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Make Sure Your Construction Contractor Is Licensed

Posted in Uncategorized by Administrator on the July 28th, 2010

In states that require licensing, hiring an unlicensed contractor is illegal. And if that’s not bad enough, did you know an unlicensed contractor who gets hurt on your property could sue you — and win? Unlicensed contractors are unlikely to carry proper insurance, so it has happened.

These are the extremes. But even the average experience with an unlicensed contractor can be devastating. Most consumers who call me for help complain that the unlicensed contractor did shoddy work. Others report the contractor made off with their money and did no work at all.

Elease W. saved for two years to build a ground floor bathroom in her home, because she has arthritis and stairs are hard for her. She paid a contractor $10,000 to do the work. Two years later it still wasn’t done right. For months, Elease and her daughters felt like prisoners in their home, because the contractor left gaping holes in the walls, so they didn’t dare leave. The water pipes were built outside the structure, and they froze in the winter. The foundation was unstable, and the siding immediately started peeling off. Of course the family didn’t check out the contractor until after everything went wrong. It turned out he was unlicensed and had a complaint record a mile long.

Paul H. needed a new roof. He got a couple of different estimates but felt he couldn’t afford them. Then he spotted an ad in one of those free neighborhood newspapers — promising the lowest roofing rates in town. Paul hired the man to reroof his home for $5,000.

The man demanded full payment in advance. The man climbed around on Paul’s roof for a few minutes, then said he was going to get supplies. He never returned. When I investigated, I learned the phone number in the ad actually belonged to an answering service. The address the man gave Paul didn’t even exist. And there were no licensed contractors by that name listed with the state.

Licenses are generally required for any work that affects the structural or electrical integrity of the building. I’ve done a couple different undercover investigations where we invited unlicensed contractors to give us estimates for roofing work. First of all, it was easy to find unlicensed contractors. We spotted their ads in local newspapers and found their business cards at home-improvement stores. Unlicensed contractors tend to use the cheapest possible means to market themselves.

When we confronted them, we heard every excuse. One man said he couldn’t afford a contractor’s license, even though the state where he worked only charges $300. Another man said he was working “under” somebody else’s license. That’s illegal. Only bonafide employees are allowed to work under the umbrella of a licensed contractor.

A third showed us a contractor’s license for another state. That doesn’t count. The contractor must be licensed in the state where the work is to be done. Several guys presented us with occupancy licenses, which are just business permits that anybody can buy. They don’t make a contractor legal.

If an unlicensed contractor nails you, you have next to no recourse. There’s no license that the state can yank to threaten his livelihood. If you complain about him, he’ll just change the name he does business under. You can’t tap into his insurance policy because he doesn’t have one. Even suing an unlicensed contractor — and winning — is often futile, because unlicensed contractors don’t have deep pockets.

To Be a Savvy Consumer, Know the Signs:
1. Unlicensed contractors often go door-to-door claiming they “just finished a job down the street.”

2. They may rush you and say, “If you act now, you’ll get a special price.”

3. Unlicensed contractors either neglect to pull construction permits or they ask you to do it for them. If you do, you are assuming liability for the project, including the contractor’s mistakes.

4. Some states require contractors to list their license numbers on their vehicles, their estimates and their advertising. If a contractor has not done that, it may be a bad sign.

5. If you see a license number in an ad, and it has a different number of letters, numerals and digits than all the other ads, it may be a fake license number.

6. Be wary if a contractor provides only a P.O. box or pager number. That may mean he doesn’t have roots in the community and plans to move on as soon as people start to complain.

7. Unlicensed contractors often ask for a lot of money up front. Try not to pay any money in advance. If you must, keep the amount minimal.

Do Your Homework:
1. Find out what the licensing requirements are for contractors in your state. Also check with your county. If you live in an area where contractors do not have to be licensed, you’re going to have to be extra vigilant about who you hire.

2. Try to find your contractor through word of mouth. A satisfied friend or neighbor is a much better source than a free newspaper.

3. Ask to see the contractor’s actual paper license. Unlicensed contractors often put fake license numbers in their advertisements.

4. Get the contractor’s full name, company name and license number, and double check all three with the county and state departments that license contractors.

5. Also ask those departments if the contractor has a history of complaints.

6. Don’t be fooled by “occupancy permits” or business licenses. These pieces of paper are worthless to you. Any business owner can get one. When I say licensed contractor, I’m talking about a person who has proved his skill in the field and been awarded a specialty license just for contractors. Hint: Ask the contractor if he had to take a test to get his license. He should have.

7. If the contractor is licensed in another state, but not the one where the work is to be done, that’s no protection. Some states do have reciprocal agreements, where a contractor with a license in one state can be “fast tracked” to get a license in another. Until he goes through that process, don’t do business with him.

