Contracts, Contractors State License Board, estimate, proposal

QUESTION: My home is a two-story, about 15 years old. I recently had to have a thermostat replaced. After the repairman was in the attic, he told me he noticed my ducting was beginning to deteriorate because of sunlight shining on it through the roof air vents. I asked for an estimate and he called yesterday to say it would cost $1,150. No written estimate was provided. Shouldn’t he provide a written proposal? Am I being overly cautious?
H.J. Hender, via email
ANSWER: “A verbal quote should be used only to give you a quick idea of the cost to perform the work prior to actually writing up a proposal,” says Vince McDonald of McDonald Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning in Sacramento. “The Contractors State License Board requires contractors to provide you with a written and approved proposal before they perform the work,” he says. “It should specify exactly what they propose to do, what kinds of materials they intend to use, and how they are going to perform the work including clean-up.”
“Other details about what must be included in written contracts are explained online at www.cslb.ca.gov .”
“Any company that is operating within the law and concerned with providing its customers with great service would want to make sure you are comfortable with the service it provides and address your concerns in writing. As a consumer, you have a right to insist on it,” he says. “Even if it were not required by law, a written proposal is just plain smart and can help everyone avoid a variety of misunderstanding.”
“It’s also important to understand that not all ducting is alike. Since the average home leaks 30 percent of the heated or cooled air that flows through the duct into unconditioned space such the attic or crawl space, having your ducts work as efficiently as possible could help you save a lot on your energy bills.”
“Consider spending a little extra for flex duct made with a metalized polyester vapor barrier. The flex duct with the plastic outside vapor barrier is not the best product to use, especially in your situation, because the plastic breaks down over time, especially when exposed to sunlight. Ask about ducts with better insulation in the jacket. The standard insulation has an R rating of 4.2, but for a little more money you can buy R6 or R8 insulation duct. Make sure all the metal duct joints are sealed with duct mastic.”
“Ask your contractor if he has the equipment to test the ducts for leaks before and after the work is performed. Since you are changing the ducts anyway, this is the time to make sure the ducts are properly sized for individual rooms,” he says.

For any further questions contact McDonald Plumbing

Heating and Air at (916) 233-4194.

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