CSLB Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) operations is catching people using licenses that do not belong to them.

Over the last year, I’ve noticed an alarming increasing trend in the monthly Contractors State License Board (CSLB) News Releases. More and more “alleged contractors” have been caught in CSLB Statewide Investigative Fraud Team (SWIFT) operations using licenses that do not belong to them.

California has a very active SWIFT operation. Along with local City Code Enforcement Officers, it’s getting increasingly difficult to perform renovations and remodeling on your home and not get caught. The fines and prison sentences simply are not worth it. First time convictions include up to six months in jail and/or up to $5,000 in fines. Penalties escalate with successive violations.

What people are doing is pulling permits at the City using the license of reputable Contractors. They do this by stealing the license numbers off work trucks, web sites, print advertising, and the CSLB web site! This is illegal.

Here’s what you need to know:

1. Don’t hire anyone without making sure they are who they claim to be. Remember, this person is going to be in your home alone for hours – perhaps with your family.

2. Before they first arrive to your home, check them out at www.CSLB.CA.GOV . You can type in their name or license number to see if the license is legitimate and in good standing. Make sure they have Workers Compensation insurance. Don’t fall for the “they are exempt from Workers Compensation Insurance because they have no employees” language that you’ll likely see on the CSLB web site. Anyone can file an affidavit with the State testifying that they have no employees to avoid having to carry Workers Compensation insurance. What’s the big deal? If anyone is hurt while working on your home and they are not covered by Workers Compensation Insurance, you’re responsible for all medical, legal, and rehabilitation expenses – your home owners insurance policy does not cover this – it comes out of your pocket! Do you have tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars laying around for this?

3. When the Contractor arrives at your home:
a. BY LAW – All work vehicles must have in large lettering the business name, phone number, and license number on both sides of the vehicle. If it does not, you can be certain they are hiding something.
b. BY LAW – All Contractors must have and carry their plastic Pocket Card. This will identify the holder of the license, license number, CSLB’s web site address, entity (Corporation, LLC, etc.), classification, expiration date, and the signature of the legal owner. Ask the person to sign on a piece of paper their name and compare the two signatures. If they don’t match – throw them out!
c. BY LAW – All Contractors must have and carry their plastic Bond Card. Compare it to the Pocket Card. If the holder of the license number and license number itself do not match – throw them out!
d. BY LAW – Before you sign any contract, you must be provided with the Contractor’s license number and the name, address, contact telephone number, and policy numbers for their business location, Workers Compensation Insurance Carrier, General Liability Insurance Carrier, and Bond Carrier. You must also be provided the address and telephone number of CSLB. If it’s not there – throw them out!
e. BY LAW – The maximum amount of the down payment cannot exceed 10% of the contract price or $1,000; whichever is less. The contract must also provide you a payment schedule illustrating the progress payments including the amount and percentage the progress payment represents. The progress payments must clearly explain when they are due and what will be completed before that payment is made by you. NEVER let the payments get ahead of the work. Do not pay anyone because they claim to need more money for materials, labor, whatever. Pay them only what has been earned based on the work completed.
f. Never pay the first progress payment until the Contractor produces a valid Building Permit card for your job. If you’re not sure, call your City Building Department and ask. They’ll be happy to help you.
g. Never pay the final payment until the Contractor produces a valid and completed Building Permit card for your job illustrating that the Building Inspector has approved all work and signed that the job is complete. If you’re not sure, call your City Building Department and ask. They’ll be happy to help you.

If you have any questions, call me at (949) 380-0177. I’ll be more than happy to answer your questions and help you any way I can.


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Your Home’s Claim History – Get A CLUE

From time-to-time, we have customers who experience damage to their homes (usually water damage) and they ask me “should I make a claim to my insurance company?” Here’s what I can tell you. Each time you file a claim with your insurance company, it’s entered into the Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (CLUE). What’s this? It’s a National database that all insurance companies use to determine your insurance premium.

Insurers share information on homeowner’s claims for up to seven years through the CLUE. When you apply for insurance, the company looks at the claims history for your home, even for the time before you lived there. If the house has a history of water-damage claims, for example, it may be more likely to have future problems—and insurers will boost your rate. You can check a house’s CLUE report either before or after you buy it. Reports are available at https://personalreports.lexisnexis.com/fact_act_claims_bundle/landing.jsp .