8. Also make sure the contractor is licensed to perform the type of work that you need. A licensed electrician cannot do plumbing work, for example.

9.If you hire a general contractor, make sure the specialists he hires — like plumbers and electricians — are licensed too.

How to Complain
If you learn your contractor is unlicensed, contact the county and state departments that license legitimate contractors. They can advise you and possibly pursue criminal charges against the unlicensed con.

When don’t I need a permit?

Posted in Uncategorized by Administrator on the July 27th, 2010

A construction permit is not needed for items such as wallpapering, painting or similar finish work; fences six feet high or lower; platforms, decks and walks 30 inches high or less over grade or not over basement; and in several other cases. However, reviews may be required from other agencies; be sure to check before building.

For plumbing, mechanical and electrical work, replacement or repair of fixtures (such as changing water faucets or replacing switches) does not normally require a permit. Replacing a water heater or adding a permanently wired light fixture does, however, require a permit.

Permit Tips for San Diego Homeowners

Posted in Uncategorized by Administrator on the July 26th, 2010

What are permits and why do I need one?

Permits are the way the city of San Diego regulates construction. This is designed to ensure that all construction in the city is safe. The safety of the occupants of buildings is the primary reason for having construction codes. The city of San Diego has adopted several codes, among them the Uniform Building, Mechanical and Plumbing, and National Electrical codes. In addition, there are federal, state and local laws that govern construction, such as those covering energy conservation.

There are several different types of permits, based on the type of construction: structural, plumbing, mechanical, electrial and combination (used for single-family home construction and other small projects). Most home owner projects require a combination permit. In addition, the complete demolition and relocation of buildings also requires permits.

Obtaining the permit is just the first step in the process. In this step, you may need to create plans to submit to the department, make a plot plan for your property showing the improvements, and show the type of construction you’ll be using.

The city has handouts to help you through this process.

Once plans are approved, you’re required to build the project to those plans. If any changes are made to the plans, they must be made with the city’s approval.

The second half of the process is the inspection of the work. More about that later.

Water Authority Reports Regional Water Use Down Nearly 13 Percent Over Last Year

Posted in Uncategorized by Administrator on the July 23rd, 2010

Residential and business water use in San Diego County fell 12.8 percent during the first year of regional water shortages and mandatory water use restrictions, according to a report provided today to the San Diego County Water Authority Board of Directors.

The savings exceeded the 8 percent mandatory target that was in effect for July 2009 through June 2010. As a result of the region’s conservation success, the region will avoid financial penalties from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and the additional conserved water will be available to meet future needs. MWD, the Water Authority’s largest supplier, can penalize its customers for exceeding their designated allocations of MWD water supplies during times of shortage.

“The people of our region should be very proud of their efforts to save water over the last year,” said Claude A. “Bud” Lewis, Water Authority Board Chair. “Across the county, we have seen a strong commitment to becoming more efficient in how we use water.”

Businesses and residents used 498,500 acre-feet of water from July 2009 through June 2010 compared to 572,600 acre-feet during the previous 12 months, a reduction of 74,100 acre-feet. (An acre-foot is 325,900 gallons, enough to meet the needs of two single-family homes of four people for a year.)

Water Authority staff attributed the reduction in regional water use to several factors. In addition to water conservation efforts by residents and businesses, the ongoing economic recession and more rainfall this year in comparison to recent years helped lower demand. At Lindbergh Field, precipitation for the year was 10.55 inches – just below the long-term regional average of 10.77 inches.

Shortage conditions remain, however. This spring, MWD approved continuing current reductions in water deliveries to its member agencies, including the Water Authority, through June 2011.

In response, the Water Authority is continuing to reduce overall water deliveries to its 24 member retail agencies through June 2011. The region’s Level 2 water use restrictions also remain in effect. Local shortage levels and restrictions vary by local agency. The Water Authority urges residents and businesses to contact their local water agency to learn about any restrictions that apply in their community.

The Water Authority’s long-term strategy to improve water supply reliability by diversifying the region’s water supply portfolio is offsetting some of the cutbacks from MWD. The Water Authority’s water transfer agreement with the Imperial Irrigation District, along with projects that lined the All-American and Coachella Canals in Imperial Valley, will provide nearly 165,000 acre-feet of additional supply this year. The Water Authority is also working with its member agencies to develop more local water supplies, such as groundwater and recycled water, to further reduce dependence on imported water.

Staff reported keeping regional water use at 8 percent or more below pre-cutback levels may be more difficult over the next 12 months because many climate models predict a drier, hotter “La Niña” weather pattern starting this summer, and because of the potential for improving economic conditions that may increase the demand for water.

