitimate contractor will usually want to see a larger project in person before giving you a quote. For quick routine projects, like fixing a running toilet or replacing an outlet, a preliminarily visit might not be necessary, but you can get a good feel for a contractor?s professionalism by phone. Use sites like Angie’s List and as stepping-stones toward finishing larger projects, and do not rush into hiring the first contractor you call or that contacted you. Experienced contractors can offer insights into hidden costs you might have missed when they see the project in person. Reading homeowner reports on a contractor beforehand can put you at ease before meeting them.

Once a project is underway, the better sites offer customer support—staffed by real people. Jamie Weiss had an extensive renovation done on her Statesville, North Carolina, house that involved everything from new floors and painting to wiring and plumbing. With a general contractor scheduling the sub-contractors, there were a few mishaps along the way. ?I called, and their agents discussed the problem with me and gave me the confidence to explain myself professionally to the contractor,? says Weiss. ?If the contractor was late, the website would call them for me.? Angie’s List goes even further, actually stepping in to settle disputes between homeowners and contractors.

We hope you find these tips useful. Please follow our blog on Wednesday when we cover “Questions to Ask When Considering a Contractor Referral Website”

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Finding A Good Contractor

Posted by cat5shuttersllc on December 9, 2011

Finding A Good ContractorGenerally we look for a contractor only when needed. Well a good rule of thumb is find one before emergency strikes. This rule is similar to the one that relates to food shopping: never shop on an empty stomach. We have found this great article written by Bob Formisano, that talks about the stress of finding a good contractor and tips that will help you make an informed decision.

How To Select a Good Contractor

This may seem daunting but it’s really pretty straightforward. A good tip I can give you is try to select contractors you may need on an urgent basis before you need them. Why? Because if you have an emergency repair and need to find someone quickly (who is also good and fair) you don’t have time to go through a lengthy selection process. And the WORST thing you can ever do is picking someone from the Yellow Pages without interviewing them first. I’m not talking about getting a bid for work you don’t need, but try to at least get the names before you need them of some well recommended emergency contractors, like a plumbing or heating contractor.

The easiest, and one of the best ways to select a possible contractor, is to get references from friends, family or a Realtor you trust. Please, do not just use the “Yellow pages” and hire someone.

Once you have some names, meet with them, look for “chemistry” or rapport between you and them and observe their level of professionalism. Courtesy, respect, punctuality and the ability to communicate are some of the most important attributes a contractor can have next to their basic competency. Actually, no matter how good someone is, if they don’t click with you on these points, don’t hire them. Period.

I’m sorry to say that I have to suggest you should also be observant for signs of substance abuse such as alcohol or marijuana. If you suspect anything here, do not hire the contractor.

Here’s a checklist of things to consider when selecting your contractor.
Let’s use ratings of “Best”, “Good”, “OK”, “Fair” and “Reject” to classify some of these items.

Getting Names of Possible Contractors:
You have had good personal prior experience working with contractor [BEST]
Reliable referral from direct experience of family or friends [GOOD]
You know of the contractor’s reputation but have no direct experience [OK]
You found them from a trade association or general advertising [FAIR]

State Contractor Licensing (they must provide the number if licensed):
Licensed; has never had a complaint filed or had disciplinary action taken [BEST]
Licensed; has no prior complaints filed for at least 3 or more years [FAIR]
Licensed; current complaints or actions against them within the past 3 years [REJECT]
Contractor has no license [REJECT]

Insurance (ask to see their certificates):
Workman’s Compensation and General Liability [BEST]
General Liability only (bodily injury and property damage) [GOOD]
Contractor has no insurance [REJECT]

Business Longevity:
In business more than 10 years with the same name [BEST]
In business 5 or more years with the same name [GOOD]
In business 1 to 5 years with the same name [OK]
New business under 1 year [FAIR]

Stability and Permanence:
Has a physical business office and address [BEST]
Has only a Home office or answering service [FAIR]
Cell phone contact only, no office [REJECT]

Reference Check (yes, you should check references)
Positive prior current references from at least 5 customers [BEST]
1 to 4 positive references from past customers [FAIR]
No real references or negative references provided [REJECT]

Specializes in the work you want performed [BEST]
Can perform the work you want but also does other types of work [OK]
Little to no experience in the work you want performed [REJECT]

Scope and Price: (All Items are Required)
Detailed description of the scope of work
Assumptions (if any) are clear and accurate
Contractor DID NOT offer discount to “sign up now”
Contractor will Guarantee the work
All verbal Contractor representations are in writing
No more than 25% to 33% asked for up front
Final payment not required until work is complete

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