CLUE reports illustrate all claims and include the type of claim (water, fire, theft, etc.), amount paid on the claim, status of the claim, dates of the claim, and the insurance company who paid the claim along with the policy number(s). It also has your name, address, date of birth, age, social security number, phone number, and gender. Interestingly, your home is listed as a Risk Address. It also lists any former addresses for you. They know it all!

Now, think about this. If your home insurance is $1,500 per year on average over 20 years, you’ve paid total premiums of about $30,000. Of that, only about 20% or $6,000 is profit to your insurance company – or $300 per year.

You have a slab leak or other water pipe leak causing $10,000 – $15,000 in damage. This amount must be paid now. That’s way more than the $300 yearly profit your insurance company is getting from you! In the eyes of the insurance industry, you’re a huge disaster and a monumental risk!!! They also know that you will have future pipe leaks from your old and worn out copper water pipes.

The insurance company must recoup this $10,000 – $15,000 loss. They also make sure all this information goes into the CLUE, so they’re subsidiary insurance companies and other insurance companies can reassess your premium and charge you accordingly. You’re not going to be able to change carriers to hide the loss and get your future premiums lowered . . . your going to pay through the teeth for years!

Since you are now considered a big disaster, you’re cancelled and your insurance premium goes through the roof! If you’re lucky, you’re not cancelled but your premiums still go through the roof.

So, while you’re busy celebrating your new $10,000 – $15,000 replacement wood floor, carpet, painted interior, and baseboards, you can gasp at your new $4,500 per year insurance bill! Over 7 years, you’ll pay at least $37,800 in premiums with yearly increases for that $10,000 -$15,000 worth of work!!! Why would anyone do this? You’re upside down by at least $22,800 – $27,800. Just pay for the work yourself and forget the insurance company. You’ll be $20,000 to $30,000 ahead – at a minimum!!!

According to my insurance agent, the insurance industry looks at fire insurance as the only “real” insurance for your home. Everything else is to make buckets of money – have you ever seen the buildings insurance companies occupy? Nice, aren’t they! You pay for all that sp-lender. How do you think the insurance agents sponsor all those Little League teams, “free” seminars, “free” dinners, and other “free” and sponsored activities? They’re not using their own money – they’re using yours!

Do yourself and your family a huge favor. When you have that water leak, call a reputable Contractor (like DAD’s Construction), get the house re-piped, make the repairs, and laugh all the way to the bank! If you don’t need that extra $20,000 – $30,000, send it to me. I have 4 kids and they would love the extra money!

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Our latest Letter of Recommendation:

Dear Dan and DAD’s Construction,

We consider ourselves blessed and fortunate to have chosen Dan and DAD’s Construction for our remodeling project that first began as a small master bathroom makeover. Our house is many decades old and was never upgraded, maintained, or constructed well, and it quickly became apparent that we had all kinds of issues that might affect our health and well-being beyond the moisture and ventilation problems that first instigated the remodel.

We originally chose Dan because he was the owner of DAD’s Construction and would be hands-on doing much of the work himself on-site. He was well-organized and detailed, had met all the paperwork requirements, had great references, and was friendly, knowledgeable, courteous, and professional.

During our time collaborating side-by-side with Dan, we got to know him well, and there’s no question that Dan’s an amazingly skilled individual with a wealth of experience. He is an artisan with an exacting and finely-honed talent; someone with honor and integrity that takes great pride in his work and perfecting his craft. He is loyal to his customers and flexible to their needs and desires. Dan maintains an unwavering sense of responsibility to serve the customer in their best interest; all within a carefully balanced framework of aesthetics, function, and the realities of time and cost.

Now, our attic and garage are spic-and-span and our bathrooms are gorgeous and infinitely more usable. Our electrical, plumbing and drainage deliver, our floors are clean and new, our walls are straight, and our doors don’t contort. Our home now breathes and works like it’s supposed to . . . efficiently and everything just shines!

More importantly, Dan and his team always treated us with respect and as people first, not as another job. Dan’s understanding and sincerity of caring for us as a family shows in the clean, beautiful, sturdy, quality workmanship in our house which our children now affectionately refer to as “the house that Dan rebuilt.” It’s been a real privilege working with Dan and DAD’s Construction and anyone would be lucky to have them!