Lewis said the region will need to sustain its water-savings efforts in order to meet ongoing water supply challenges and long-term water use targets.

“Regulatory restrictions are expected to continue to limit water deliveries from the Bay-Delta for the foreseeable future. In addition, new state law calls for per capita water use to be reduced 20 percent by 2020. These factors mean we must make efficient water use indoors and out a permanent part of our civic responsibility and personal lifestyle,” Lewis said.

Water conservation tips and program information are available at

Quick Fix For Fixing a Leaking Pipe

Posted in Uncategorized by Administrator on the July 21st, 2010

Any leaking pipe will eventually have to be replaced. However, there are temporary fixes you can do to help you get along until you have the time to replace it. Here are some tips to try:

1.When you see a leaky pipe, the first thing that you should do is shut off your main water supply.
2.To prevent water damage, get a bucket and stick it under the leaky pipe.
3.Try to find the exact location of the leak, and push a sharp pencil through the hole. Break off the tip of the pencil.
4.Using a towel, dry the pipe off as much as you can. Get some electrical tape and wrap it around the damaged area as tightly as you can. Cover at least 3 or 4 inches to either side of the leak. Cover the pipe with 2 to 3 layers of electrical tape. Don’t overwrap it though, because it may be a fire hazard.
5.Get an old gardenhose and cut out a suitable lengthwise section. Wrap this around the leaky area in the pipe, with the solid part of the hose against the leak. Use hose clamps, locking pliers, or plastic cable ties to keep it in place.
6.Get a replacement pipe as soon as you can.
This little fix should allow you to turn on the main water valve, at least for a while. Turn off the local shut off to the pipe.

Better Fix for a Leaking Pipe
These tips should give you a little extra time to get a new pipe or call in a professional. However, they are only intended for small leaks. Large leaks need immediate attention from a professional.

Before trying these fixes, make sure you turn off you local water supply or the main water supply to your house. If you think that your leak might be too big than you are probably right – get a professional plumber to take a look at the pipe.

Method A: Get a piece of garden hose or rubber matting and cut it lengthwise. Lay it down on top of the leak in the pipe. Using a sleeve clamp, secure it tightly.

Method B: Get a piece of heavy rubber matting and place it over the leak in the pipe. Secure it with a hose clamp that is adjustable.

Method C: Sometimes leaks occur where the pipe meets a joint. Try putting epoxy putty over the leak with a putty knife. Allow this putty to dry before turning the water back on.

Tip: If you’ve never done any plumbing repair, the secret to success is to practice first. Get a pipe that you don’t intend to install, and practice the above methods on sections where the pipe is cracked. This will boost your confidence when the time comes to fix a real leaky pipe.

Energy Saving Tips

Posted in Uncategorized by Administrator on the July 20th, 2010

Install these energy-efficient measures:
Replace and recycle your old refrigerator and purchase energy-efficient models. Units only 10 years old can use twice as much electricity as a new ENERGY STAR® labeled model.

Caulk windows, doors and anywhere air leaks in or out. Do not caulk around water heater and furnace exhaust pipes.

Weatherstrip around windows and doors.

Wrap heating and cooling ducts with duct wrap, or use mastic sealant.

Install energy-saver showerheads.

When buying new appliances, be sure to purchase energy-efficient ENERGY STAR® labeled models.

Set the furnace thermostat at 68 degrees or lower, and the air-conditioner thermostat at 78 degrees or higher, health permitting.

Use compact fluorescent lamps. You can lower your lighting bill by converting to energy-efficient low-wattage compact fluorescent lighting and fixtures.

Replace old windows with new high performance dual pane windows.

Clean or replace furnace and air-conditioner filters regularly, following manufacturer’s instructions.

Set the water heater thermostat at 140 degrees or “normal.” If you have a dishwasher. Otherwise, set it at 120 degrees or “low.” Check your dishwasher to see if you can use 120 degree water. Follow the manufacturer’s direction on yearly maintenance to extend the life of your unit.

Fix defective plumbing or dripping faucets. A single dripping hot water faucet can waste 212 gallons of water a month. That not only increases water bills, but also increases the gas or electric bill for heating the water.
Wash only full loads in a dishwasher and use the shortest cycle that will get your dishes clean. If operating instructions allow, turn off the dishwasher before the drying cycle, open the door and let the dishes dry naturally.

Defrost refrigerators and freezers before ice buildup becomes 1/4-inch thick.
Install shades, awnings or sunscreens on windows facing south and/or west to block summer light. In winter, open shades on sunny days to help warm rooms.
Close the damper when the fireplace is not being used. Try not to use the fireplace and central heating system at the same time.

