Originally posted 7/2/2020, updated 2/25/2021
Long before COVID-19 upset my apple cart, I was paranoid about having strangers in my house. My home is my sanctuary, where I feel comfortable and at ease, protected from the stress of the outside world. I don’t invite people over very often, and I’m highly selective when I do. So if you’re on edge about having a stranger come to your house to check out your basement or foundation? I get you.
After all, it’s not like you really have a choice, right? You’ve found something wrong with your home, or you’ve found signs of potential problems. You know how important it is to protect your home, so you’ve contacted a contractor about evaluating the issue. But now you have a stranger scheduled to come to your house, and you have questions about what’s going to happen next.
Acculevel specializes in waterproofing, concrete lifting, and foundation repairs. We’re a family business that began in 1996, and we’ve helped over 30,000 homeowners protect and restore health to their homes. Let me guide you through the process, and address your concerns.
When I planned this article, I asked for feedback from all of our project managers and call center representatives. We discussed the types of questions homeowners ask, and what topics are brought up before or during every appointment. The seven questions below are the results of those conversations.
Question 1: Who Should Meet with the Contractor?
I know this sounds like an obvious question. But if you are a potential buyer working with a realtor, or you are coordinating the visit for a relative, things can be complicated. Our best advice is to err on the side of caution. Have all of the “decision makers” or “interested parties” present for the appointment. Information is always better directly from the source; it can be difficult to anticipate what another person (buyer, power of attorney, spouse) will want to ask.
Question 2: Is the Issue Currently Visible or Happening?
This is mostly aimed at customers who have water intrusion in their home. If you sometimes have a puddle forming in your basement, but you think it will be gone before the appointment, take pictures. If that isn’t an option -maybe the wet spots on the carpet don’t show well- then be prepared to clearly indicate where the wet places were. Many times, homeowners aren’t certain where the water is coming from; specific data can help an expert determine the source for you.
This photo was taken by an Acculevel project manager during a free estimate.
Question 3: Do You Have a Budget or Need Financing?
We all try to plan for unexpected expenses, but let’s be real: they’re unexpected expenses. Sometimes a rainy day fund isn’t what we need it to be. Will you need financing for repairs, if it’s over a certain dollar amount? Acculevel offers a variety of financing options, designed to meet each homeowner’s needs.
Your bank or credit union may have a special rate for home improvement loans, but these often have a lengthy application process and require a home appraisal. Consider using the contractor’s financing to get the repairs made when you need them, and then apply for the home improvement or HELOC loan at a more relaxed pace.
Even if you do have enough cash in your emergency fund, you may still want to finance the project. There may be other projects on the horizon that you may be planning for, or that offer cash discounts. The important thing is that you explore the options, to ensure you make the best decision for you financially. After all, you need to protect your home investment, but balancing a budget is critical as well.
Question 4: How Does the Estimate Compare to Your Expectations?
How did we buy things before the internet? (Yes, I’m old enough to remember and yes, I know I sound lame right now.) My point is, you’ve probably done some online research into the issue you have, and looked up the best repair methods. Did you find estimated costs for these? Or do you have other bids/estimates for comparison? When you receive an estimate, you want to make sure you are comparing “apples to apples.”
If Company A offers a full warranty and Company B offers a limited one (or none), make certain you take these values into consideration. If you have to pay for an annual service agreement to maintain the warranty, add that to the total costs. Also consider the type of work done- is one method more reliable than the other? Your costs can include more than the initial price.
In addition to warranties, also make sure the scope and impact of the work is similar. At Acculevel, our goal is to provide you with all of your options, culminating in a whole home solution. This allows you to consider each step of the process and guarantees pricing transparency. Many contractors attempt to offer a single price for the entire project, which helps them disguise the individual costs of each service.
This photo was taken by an Acculevel crew member, after the crawl space was encapsulated.
Question 5: How Do I Know if You’re the Right Company for Me?
You don’t have to rely on instinct alone. Collect specific information that is relevant and important to you, and compare the answers from each company or contractor. Not sure what details to request? We have an article that provides the questions you should ask a contractor. The initial article includes Acculevel’s answers to each question as well as a free (blank) downloadable copy of the checklist.
Question 6: Will You Want to Be Home When the Work is Done?
Do you want to be home during the repairs? This depends on the person, and the type of work to be done. Some installation types require breaking up concrete, which can be loud and disruptive. If you have small children who need to nap regularly, or dogs that bark at loud noises, it may be easier for everyone if you go to a nearby park or visit a friend.
If you’re having a mold treatment applied, I would encourage you and maybe your pet(s) to leave the house. The most common complaint for this repair is a headache caused by the chemical odor, but if you have asthma or other respiratory problems, the smell could be more of a concern. Many of our customers choose to leave windows open, to help “air out” their home more quickly.
Question 7: When Can the Work Be Done?
Do you have a deadline of some sort? This is sometimes the case for real estate transactions. Or Is there a specific time period that won’t work for you? If you have a relative coming to visit, you probably don’t want a crew using a jackhammer in the basement then (or maybe you do, if they often overstay their welcome).
If a deposit is needed, have you paid one? Most contractors need a deposit before they can reserve a specific date for you. A deposit for 25-30% of the total cost is normal; be wary of anyone who requires more than 50%. You should be suspicious of anyone who insists on full payment upfront- this is often a sign of a scam.
The contractor should be able to give you a reasonable estimation of how long the recommended work will take, as well as an approximate time frame. For example, at the time I’m writing this piece, Acculevel is scheduling installations 2-3 weeks from now. This information is regularly updated and shared in our company, specifically so our project managers can provide a realistic timetable to our customers.
If You Have Additional Questions or Concerns
Do not hesitate to reach out to your salesman/representative, the contractor, or the repair company. It is their responsibility to address your concerns.
If you scheduled an appointment with Acculevel, we should have given you the name of your assigned project manager. That project manager should have reached out to you to confirm the appointment, to discuss the issue you reported, ask follow-up questions, and offer additional resources. If you have not heard from him or her, reach out to the main office. We will verify the contact information we have for you, and make sure your project manager has the necessary details.
We understand that home repairs are stressful; many are also expensive and unwelcome surprises. We want to do what we can to ease that stress, and make repairs promptly and effectively. Everyone deserves a safe and healthy home; let us help you protect your greatest investment.