Evan and Anda
Irvine, CA

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Cost vs. Value Report 2013

The numbers are in for 2013! The value of remodeling is up in all 35 categories. What this means for you is that your remodeling dollars are making your home more valuable.

The biggest gainers are adding an attic bedroom, remodeling your kitchen, bathroom, or home office, and replacing your windows, front and garage doors. The highest return on investment was replacing the front entry door at over 112% (this means by replacing your front entry door, the value exceeded the cost – in other words, you made money doing this).

Other high return on investment projects included minor and major kitchen remodels, attic bedrooms, basement remodels, and backup power generator (this was west of the Rockies due to the serious weather over the last few years).

Three of the biggest cost-value and return on investment large scale projects were second story additions, major upscale kitchen remodels, and adding an upscale bathroom. Adding an upscale bathroom to your home was extremely desirable. Upscale kitchen remodels topped the list.

The table below illustrates these projects along with their average costs for the Pacific region (California, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, & Alaska). For South Orange County, you’ll need to add another 15-20%.

*Project Cost Ranges

Minor Kitchen Remodel $21,600-25,000
Major Kitchen Remodel $62,200-120,000
Bathroom Remodel $19,100-57,000
Bathroom Addition $44,700-82,300
Home Office Remodel $32,200-50,000
Master Suite Addition $122,200-251,500
Two-Story Addition $175,000-?
Window Replacement $12,300-18,000
Entry Door Replacement $1,300-7,700

*These are averages and each project will differ according to what the Customer wants.

The Pacific region continues to outperform all other regions. The average cost-value ratio for all 35 projects in the Pacific is a healthy 88% vs. a National average of 66.1%.

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Remodeling and Renovating Per Square Foot Index – 2013

Ready or not, per square foot figures are in! The cost to remodel and renovate continues to grow. Historically, prices increase 10-15% per year regardless of what the economy is doing. Why? Because taxes, regulations, building codes, utilities, transportation, and insurances don’t take a break! California continues to be a leader in all of these areas. For 2014, watch out after Affordable Healthcare gets into high gear – ouch!

The averages for Orange County range from $325-$455 per square foot for most types of remodeling and renovating. This includes additions, bathrooms, kitchens, attic conversions, and full interior remodels. Very, very important concept to understand: Regardless of what anyone quotes you, this is what you are going to pay. But wait a minute you say, Jose just quoted me a price of $200 per square foot to remodel my bathroom. Sorry, but he didn’t. He just slipped a fast one by you! What he actually did was double your square footage, dramatically lower the amount of work that will actually be performed (before he Change Orders you up the wazoo), and reduced the quality of the materials. Jose will also be using day laborers, has no Workers Compensation or General Liability Insurance, and the Contractors number he provided you is the same one used by a bunch of other people (they pay a cash fee under the table to the actual Contractor to “rent” his license number – which is illegal by the way). Good luck on your project!

These averages are only estimates as every project is unique and different. There are no concrete standard industry averages. Every project is different as every person has their own unique style, tastes, preferences, and way of seeing and doing things.

These costs per square foot averages are driven primarily by the Customer and their requirements – not the Contractors. These figures are averages. These can be increased or decreased by the Customer.

So, what makes DAD’s different? DAD’s rough estimates illustrate historical averages over the most recent 2 years of Customer driven projects that were physically performed right here in South Orange County by DAD’s. How much more realistic can you get? Remember though, due to uncontrollable items such as, but not limited to, customer requirements and changes; project design; material selections; commodities markets; manufacture pricing; energy markets; product availability; building/engineering/energy code requirements; taxing authorities; home associations; and unforeseen/unknown conditions, all prices, estimates, and averages are subject to change without notice.

DAD’s has a simply philosophy – Always be honest and up-front with the customer and never pretend a project is something that it isn’t. What this means is that we never provide an estimate containing materials and products of such low quality and performance utilizing “best case scenario” methods while providing “allowances”. In my better than 35 years of renovating & remodeling, I’ve never seen or heard of anyone actually performing a project under these circumstances. What many, many contractors do in order to get your business is provide you with unrealistic estimates employing these tactics . . . only to use the Change Order process once the project is well under way to jack-up the price . . . usually way up from the initial estimate. This is unethical, dishonest, horribly misleading, and just plain wrong.

