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Picking the right siding and contractor for your home:

Consumer Reports Siding

ATLANTA - As the home improvement season rushes in for those hoping to sell and get top dollar for their present homes so they can move into homes that are more compatible with their current needs, many greater Atlanta residents are beginning to do their homework and searching for the "Best Deal."

And just as the experienced craftsmen follow the age old rule of thumb of ... '90% Preparation - 10% Perspiration," so should the homeowners who have been postponing costly repairs until this point in time, follow the same strategy. 

Unfortunately, the "Best Deal" for the homeowner very often bears a much different meaning to many companies out there who specialize in taking advantage of innocent homeowners new to the home improvement process.  Because of this, Gwinnett Daily Online's very own "Builder Ron" is standing by - doing everything he can to help prevent as many families a possible from being taken advantage of. 

Here are Ron's three simple rules to live by before spending one single penny or making any decision what-so-ever.  Please note that "Builder Ron" endorses absolutely no sponsors and his sole purpose is to help families get the best deal possible on home repairs and improvements for many years to come.  In addition, Mr. Ron receives absolutely no compensation of any kind for his advice, other than the mere hope that he has helped at least one family from making a less than optimal decision. 

One's home is very often the most expensive and most important investment they'll ever make.  It's not only a source of financial security for your entire family, but it's their shelter as well.  Before placing something so important in the hands of a company you're unfamiliar with - do your homework thoroughly in the beginning and avoid making the mistakes that countless other homeowners have made in past decades across the country

"Builder Ron's" absolute best advice for any home repair or upgrade - be it small, medium or large is as follows: begin by getting at least three estimates from licensed, insured and referenced contractors is always your best first step forward -  but following up and following through is equally, if not more important!.

Many homeowners see advertisements touting great savings and blindly enter into contracts that end up not so great after much of your money has disappeared.  Many of these deals end up in courtrooms where the homeowner most assuredly will never win anything more than an empty judgement.  

If the "contractor" got the best of you - chances are they did the same thing many times over to others.  Instead of making good on the damage they've caused, all they have to do is start over with a new company name - with YOUR MONEY!   Companies who operate in this manner are in great numbers across the U.S. and are extremely good at what they do.

And to think, all of this was completely avoidable if the homeowner had only done their homework!  (Which cost's nothing - by the way!)

First step - Call the manufacturer of the materials being used and check the status of your contractor's license.  You may also want to check your local Better Business Bureau for recent complaints.

Next step - .Call the contractor's insurance company and make yourself the beneficiary of their insurance - should something go awry.

Finally - Go out and visit at least three of the references the contractor lists.  Do it on the weekend, when the homeowner is outside tooling around - and approach them. 

"Hello there!  I was just admiring your beautiful home.  Who does your work?" 

People love telling you all about their house, both the good and the bad.  You don't even have to mention that you're really checking up on references.  Why should that matter?

Chances are - you will walk away with a pleasant exchange and you will have made a new acquaintance.  People are usually a whole lot nicer than you think.

Here's a recent story from an Atlanta homeowner who decided to take some shortcuts on choosing a company to HardiPlank their home: 

Help! Hardiplank installation problems

A partial list of problems follows:

1) Siding is face nailed, not blind nailed as specified in contract
2) Nails are deeply overdriven throughout
3) Some pieces of siding and trim are cracked, chipped, or otherwise damaged
4) Gaps around pipes/cables are very large and poorly done
5) Guest bathroom window is no longer flush with wall
6) Too many nails throughout (on siding as well as trim)
7) Trim improperly installed along bottom of wall in one place (should not need trim here)
8) Many nails are not driven perpendicular; some are hammered flat sideways on the siding
9) Many areas of the house are still exposed to weather with no house wrap (since last week)
10) Trim leaves holes along interface between siding and masonry. Also not flush with garage doors.

Here are some "Follow-Up Postings" from some of our readers":

 RE: Help! Hardiplank installation problems  

1. Stop work immediately.
2. Contact Hardie Customer Service to get their input right away!  They are extremely responsive to such matters and if a contractor is truly "Gold Certified"  not one bit of this would have ever happened.  Get JH out there immediateley, don't give these people another dime, and get real Hardie experts out there pronto!

3. Talk with the installer to determine what's going on, and be firm about what you expect and why you're dissatisfied. Then decide if you're willing to have the installer continue.