So you want to remodel your kitchen? Quick Tips…

Posted in Uncategorized by Administrator on the July 19th, 2010

Shop for a contractor
Get bids from several contractors. Remember, while price is important, choosing the company with the lowest price “is not always the best idea,” warns Sara Ann Busby, vice president of the National Kitchen and Bath Association.

Make sure the job specs are the same for each company. That means you need to be very specific about the products and materials you want used.

Check out the contractor
Finding a good, reputable contractor is more important than price. I frequently hear horror stories from consumers who had a contractor start the job and then disappear, leaving their kitchen torn up and unusable.

Ask the contractor for:
– Proof of a current license and insurance coverage — liability, property damage and workers compensation.

– A list of suppliers. Call them to see if the company pays its bills on time.

– A list of past customers. Talk to former customers about their experience.
Before you sign anything, find out more about the contractor. Check them out with the Better Business Bureau and your state’s Attorney General or Consumer Protection office.

Buy the right stuff
There are ways to get a nice look without going top-of-the-line. “You just need to know where to save and where to splurge,” says Consumer Reports Bob Markovich.

Set up a payment schedule

You never want to pay for the entire construction project up front.
The contract should spell out the schedule for the rest of the payments, either based on specific dates or project points, such as when the electrician starts or the cabinets are installed.

Don’t make the final payment until everything is done, the final inspection is completed, and you are satisfied with the results.

Tip of The Day

Posted in Uncategorized by Administrator on the July 16th, 2010

Showerheads develop uneven spray when the holes become clogged with mineral deposits from the water. To clean:

• Unscrew swivel ball nut – you will need adjustable wrench or channel‑type pliers. (Hint: to protect the finish from scratches, first wrap the jaws of the tool with masking tape.)

• Unscrew collar nut from showerhead.

• Gently clean the outlet and inlet holes of the showerhead using a thin wire.

• Flush the head with clean water.

• You may want to soak the showerhead in vinegar overnight to remove all mineral deposits.

What is a Tankless Water Heater?

Posted in Uncategorized by Administrator on the July 14th, 2010

Tankless Water Heaters heat water directly without the use of a storage tank. Therefore, they avoid the standby heat losses associated with storage water heaters. When a hot water tap is turned on, cold water travels through a pipe into the unit. In an electric Tankless Water Heater an electric element heats the water. In a gas-fired Tankless Water Heater a gas burner heats the water. As a result, Tankless Water Heaters deliver a constant supply of hot water. You don’t need to wait for a storage tank to fill up with enough hot water.

Typically, Tankless Water Heaters provide hot water at a rate of 2 – 5 gallons (7.6 – 15.2 liters) per minute. Typically, gas-fired Tankless Water Heaters will produce higher flow rates than electric Tankless Water Heaters. Some smaller Tankless Water Heaters, however, cannot supply enough hot water for simultaneous, multiple uses in large households. For example, taking a shower and running the dishwasher at the same time can stretch a Tankless Water Heater to its limit. To overcome this problem, you can install a “whole house” type Tankless Water Heater or install two or more Tankless Water Heaters, connected in parallel for simultaneous demands of hot water. You can also install separate Tankless Water Heaters for appliances—such as a clothes washer or dishwater—that use a lot of hot water in your home.

Early Plumbing

Posted in Uncategorized by Administrator on the July 13th, 2010

Okay, so I grew up in a greek family with Grandparents who did boast ” it was invented by the Greeks , In fact our family life was pretty similar to that in the movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

But I came upon this article when I was doing some research and not only does it prove yet again the Greeks were ahead of there time it also has some interesting ideas on early plumbing systems I find intriguing.

“People tend to believe that the advances in technology we have today have been discovered recently and that is not quite true with most facts out there. Talking strictly about plumbing, one example that was laid out in history stands in the Greek plumbing system, which is much more similar to what we have in our homes today then you would have imagined. Also, the Greek were very strict on hygiene and most houses in ancient Greece were equipped with latrines or closets that were built so that they would drain in a sewer located beneath the street. Flush was performed with the use of waste water and some sewers were even equipped with ventilation shafts.

The water supply lines were protected in order to prevent severance by a possible enemy attacks and this was done by laying aqueducts underground at a considerable depth. Deeper lines connected with the surface with the use of huge wells. A very good example of craftsmanship in plumbing was the city of Athens. It relied on many aqueducts in order to bring water from the mountains. Due to the size of the city, the inhabitants needed deep wells that were very difficult to dig through layers of rock. Needless to say that they also had to be secured and the water supplies were moved towards storage cisterns. These structures gave water to many street fountains. What is special is the fact that some of them are still being utilized today. Water porters carried water supplies to homes.”

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