Estimates provided by DAD’s reflect projects actually performed over the most recent 2 years. DAD’s estimates include all materials, parts, labor, installation and sales tax mid range, not at the bottom. Therefore, these estimates reflect reality and what people actually did and are doing using high quality and durable products, materials, and people. Moreover, they illustrate pricing of materials and labor across economies including building code changes. Although the economic and legal environment in which the project will actually be performed is unknown, using the most recent 2 years of activity seems to be a reasonably good indicator for estimating purposes.

Nobody can read someone’s mind or predict the future. However, since most folks like an idea of cost before committing to a project, this is the most reasonable and realistic method I have found. Best of all, it’s completely open and honest. There are no surprises, tricks, gimmicks, or hidden up-charges. You know exactly what you’re paying for and how it’s going to look. Isn’t this what you would expect from your DAD?

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Home Maintenance That Saves Money & Makes You Feel Better

Homeowners often ask me the best way to save money on their home utilities and repairs. Here are the best and easiest items to save a bundle:

Always perform the below twice each year; once when daylight savings begins and again when it ends:

1. Change the battery on your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. This includes electric models as these also have a battery backup. This can easily save you the most money. How? Simple, smoke alarms warn you before your house burns to the ground . . . and home insurance won’t cover everything to replace, especially family heirlooms and sentimental items like pictures. A carbon monoxide alarm will save your life! How much is this worth?

You should also change your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms every 5 years. Many people don’t know that the chemical within the sensors typically have a life expectancy of 5 to 7 years. After that, their effectiveness becomes less and less.

2. Furnace/Air conditioning filter (aka – FAU or Forced Air Unit). After every job I complete, as a courtesy, I always change the furnace filter for the customer. Wow! I have never, and I mean never, changed a filter that was years (yes, I said years) overdue. The filters are always so full; I wonder how any air at all ever gets through! When the FAU is starved for air, just like a cars air filter, it must work significantly harder and longer to do the job. This costs an ever increasing amount of electricity and gas. Consistently operating your FAU with a dirty filter will reduce its life by 50% or more. The typical replacement cost is $5,000 – $10,000. This also creates health and cleaning problems in your home.

Health: All that dirt, lent, pollen, hair, mold, mildew, and filth that’s clogged in your filter gets sucked up and travels through your air ducts where it’s dispersed into your home. If your having respiratory or allergy problems, try replacing your FAU filter with a high quality micro allergen electrostatic filter. You will be so happy!

Dirt: Again, all that dirt and grim is being deposited into your home. It gets on your cloths, furniture, bedding, carpet, food, dishes, and you breathe it. How nasty is this? And you wonder why you sneeze and cough constantly, your carpet looks dirty, your furniture has 2” of dust on it, and your cloths (especially your whites) look dingy? If you have pets, it’s even worse.

Never, and I mean never, replace your filter with one of those standard, flimsy cardboard looking filters. These are worthless and what many Air Conditioning and Furnace Contractors use. Why? Because they are cheap and they can charge you $150 to come out to your home and install a $1.50 filter that does essentially nothing. Always use a quality micro allergen electrostatic filter. They cost $10 – $20 depending on the size you need. That’s nothing compared to the cost of doctors, prescriptions, medications, and time off work. Who wants to feel bad anyway? So, change your filter!

3. Clean the filters on your microwave and/or cook top hood. Not doing this can cause a fire so easily. That ventilation removes the heat when you’re cooking and gets rid of the grease and moister that’s generated when you cook. When these filters get clogged with grease, the heat, grease, and moisture can’t get outside. It stays in your house and makes everything dirty and greasy. Try feeling the walls and cabinets in your kitchen – nasty! What happens as grease gets old? It gets rancid and generates all kinds of nasty bacteria – which you’re now breathing and its getting on your food! It can also invite ants and roaches who like to eat this stuff.

Next time you see a Firefighter, ask them how many fires they extinguish each year that are caused by cooking. They’ll be happy to share with you that most of these were caused by excessive heat and carelessness. Clean the filters!

4. Clean your bathroom exhaust fan. Go into your bathroom and look up. Your right, the cover on the exhaust fan should not be solid – you should see slats so the moisture can get out! I can’t tell you how many bathrooms are damaged and destroyed costing tens of thousands of dollars to repair and replace because the moisture was not removed. When the moisture can’t escape, mold, mildew, and bacteria take over everything. Some of this is very dangerous and incredibly unhealthy. These can seriously injure and kill you. You’re breathing all this stuff and it’s getting in your cloths, toiletries, towels, floors, walls, carpet, bedding, and food – everywhere.

