Buyer beware: Tips on hiring a contractor

by Susan Gillin | Apr 08, 2019

If you’re stuffing your curtains into the cracks around your home’s newly installed windows to keep out the cold, something is definitely wrong.

Vivienne Johnson said she resorted to her curtains for makeshift caulking when a contractor she hired this past winter to install new windows left -- before finishing the job, but after she had paid him.

Josh Mitchell, residential energy adviser for Chelan PUD, said her situation is a good reminder for buyers to beware.

“Most contractors are conscientious and do good work,” he said. “But it’s always a good idea to ask for references, get several bids, and get the bids in writing.”

The state Department of Labor and Industries maintains a website where consumers can check on a contractor’s credentials.

PUD staff learned about Vivienne’s window problem during a routine inspection. When customers apply for a PUD rebate, staff inspectors check to make sure the products meet energy-efficiency standards and that the work has been done correctly.

The PUD offers an incentive of $4 per square foot for replacing double-pane, metal-framed windows, and $6 per square foot for replacing old-single pane windows. New windows must have a U factor of .30 or lower.

At Vivienne’s Wenatchee home, two of three new windows were installed correctly. But a third window had large gaps around the frame.

The story has a happy ending: Vivienne expects to get her money back. And she has located a licensed, bonded contractor recommended by friends. Once problems are corrected and a second inspection completed, she can get her rebate.

If you plan to hire a contractor, the state Department of Labor and Industries recommends that you:

  1. Verify the contractor’s registration.
  2. Get three written bids.
  3. Don’t pay in full until the job is done.

You can use the department’s Protect My Home interactive map for tips on how to hire for specific projects around your home.

Chelan PUD offers rebates to improve home energy efficiency and help customers save on electric bills. Complete details are on our web pages, but general installation requirements are:

Questions? Contact us, preferably before you start your project, (509) 661-8008.

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