Many customers call our office and often the first question is always “how long will this take”. This is a dead giveaway that they have already spoken to one of the large, franchise contractors in our market who have a “sales presentation” approach. When a representative walks through your door, if he’s carrying a laptop and wants to “tell you about his company”, this is sales, not an inspection. We have heard numerous examples of three or four hour presentations, we feel for you…
A usual structural inspection should last approximately 30 minutes. Your inspector should immediately look at your home and the problem areas. He then should give you a list of repair options and the pros and cons of each. There is always more than one repair solution, sometimes there will be multiple ranging from a band-aid fix to a permanent solution. Make sure you get pricing on each option. An old trick is to give the customer “numerous” options when in reality they are being steered towards the only solution the contractor offers. Large franchises are in business to move product for a manufacturer. Hence, we hear (and see promotional materials) that say things like “round shaft piers are far superior to square shaft piers”. This is because the manufacturer only offers round shaft piers (which in Colorado are not preferred by Structural Engineers).
Talk to your contractor about permitting and engineering. Many franchise contractors do not pull permits on structural jobs which is highly illegal or they will pull permits after the job is complete. On all structural jobs a permit must be displayed at the property in a clearly visible location. We have heard stories and received letters explaining that previous contractors have not pulled permits or even gone as far as posting another job permit to keep a customer happy (which is also illegal).
At the end of the day you, the customer should research the company you wish to do business with. Find someone you trust that is local, who will give you a range of repair options, who will answer their cell phone on a Sunday when things are failing. Not a company where you leave a voice-mail on a toll free, 800 number.