5. Water Heater. If you have a tank type water heater, have you ever noticed that “hose bib” on the front of it? No, it’s not to water your lawn or wash your car with. It’s to drain your water heater of all the impurities like rust, dirt, sand, etc. How does this stuff get into your water heater? From the water pipes that bring water into your home and from your house water pipes. Most water is also very hard, containing lime, calcium, and other minerals. These too, get deposited inside your water heater tank. I’ve changed water heaters that are half full of “stuff”. I’m not kidding, half full. Most of the water heaters I change are at least 1/3 full of impurities. Think how much you’re paying for the extra gas to heat 2-3 feet of solid nothing – before it even gets to the water!

When you drain the tank, make sure to turn the gas off first. Wait 4-6 hours. This will allow the water to cool enough where you can hook up your garden hose and drain the water into your yard and/or planters. Don’t drain it into the street – that’s a waste of good water. Grass and plants love this stuff – just ask them!

That’s it . . . easy! Think of all the money your saving and how much healthier you can now be. Twice each year, once when daylight savings begins and again when it ends, get together as a family and spend a morning or afternoon enjoying quality time together cleaning a few filters, changing some batteries, and water the yard! You’ll be teaching your kids important lessons and everyone will breathe easier.

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Goodbye Incandescent, Hello LED Light Bulbs!

Beginning January 1, 2014, production of all incandescent light bulbs will cease. When the existing supply is gone, this will be the end of America’s lighting staple for more than 100 years. In its place will be the LED light bulb.

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 required that the common incandescent light bulb be phased out by January 1, 2014. You might have noticed that the 100-watt incandescent bulb was phased out in 2011 and the 75-watt incandescent bulb was phased out during 2013.

Why the change? It’s a matter of efficiency. The typical incandescent bulb consumed an enormous amount of energy. However, only 10% of this energy produced light. The other 90% produced heat. Although this was great for Easy Bake Ovens, it was bad for the electric bill and America’s energy dependency.

So, welcome the Light Emitting Diode or LED. The LED is dramatically more efficient:

1. Typically last more than 25,000 hours vs. 1,000 hours for an incandescent bulb and 10,000 hours for a Compact Florescent Light bulb (CFL).

2. Even after 25,000 hours of use, the higher quality LED will still emit more than 75% of its original light.

3. Over the life of an LED vs. a 100-watt incandescent bulb, the savings will be in the thousands of dollars (yes, I said thousands of dollars – per light)! Typically, the LED will save about $1,100 per year when used 8 hours per day.

Here are some things to remember about LEDs:

1. LED life is measured in years, not hours like the incandescent bulb. You’ll need to start thinking in terms of years of use, not hours of use.

2. LED light is different, measured in Lumens or Kelvin (K) temperatures:
a. 2,700 K emits a slight yellow light.
b. 3,000 K emits a crisp, white light that gives the appearance of being brighter than the 2,700 K.
c. 5,000 K emits a bluish type of lighting, often referred to as “daylight”.

Are Compact Florescent Light bulbs (CFL’s) still available? Yes. LEDs, however; are much better because they last significantly longer, cost a lot less money to operate, save more money, don’t require special disposal (florescent lights contain mercury – a hazardous material harmful to our environment and health), and are more pleasing to the eye (those “loops” you can see in CFL’s are ugly!). LEDs are also “instant on”, require no warm up, don’t flicker, and they don’t hum or buzz, especially when it’s cold. As a bonus, since LED’s last significantly longer, there is a huge reduction in the number of light bulbs and their packaging going into our landfills.

If you have 6” recess ceiling lights, many can be easily converted to LED without replacing the recess light housing itself, thereby eliminating any drywall and painting work. The best conversions use a true LED upgrade. In other words, there is no light bulb whatsoever. For those who have experienced changing a recess light bulb 10’-20’ up on a ceiling, you know how much fun that was! The true LED recess light upgrade will still emit 70-75% of its original light after 23 years of use (8 hours per day, 365 days per year – but who does this? I think they will last about 30-40 years for the typical household).

