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Don’t get left out in the cold recovering from the winter storm

An ice dam formed this week between the edge of the roof and the gutter at this home in Boise’s West End. Water from melting snow could seep underneath shingles, causing damage and possibly a leak.
An ice dam formed this week between the edge of the roof and the gutter at this home in Boise’s West End. Water from melting snow could seep underneath shingles, causing damage and possibly a leak. jsowell@idahostatesman.com

Much of the Treasure Valley’s population has spent the last week shut down and shoveling out from under an unprecedented amount of snow. We’ve set a record for the most snow on the ground at one time in Boise.

While kids are rejoicing from snow days, many homeowners are left wondering what sort of damage could be done to their homes. Snow piled on roofs could cause ice dams or gutter damage that require professional attention. Cold temperatures could lead to frozen pipes and a call to a plumber.

If you’re anything like me, your furnace may be working overtime to keep the house warm while you’re at home all day. If it’s not functioning properly, calling a heating and cooling company should be on your to-do list.

You may also be considering a snow-removal or plow service. And, once all this snow starts to melt, flooding and leaking could be a concern.

It’s tempting to go with the first or cheapest company you can find to get the work done, but the Better Business Bureau advises taking a step back and doing a little homework first. If you’re faced with one of these problems, you may feel that it’s too late to be choosy. But if you had the choice between spending as few as 10 minutes doing research or being taken for thousands of dollars on a shoddy repair, would you take the 10 minutes?

Don’t make a bad situation worse by rushing the recovery. Consider the following tips from BBB:

Choose a reputable company. Check out a business at bbb.org to see how long it has been in business and if there are any complaints. If so, how did the business respond? Taking time to resolve a situation is important. See if it is a BBB-accredited business. Owners of accredited businesses have agreed to uphold BBB standards and operate ethically.

Get multiple estimates. When hiring a contractor, get more than one estimate. Make sure the contractors have proof of their licenses and insurance. If you are looking at a big project, ask if a permit is required for the project.

Check references. Whenever possible, ask previous customers if the job was completed to their specifications and if it was completed on schedule. It is also important to find out if the original estimate was close to what was paid or if the contractor charged unforeseen costs along the way.

Never pay upfront. You may need to make a down payment, but avoid paying in full before work is complete. Do not make the final payment until the job is completed and the final project meets your standards. Pay by credit card when possible. Avoid paying by cash or unusual forms of payment.

Get everything in writing. Ask the contractor for a written agreement that clearly includes all of the project details. The contract should consist of: contact information, payment schedule, estimated completion date, materials being used and their cost, warranties, and any specific promises. Never sign a blank contract or any contract without reading it thoroughly. Keep a copy of the contract after the job is completed in case there is an issue.

Emily Valla, emily.valla@thebbb.org, is the Idaho marketplace director for the Better Business Bureau Northwest. To check a business or report a scam, go to www.bbb.org or call (208) 342-4649.

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