Contractor Scammers

Starting a new home improvement project can be as exciting as a new puppy, but with far more decisions to be made in the process. Anyone who has even thought about this has experienced the confusion of trying to find a reputable contractor. With so many options, it can be easy to fall prey to one of the many unfortunate scams that are active today. Read more for National Property Inspections’ tips to stay on solid ground during your renovation.

Project estimates can vary wildly, so even if a contractor comes with a bid that seems reasonable, make sure to get more than one. Some scammers will low-ball prices for services, and for good reason: their services turn out to be little or nothing more than what the homeowner could have achieved themselves with a bit of effort. So if a price seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Another red flag to watch out for is a contractor requesting payment up-front. This is one of this biggest cautionary tales, as some scammers will take money upfront from consumers and perform little to no work that has been requested. A reputable contractor may ask for a small deposit, but most will only demand payment upon satisfied completion of a job. Remember, protect yourself and your wallet.

When hiring any professional to work on the home, ALWAYS make sure to check that their licenses and permits are valid and up to date. A lot of “gypsy” contractors will travel city to city, going door to door looking for work but may not mention that they don’t have the permits or skills to get the job done. If – and when – something goes wrong with the work, it is you, not the contractor, that is left responsible.

The left-over product scam is another to be aware of. This is most used by driveway sealers, who claim that they have just finished a job and have “left-over” product that cannot be stored once mixed and therefore offer services at a discounted rate. Be especially aware of this, because the product they use will usually either be a black paint or some shoddy material that washes off in the next storm. Honest contractors would never knock on your door to sell used materials. 

The final and most common scam out there is the bait and switch. Consumers are drawn in by an often ridiculously low price on a service, which they call the company to schedule, for example, window washing. However, once the technician arrives on the property consumers are informed that their windows are much dirtier than average, and then quote a price that is hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars more than the original.

Those looking to invest in remodeling their home need to be wary of scammers looking to steal every cent they can. Along with references, the Better Business Bureau is always a good place to look when searching for a new contractor. Remember to always have a signed contract with clear expectations as to price and completion dates, and if there are ever any issues, National Property Inspections is always here to help.

What You Need to Know About Sandblasting

Peeling PaintSandblasting is the process of sanding a surface to remove rough edges or foreign materials. Sandblasting makes sanding much easier, as it is pressure-driven and easily reaches hard-to-sand areas like nooks and crannies. The “blasting” is done using compressed air to blow sand through a nozzle for a smooth, clean finish. Depending on the project, you can use abrasive materials other than sand to prepare a surface for repainting, staining or refinishing.

What Materials Can Be Sandblasted?

  • Wood: Wood sometimes has several layers of paint, which may be peeling. Porch swings, picnic tables and gazebos are items you may consider having sandblasted.
  • Concrete: Commercial building owners may want to remove parking lines and reconfigure a parking lot, so they can sandblast the old parking lines for a clean surface to work with. Home owners may sandblast their driveways to remove paint or oil spills.
  • Cast Iron: If a cast iron railing or other detail has been painted, you may want to sandblast it to remove peeling and chipping paint.
  • Brick: Sandblasting can make painted or dirty bricks look clean and new.
  • Automobiles: Sandblasting can remove the rust on that fixer-upper in your garage before you paint it.

Costs for Sandblasting

Sandblasting can be performed on a variety of material and is preferable when sandpaper or hand-held sanders are just not appropriate for the task at hand. Sandblasting can save you time, strenuous work and the demanding physical labor of bending, sitting, squatting and reaching.

If you have never sandblasted before, you may want to contact a professional. Using a blaster without experience could potentially cause injury if correct measures are not taken or followed. In addition, keep the following in mind:

  • Some cities may require a permit for sandblasting, so check your local requirements before beginning. If hiring a professional, they may apply for the permit for you.
  • Although rare, accidental damages could occur to your property or neighboring property during the sandblasting process, so consider that additional expenses could arise.
  • The average cost to sandblast an exterior surface is between $664 and $1,116. The average cost per square foot:
    • Brush blast (1/32 inch deep): $1.35 to $2.70
    • Light blast (1/16 inch deep): $2.25 to $4.50
    • Medium blast (1/4 inch deep): $4.50 to $7.20
    • Heavy blast (3/8 inch deep or more): $6.75 to $15.75.
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New Technology to Repair Settled Driveways and Walkways

By Lawrence Englehart, GPI Franchise Owner, Halifax, Nova Scotia

Driveway_shutterstock_159217487Q) The concrete driveway in front of our garage has settled, which makes it extremely difficult to park our car inside. Even the walkway to the front of the house has settled. Can we just add more concrete until it is level?

A) Might I suggest that before you look at repair options, you should really find out why the driveway has settled in the first place? The extent of the settlement you describe would not be considered normal and is usually directly related to the base soils the driveway had been built on. To that end, it is entirely possible that the gravel base under the concrete slab was not properly prepared or there was poor compaction of base soils prior to the pouring of the driveway, and over time the concrete slab dropped as the gravel base settled.

Regardless of what has caused the driveway and walkway to settle, it is not only inconvenient and unattractive, but it is also now a potential tripping/safety hazard, as it is all too easy to trip on a walkway that has uneven sections. For your own safety, you should get this repaired as soon as possible.

When it comes to repairs of this nature, I grew up in a time when the only available option was to physically remove and replace the entire concrete slab, which was labour-intensive and very expensive. A few years ago I watched a home improvement program where they were able to raise the slab by pumping a type of grout or cement-based slurry under the concrete slab, which effectively pushed it up from below. A newer method is to lift the settled concrete using a high-density, environmentally friendly expanding resin instead of a cement-based fill. The resin expands, firstly filling any voids and then accurately and controllably lifting the settled slab to its proper elevation.

Last year, I had a client who was looking to purchase a home that had a settled concrete slab floor in the basement. In this property, the foundation walls appeared to be fine; however, one side of the basement floor had settled several inches. The company the client brought in to discuss a cost-effective repair option was Poly-Mor Canada, which uses this same unique approach in the use of structural expanding polymer resin systems. The solution discussed involved the strategic drilling of multiple five-eighths-inch holes directly through the concrete slab and then filling these holes with a special high-density expanding polymer resin. As the resin mixture expands, voids under the slab would be filled, and a controlled mould pressure would then be exerted that would lift the concrete floor to the desired height. They use this same slab-lifting technology on airport runways, hockey arenas, patios, driveways, walkways, etc.

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