Daniel A. Derkum is the Owner of DAD’s Construction, a leading South Orange County, California design-and-build remodeling and renovation contractor, http://www.dadsconstruction.com. © DAD’s Home Services & Construction, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday to Dan Derkum, Owner & General Contractor of DAD’s Construction!

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Bathtub To Shower Conversions

Converting a bathtub to a shower is becoming ever more popular. For many people, it’s much easier to step into and out of a shower than a bathtub. A shower also provides the opportunity to have a seat while bathing. Many folks find sitting to bathe safer, more comfortable, and more convenient.

What’s involved in turning a bathtub into a shower? First, you’ll need a licensed General Contractor who knows what their doing and has lots of hands-on experience! Here are the other items to consider:

1. This project requires plans and permits. The project will involve excavation (when converting over a concrete foundation), plumbing, framing, concrete, hot mop, insulation, drywall, cement lath and plaster, tile, electrical, and paint.

2. Bathtubs and tub/shower combinations have a 1-1/2” drain. Showers require a 2” drain to handle the extra water. Therefore, the entire length of the 1-1/2” bathtub drain will need to be removed and replaced with a 2” drain. The drain will also need to be repositioned. Bathtub drains are located at the front of the tub. Shower drains are in the middle. The effort to do this primarily depends on 3 factors: (a) floor – concrete or wood framing (b) distance the 2” drain will need to travel and connect to another 2” or 3” drain (c) The number and type of plumbing fixtures already on the line you’re connecting to and the number of turns and bends to get there.

3. Tile or 1 piece fiberglass shower? Always go with a full tile shower. A fiberglass unit usually has a 1 year or less warranty, leak soon thereafter (it’s typically a small leak that remains undetected for many years – until the damage becomes great and expensive . . . think mold and dry rot), and is less safe and durable. Most don’t have seats and the ones that do, are designed for someone 5 years of age or less! A tiled floor is also much safer and significantly reduces the chances of a slip and fall injury (provided you use the correct tile!)
4. For ceilings 8’ in height and less, tile all the way to the ceiling. Make sure you also tile the floor outside the shower. Carpet is the worst and vinyl is a close second. These only encourage potentially harmful and destructive mold, mildew, bacteria, and rot. Use tile as the baseboard. Never use wood or MDF type baseboards outside any wet area. Make sure to include at least two 16” tall shampoo cubbies (I call this the “Costco Size”) that can be comfortably reached when sitting or standing. Don’t forget the soap dish!

5. Make sure the Plumber installs the shower head at 6’ 6” minimum. Standard shower heights put the shower head in your chest! Not very helpful for washing anything above that. It’s best to install an adjustable hand shower on a pole. This allows you to raise and lower the shower head for different heights, sit and wash yourself, shave your legs much more comfortably, and clean your shower walls with ease. There are 60” and 72” hoses. Make sure you select the correct length. It should comfortably reach where the seat is located and allow for easy positioning when washing your body when seated.

6. Install a dedicated GFCI protected LED light over the shower. You’ll love the direct light it provides, especially when shaving your legs and when your eyesight starts to fade.

7. Install a super quiet exhaust fan that moves a minimum of 110 cubic feet per minute (CFM) of air. Don’t vent it directly into the attic! You do, and you’re in for some happy termites and very expensive termite and mold damage to your home. It must vent directly outside. Use only fans with a 4” duct minimum. You should also use a Humidistat as the fan control.

8. Use a tempered glass enclosure. Clear glass keeps the room looking large and allows you to enjoy your beautiful new shower. Always use a minimum of 5/16” thick tempered glass – the best and safest is 3/8” thick tempered glass. Never use 3/16” or 1/4” glass – it’s not strong enough and can easily shatter. Always pay extra and have a factory applied glass sealer installed to the shower side of the glass. Glass is very porous. That’s why you can’t ever seem to get the outside of windows clean or your old enclosure. The “porous” are microscopic craters in the glass that lime, calcium, soap, shampoo, dirt, etc. get into. Once in, you can’t get the glass clean and it gets that discolored and dingy look.

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Construction and Remodeling 101 – The Basics

How Do I find someone I Trust?

Virtually all construction and remodeling projects start by someone coming to your home to meet and review your project with you. How does this work? When I started to write this article, I started with the usual Contractor stuff. But I began to think “why don’t I try a different approach?” I thought “something that has the same level of importance but might be easier to see.” So, let’s use the Babysitter or Caregiver as the comparison to the Contractor.


