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The past year and a half have seen multiple reasons Tucson homeowners might be interested in updating or renovating their homes. If it wasn’t the downpour from a historically rainy July, it was the strong winds and soot from last year’s major fire season. And that’s not even getting into all the time trapped at home thinking about projects to spruce up your surroundings. Of course, there are many home improvement projects that require a professional’s help. And while their time, cost and necessary materials can vary greatly, there are many resources to ensure your home-improvement project turns out picture-perfect. 

The Arizona Registrar of Contractors, a regulatory agency that licenses and regulates residential and commercial contractors, says the two most important steps before hiring a contractor are understanding the details of a project and not making a hurried decision. They remind homeowners to make sure a detailed list of every aspect of the project is included in the contract and to ensure the price if possible. In addition, the responsibility of obtaining building permits should be included in a contract, and you should always get it in writing! To put it simply, they say that if you and the contractor do not interpret the written documents the same way, “disputes are to be expected.”

But aside from ensuring you’re on the same page with your contractor, it is of equal importance to make sure your contractor is licensed. The Arizona Registrar of Contractors can receive more than 2,000 unlicensed complaints each year, and that’s just in our state. By August 2020, they had received more than 1,000 complaints, and that was even during a famously low-productivity year. 

Unlicensed contractors can cost homeowners hundreds or even thousands of dollars, and the homeowner is often stuck with the bill whether they’re happy with the results or not. Should a homeowner experience problems with a licensed contractor, there are protections through the Registrar of Contractors. 

The Arizona Registrar of Contractors website allows you to search for contractors by their name, city or classification, or  their six-digit license number. The Arizona Registrar of Contractors even has a new podcast where they speak with construction professionals and industry partners about all things related to construction in Arizona, such as workforce development, technology, licensing requirements and more.

Before formalizing a project with a contractor, you may also request a list of references, ask for written estimates from other contractors, and verify that the person you are negotiating your project with is an authorized representative of the licensed

contractor.

While there are dozens of types of home improvement projects for many different buildings, one specific housing project is particularly common in Tucson: roof repair. For as much as we may celebrate living in the southwest, the local climate can be particularly damaging to your roof. Extreme temperatures, monsoon downpours, strong gusts and even the occasional snowfall may mean your roof is in need of a fix. 

This can be a major investment, and that means careful planning. While there can be clear signs your roof needs repair, such as damaged shingles or a leak, you may also want to pay attention to your neighbors’ roofs. Nearby homes are often built around the same time, and that can mean the roofs have a coinciding lifespan and repair schedule. 

If the visible damage isn’t enough, you can also schedule a roof inspection, either from a professional roofing service or your insurance company. The size, material, angle and amount of layers all play a factor in the price of roof repair, which often costs homeowners between $5,000 and $10,000, even with insurance. 

“Roof repairs and roof installations are common roofing projects in Arizona. A homeowner is typically only going to hire a contractor to repair or replace their roof when there is a problem and a roofing problem usually means a leak is noticeable inside the house. Homeowners and contractors alike are advised to both take photos of damage caused by the initial  leak before work is done to remedy the leak,” said Breanna Bang, public information liaison for the Arizona Registrar of Contractors.“AZ ROC all too often will receive a complaint against a contractor who fixed a leak/replaced a roof and an investigator is often unable to determine when a leak occurred; whether  it was before or after the contractor’s work.” 

Roof repair can also be a critical step before solar panel installation. Arizona regularly ranks among the best states for solar, and with Tucson’s 350+ sunny days per year, it’s no wonder why. Before installing solar, make sure your roof doesn’t need to be repaired or replaced, as solar panels often have a lifespan of more than 30 years, and you don’t want to have to remove them in the comparatively near future. You should also ensure what material your roof is made of; solar panels work best on strong materials like asphalt shingle or concrete tile. If your roof is made of wood shingles or clay, a specialized solar installation may be necessary. Google’s Project Sunroof is a helpful tool that allows you to analyze solar benefits, compare financial plans and map out the best areas for solar potential.

One final note about smart home repairs: there are more risks to home improvement projects than a lack of license. Construction scams and phony home repairs are also a common occurrence in the state, and believed to take place nearly every day. These can include people soliciting and performing “bogus or inferior construction services” such as painting, asphalt repair, paving and roofing repair. 

“During monsoon and wildfire seasons, Arizona has seen activity from unlicensed individuals traveling to storm and fire damaged areas from out-of-state in order to target damaged home and property owners,” Bang said. “These individuals will typically offer to make low-cost repairs and to start immediately. In some cases they succeed in getting either a down payment or a signed over insurance check from the damaged homeowner who may be in a hurry to get the damage repaired. Often, these unlicensed individuals abandon the job, performing little to no work.”

Prevent these scams by avoiding door-to-door solicitors who offer low-cost construction, performing license checks and obtaining a written contract that includes all discussed services, dates and costs. If you believe you may have been scammed, you can contact AZ ROC’s Tucson office at (877) 692-9762.

A payment schedule can also ease disagreements between a contractor and homeowner. For large projects, a payment schedule usually starts around 10% at contract signing, followed by three payments of 25% evenly spaced over the duration of the project and a check for the final 15%, according to the Registrar.