4. Talk with a may need one to get out of the contract and collect damages.

It's hard to tell what is going on here, but it sounds like you have some dishonest, incompetent people on this job. Time to get tough....
 RE: Help! Hardiplank installation problems    

Don't forget to start taking pictures to document everything you've mentioned above, and be sure to:
(1) get the name & phone # of everybody you speak to at your contractor & Hardie
(2) Take notes, write them up ASAP after each conversation, and mail a copy or fax to the party you've spoken to (the last only if you think that's appropriate). But definitely start a folder with written documention of every contact, verbal and written, in person or remote, regarding this matter.

Do NOT depend on your memory for dates, exact phrases, etc. You need documentation for the facts to back up your complaint, as necessary.
 RE: Help! Hardiplank installation problems  

Have you thought about sitting down with the installer and reviewing the installation instructions? They are online, btw.
Following the installation manual is the best way to get it installed correctly.

There are other things that pro's just know.

For example:

Nails must be flush with siding panel.

Build out the bath/guest room window so it's not recessed.

Build out around garage door trim so it's not recessed.

Gap at masonry and siding will be caulked with an elastomeric caulk.

Your installer may need the "How To Video"

 RE: Help! Hardiplank installation problems    

I am building a house and I was not there for the install. Big mistake. Nails over driven, cracked boards, trim not shimmed and the list goes on.
Here's the link. You need to read it. Also, read the warranty.
Here is a link that might be useful: James Hardiplank

 RE: Help! Hardiplank installation problems    

Thanks everyone. I finally got a return call from the company owner. He stopped the foreman and he's coming out to the jobsite tomorrow with his other foreman to inspect the work so far (about halfway done). I'm hoping to meet them here.

 RE: Help! Hardiplank installation problems

I too just had Hardiplank installed on my house. I hired a craftsman and had him read the installation manual online. He has done a wonderful job. Everything is lined up perfectly. I had a JH VP visit me recently and he commented that the installation was really really good. I think that finding a craftsman is the way. JH does certify installers but that does not mean that they will measure 2 times before they cut or draw a line around the house so that everytime they turn a corner the plank level is absolutely matched. BTW I also read the installation manual so that I could make sure my installer was on track. My installer had missed the part about flashing the top of the windows and when I gently pointed him back to the website he added the flashing. Do not let them install trim along the bottom of anything. That trim is not designed for nor will it hold up to bottom mounting.

 RE: Help! Hardiplank installation problems    

Make sure you have the contractors home address or a legitimate business address. If he is a 1-800 type contractor, you will never be able to serve him legal notice for small claims court or regular court depending on damages. If he uses a PO box, he is a shady character and has these problems often.

We encourage you to Email YOUR home improvement questions to 'Builder Ron' - Just  CLICK HERE!

Picking the right siding for your home

ATLANTA - When it comes to residential exterior products, choices are very limited. Over the last 30 years, with the exceptions of the "low income" look of vinyl siding and the ever popular but cost prohibitive choice of brick, almost all residential siding products have been deemed defective.

Over the last decade, the cost effective, highly versatile and always attractive choice of HardiPlank or fiber cement siding has consistantly won consumers' hearts, minds and checkbooks.  It is, by far, the smartest choice anyone can make when it comes to residential value and protection from short term to long term.

Almost every Atlanta consumer reports that fiber cement siding is pretty much the only viable product that guarantees homeowners short term value and long term protection for the biggest and most important investment they will make in their lifetime. 

Assuming that consumers choose not to go by way of brick or vinyl siding for obvious reasons, HardiPlank or fiber cement siding solutions offer not only lap board siding, but also offers the elegante look of stucco siding as well as many others.  The fact is, there are many different looks that they offer with a minimum of 50 years of materials warrantee behind them.  In fact, one Atlanta home improvement contractor offers a 50 year warranty on their labor to compliment the materials warranty. 

And while vinyl siding can last a long time, has never been found to be defective and costs somewhat less than Hardi/fiber cement - many areas throughout Georgia deem the product substandard.  Whether they consider it to be far too cheap looking, find it to bed unacceptable in overall value or for what ever other reason - vinyl siding is simply considered to be unacceptable. 

The product might be more acceptable if there was a substancial savings, but the only vinyl siding that lasts a substancial time has styrofoam backing that contractors choose to profit from so greatly, that it brings the cost of the product to nearly that of Hardi/fiber cement.

We encourage you to Email YOUR home improvement questions to 'Builder Ron' - Just  CLICK HERE!

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