You decided to start your search for a Babysitter/Caregiver by researching the internet. You want someone who is honest, dependable, very high quality, great with your kids, very experienced, has impeccable references, and has many, many years of hands on experience. You also want someone who actually has children of their own – how else can they truly appreciate both the art and challenges of raising children? After all, this person will be alone in your home for hours at a time, completely unsupervised. You need to trust that your kids will be safely cared for and everything that’s done for them is helpful, correct, and does no harm.

Visiting Your Home – The Interview

The first meeting should be relaxing and informative. It’s the opportunity to ask each other questions, gain a better understanding of what you would like done, how the process works, and learn more about how the Babysitter/Caregiver operates.
The first Babysitter/Caregiver arrives late. They don’t have the appearance that you expected – they don’t really look like a Babysitter/Caregiver. They look more like someone who represents the Babysitter/Caregiver, perhaps a sales person. No matter, they seem nice. They listen to what you have to say, interrupting constantly to tell you how great they are and all the wonderful things they can do for you – at a great price! You sense they’re not really listening or paying attention – but they sure can talk a great story! They don’t have any of the necessary licenses or insurances, offer no real suggestions, tell you what they are going to do or can do (as oppose to what you would like), can’t fully explain the process and answer your questions, and they’re trying really hard to convince you to hire them on the spot. All it takes is a cash deposit of 50% (for materials) and a hand shake – or maybe a simple 1 or 2 page contract. Just sign on the dotted line, give them a key to your house, a bunch of cash, and a world of bliss awaits! Oh, one more thing, they tell you that it’s not necessary or required for someone to oversee their work – you know, someone checking up on them making sure their doing everything correctly and safely.
The second Babysitter/Caregiver arrives on time (actually, a bit early). They called in advance to make sure the meeting day and time was still convenient for you. They’re friendly, look like a Babysitter/Caregiver, can easily communicate with you, carefully listen to what you would like and then offer lots of meaningful suggestions, and their vehicle is clean, well kept, and it’s obvious he or she is meticulous.

The Contractor

Like the Babysitter/Caregiver, the Contractor himself should come to your home personally to meet with you, not a salesperson. The salesperson will not be performing any work on your home and has likely never performed the type of work you’re looking to have done. Their job is to sell you something – they don’t know much if anything about remodeling and building.
The Contractor should always explain the entire process from the first meeting through permitting and project completion, inform you that in the State of California the maximum amount of the down payment is 10% or $1,000 whichever is less, provide you information on their licenses, insurances, references, Contractors State License Board (CSLB), and professional associations (you shouldn’t need to ask for these things). Moreover, they should never ask for a penny during the first meeting. The first meeting is getting to know each other and gaining a better understanding of what it is you would like . . . it should never be about getting money from you or coercing you to sign a contract.
This best Contractor’s physically work everyday on homes performing the type of work you’re looking to have done! They don’t just talk about it or manage those who do, they physically perform the work – they obviously know what their talking about and they’ve been doing this for at least 25 years! They let you know they are there to help and answer all of your questions. They promise to follow-up with you in a few days with a rough estimate (which they actually do), and offer that you can call or e-mail them with any questions.
The Decision
Now, you have a decision to make. Hire the first or the second babysitter. I think the clear choice is babysitter number 2 – wouldn’t you agree? It’s the same when hiring a Contractor. The Contractor, whatever they’re doing in your home, must be someone you trust, is sincere, honest, displays a high degree of integrity, and absolutely knows what they are doing and talking about. Most importantly, they truly care about the health and safety of you and your family and are genuinely interested in helping you – not in selling you.
Try this next time you invite someone out to your home to discuss performing a renovation or remodel for you. Ask them about building permits and inspections. Before they arrive, call the Building Department of your local City and ask if permits are required for what you’re thinking about doing. Make sure you provide them with a good, concise summary of what you’re going to do.
When the Contractor you meet with does not mention permits, ask about them. When they tell you they’re not required and you already know they are, show them the door! Remember, permits and inspections are there to protect the health and safety of you and your family. The Building Inspector comes to your home throughout the project inspecting every phase of the Contractors work; making sure it’s correct and safe. Now consider that the Contractor you just met lied to you! Do you really trust someone with the keys to your house, your children, and the health and safety of you and your family with someone who can look you straight in the face and lie?

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