(WXYZ) — BBB offers these tips when preparing your home for the colder weather:
· Clean those gutters. A buildup of leaves and other debris can cause your gutters and downspouts to not drain properly. Improper draining can make water spill over your gutters which can lead to foundation/basement damage and damage to your fascia boards. In the winter, ice dams can form that can let snow melt underneath your shingles.
· Inspect your roof. Damaged or loose shingles can let in water and ice during the winter which can create interior damage.
· Test your smoke and carbon dioxide detectors. Making sure these important safety tools are in proper working condition is easy and vital to ensuring the safety of those in your home. The National Fire Protection Association offers great information on installing and maintaining smoke alarms. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has information on carbon monoxide detectors.
· Check your window and doors for air leakage. Adding caulk and weather stripping helps prevent leakage of cold air into your home as well as spiders and insects. Also check where pipes and wires enter your home.
· Organize your garage. You will undoubtedly use your garage a lot more in the colder months. Get rid of trash and clutter and make sure your snow shovel and other winter-use items are easily accessible. Fill/repair any cracks or holes you see to prevent bugs and rodents from entering that will be seeking refuge from the cold.
· Inspect your driveway. The frequent freezing and thawing conditions in many areas, along with tree roots and ground shifting, can cause driveways to develop areas of needed repair. Fall is a great time to fill cracks and sealcoat to prevent wintertime water/ice damage. · Schedule HVAC maintenance. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, preventive maintenance can help save you up to 25% in energy costs. Heating contractors near you can help you professionally service your heating unit.
· Tend to the outside water supply. Cover up your outside water spigot(s). Spigot covers help keep the exterior pipes from freezing and are reasonably priced at your local hardware store. Empty hoses of any water and move them indoors.
· Sweep your chimney. Having the soot and possible blockages or creosote build-up helps reduce the risk of a chimney fire and can improve the efficiency of your fireplace.
· Change the direction of your ceiling fan. In the colder months, you want your fan moving the warm air down, which means having your blades turn clockwise. · Check any professionals you may hire. Go to BBB.org to check the trustworthiness of a business. Do a general online search on a business to see what kind of reviews and other information may be available.
Consider these tips when hiring anybody to work in your home:
· Research and gather information. Search for a contractor’s Business Profile at BBB.org for free information on their history of complaints, read verified Customer Reviews, and see if they are an Accredited Business. BBB Accredited Businesses make a commitment to uphold BBB's accreditation standards including: to build trust, advertise honestly, tell the truth, be transparent, honor their promises, be responsive to their customers, safeguard privacy and embody integrity. Also search for the name of the company online along with "Complaint", "Review" or "Scam" to find different results. Ask the company if employees and sub-contractors undergo a background check. Are they trained and certified? What identification will they show when they come to your home?
· Ask for references. Ask the contractor for a list of recent local references you may contact. Ask the references about the services performed and their overall experience with the contractor and the quality of the work. Ask if the contractor stuck to the estimated budget and completion date for the project. If possible, inspect the contractor's work yourself. Ask if the contractor is a member of a professional association that has standards or a code of ethics.
· Ask for multiple quotes. You should always shop around and get at least three quotes from different businesses. Make sure all bids consider the same set of criteria. Remember that the lowest bid may not necessarily be the best bid; if one bid is significantly lower than the others, the contractor may be cutting corners or may not understand your work requirements.
· Get it in writing. Always get estimates in writing and never let any work begin without a written and signed contract. Do not be pressured into signing an agreement before you are ready and make sure you read and understand everything before signing. The contract should include contact information, start and complete dates, a detailed description of the exact work to be done, any material costs, payment arrangements, and warranty information. Specify who is to obtain necessary building permits and who is responsible for clean-up. Make sure all verbal promises are included in the contract. Ask how much work will be subcontracted and ask for information on the subcontractors. Ask questions if you do not understand any part of the contract. Never sign an incomplete or partially blank contract.
· Verify license and insurance. Always be sure that the company you decide to work with has the necessary licenses and insurance to work in your region. In the United States, you can get to your state’s licensing agency to learn more here. In Canada, requirements differ from province to province. Search for information specific to the province you are having the work done. Your local BBB can help. Once you have your contractor’s insurance information, call the carrier to confirm appropriate coverage for worker’s compensation, property damage, and personal liability in case of accidents.
· Confirm building permits. Your contractor must have the correct permits before starting your project. They will usually obtain the permits, but you will probably pay for them. That should be detailed in your contract. Request that all final inspections be completed by the local building official prior to final payment.
· Inquire about a lien waiver. A lien waiver, in the United States, is a statement from your contractor that says all suppliers and subcontractors have been paid for their work. In some Canadian provinces, there is a mandatory Builders Lien holdback, so ensure you understand any financial obligations you may be liable for.
· Think about future service issues. Make sure you are aware of your warranty coverage and how to deal with service issues.
· Arrange a payment schedule. Never pay in full up front. Stagger your payments so your final payment is not due until the work is complete and you have fully inspected it. Do not pay cash; make sure your check is written to a company, not an individual, or that you use a credit card. Paying with a credit card will provide some recourse should the job not be completed as stated in the contract.
· Get a receipt. Request a receipt marked “Paid in Full” when the job is completed and your final payment made.
· Keep your contract. Hold on to your contract for future reference or if any questions arise after the work is complete.