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How to avoid home improvement and renovation scams

Doug Gathof Business owner, general contractor 360 Painting
How to avoid home improvement and renovation scams

Warm weather is prime time for home improvements, and many of us hire people to help with these tasks. But before you let strangers in, you need to take precautions to keep your home safe, and make sure you get the work you pay for! Homeowners should do their homework and educate themselves before the work begins on your home.


Do check references

Ask for at least three references before hiring someone to work on your home. You should also visit a recent job or two to see their completed work. Ask previous customers if this is the kind of company that wants a lifetime relationship to develop references or a quick pay day.

Do request a written, detailed timeline

Make sure the contractor gives you a written estimate, listing all duties and miscellaneous charges that could surface. Agree on a firm timeline and make sure you get what you pay for. For example, with a painting project, if you paid for two coats of paint, make sure you get two coats. Did you just pay for painted walls or are they preparing them to look great as well? Preparation takes time and can make a huge difference.

Do protect your investment

Your home is a reflection of you, and you always want it looking as good as possible. Before any painting takes place, take steps to protect your furniture and floors. Make sure workers cover all surfaces with drop cloths or plastic sheeting.

Do request a warranty

Check that the company backs up its work with a warranty, which is why a national company is often your best bet. A reputable company will warranty their work for two years, and if you have a problem with a local owner if it is a franchise, you should be able to call the national office, which offers extra assurance you’ll get quality work. Check that you can reach the company with a phone number, email and 24-hour hotline.


Do not pay anything up front

Some companies don’t require a deposit, but some companies do, so be careful. Shady companies take your deposit money and run, and you never see them again. Try to negotiate the amount of the deposit, so you don’t pay a bundle up front before the work starts. Beware of companies that only take cash.

Do not skimp on insurance coverage

Make sure your painters carry both liability insurance and worker’s compensation and that the policy is enough to cover any real damage. This protects you in case a worker gets hurt in your home and tries to sue you. It also protects you in case a worker steals something. So make sure you lock up and hide all valuables, like jewelry!

Do not judge the paint by the label

In the painting industry, better paint brands like Sherwin Williams and Benjamin Moore cost more than other brands, so make sure you get what you pay for. Check that paint cans are labeled with the color and brand, and that the paint cans are new – scammers often switch out cheap paint and put it in different cans.

Do not be a stranger

Make sure you know who will be completing the work on your home. Meet the project manager and request a phone number and email address where you can easily reach them if something goes wrong. You should feel comfortable with the crew in your home and around your family and confident that you can communicate with everyone.

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Warm days are ideal for tackling home update projects. Hiring outside help can be daunting, particularly when scammers are looking for easy marks. Knowing what to expect from workers coming and going from your home is key to keeping scammers at bay and getting the work you paid for. The payoff is a great new look for your home and a lasting relationship with a quality company.

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Photo Credits: Route 66 Photography/; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas -

Doug GathofBusiness owner, general contractor

Doug Gathof is the owner of 360 Painting in Stafford, Va., and is also a class A licensed general contractor. Gathof’s 360 Painting business offers commercial and residential painting services in Stafford and Prince William counties in Virginia....

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