KIYC: How homeowners can avoid home improvement disasters, contractor concerns

Homeowners can avoid many home improvement disasters by doing their homework, says Jody Costello, the founder of consumer website “Contractors from Hell."

Walt Kane

Jun 22, 2023, 10:05 AM

Updated 306 days ago

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For homeowners, there are few things worse than a disastrous home improvement project. It’s a lesson Tommy and Jennifer Martinez learned the hard way.
“We've got a whole lot of money invested and a job that wasn't done right and still isn't finished,” Jennifer Martinez says.
A few months after they had new vinyl siding installed, they noticed it seemed to be buckling on the first hot day of the year. Tests by the manufacturer showed the siding was not defective and indicated that poor installation was likely to blame.
The Martinez family is also unhappy with the quality of the brickwork that was done on their garage, and they say the contractor even caused new damage, including driving a nail into their main electrical panel - it was required to be replaced - and tracked spray foam insulation on their wood floors.
A Kane In Your Corner investigation found this wasn’t the first complaint about the Martinez’ contractor, CRA Site Lawn & Land Development, or its owner, Chris Aldarelli. The New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs says it has about 10 active complaints on file and is currently investigating three of them.
In 2017, the Division also charged Aldarelli and two of his companies with defrauding victims of Superstorm Sandy. CRA admitted no wrongdoing but agreed to pay $250,000 in fines.
Aldarelli told Kane In Your Corner that he would fix the Martinez’ siding but insisted his company was not responsible for any other problems.
“The job was done for months before they had an issue,” Aldarelli says. “Let's just clarify that. The job was done. Three months later we get a phone call that they put in a claim about the siding.”

How homeowners can avoid many home improvement disasters

Jody Costello, founder of the consumer website “Contractors from Hell," says homeowners can avoid many home improvement disasters by doing their homework.
“The most important thing always is the vetting process, thoroughly vetting the contractor, before you begin a project,” she says. “Check with the BBB, Yelp and some of those complaint boards that are around the internet. You can find out a lot.”
Costello also advises homeowners to read home improvement contracts closely. She says they should always include a start and end date, clearly spell out the scope of work, and explain who will be responsible for getting permits.
If changes happen, as they often do, Costello says “you want to have a change order in a written form that is agreed to and signed by both parties."
If a home improvement project starts to go bad, Costello says document the problem. She advises sending letters to the contractor by registered mail, so there’s a record of the complaint.
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