Four Fall Rip-Offs: Beware the Scams of Home improvement

tape measureWith winter on the way, it's a good time to check your home's exterior and prepare for a secure season indoors. Unfortunately, it's also a season when wily construction con artists come out of the woodwork to play into your deepest, darkest fears with tales of damaging doom that can cost you a bundle.

Hearing you have a faulty roof over your head, or experiencing a flooded basement that might cause toxic mold to grow wildly in your house can indeed be a big worry, but beware of the source. High-pressure, high-panic, home improvement pitches that evolve from unsolicited calls or scheduled visits by service people all have the same target: your wallet.

Here are four fall rip-offs to watch out for:

  • Roofing Rip-offs: Roof leaks seldom require complete roof replacement. Despite this, roofers hired to fix the roof too often use the opportunity to turn a minor repair into a major replacement project. Real pros will provide a thorough assessment of repair needs, an appropriate recommendation for work to be done, and a detailed estimate for your review and approval.
  • Chimney Sweep Scams: Between the limited equipment needed to do the job and the very real dangers of chimney neglect, it's unfortunately pretty easy for unscrupulous chimney-cleaning contractors to stay in business. They'll typically launch into the standard, reasonably priced annual inspection and cleaning and then "discover" that your chimney desperately needs a new liner or other major safety fix, projects that end up lining their own pockets with thousands of dollars. To avoid these panic peddlers, start out by hiring a highly recommended, experienced sweep certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA). If you cross paths with one who isn't, forgo any recommended repairs until an unbiased expert such as a professional home inspector can make their own assessment.
  • Slippery Driveway Sealers: Another area wrought with fraud is the old driveway sealing scam. Spotting your worn driveway, contractors show up unannounced making the pitch for the job, usually because they were "in the neighborhood" and "had extra material left over from a job." Of course this entitles you to a great price – if you act right now! Send these sleaze balls back down the same street they came on. The sealer they are selling usually isn't -- and can leave your driveway a greasy, oily mess.
  • Beware Basement Waterproofers: The fall is a fantastic time for so-called basement waterproofers to show up with high-pressure pitches that promise to make your floods go away. What they don't tell you is that basement floods are almost always caused by clogged gutters and grading that runs rainwater in toward the house. Fixing a wet basement is simple and almost never requires the several thousand dollars of digging and pumps they'd love to install.

Tom Kraeutler is the Home Improvement Editor for AOL and co-author of My Home, My Money Pit: Your Guide to Every Home Improvement Adventure. He delivers expert home improvement tips each week as host of The Money Pit, a nationally syndicated home improvement radio program.

Building Houses, Building Communities

NEWARK, OH - NOVEMBER 3: A volunteer operates a seeding machine outside a nearly-finished Habitat for Humanity home and garage November 3, 2008 in Newark, Ohio. Licking County, in eastern Ohio, like many Ohio counties, is dealing with a steady eroding of old-style manufacturing jobs, and some parts of the city became blighted as jobs left. Habitat for Humanity and other organizations are attempting to revitalize old houses to bring back neighborhoods, one house at a time. (Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

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California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger receives the Family Visionary Award at the Building a Greater Los Angeles Gala to Benefit Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on October 1, 2008 in Los Angeles, California.

Amy Graves/WireImage.com

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver receive the Family Visionary Award at the Building a Greater Los Angeles Gala to Benefit Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on October 1, 2008 in Los Angeles, California.

Amy Graves/WireImage.com

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver receive the Family Visionary Award at the Building a Greater Los Angeles Gala to Benefit Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on October 1, 2008 in Los Angeles, California.

Amy Graves/WireImage.com

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver receive the Family Visionary Award at the Building a Greater Los Angeles Gala to Benefit Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on October 1, 2008 in Los Angeles, California.

Amy Graves/WireImage.com

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver receive the Family Visionary Award at the Building a Greater Los Angeles Gala to Benefit Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on October 1, 2008 in Los Angeles, California.

Amy Graves/WireImage.com

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger arrives at "Building A Greater Los Angeles" Gala to benefit Habitat for Humanity at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on September 30, 2008 in Beverly Hills, California.

John Shearer/WireImage.com

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger arrives at "Building A Greater Los Angeles" Gala to benefit Habitat for Humanity at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on September 30, 2008 in Beverly Hills, California.

John Shearer/WireImage.com

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger arrives at "Building A Greater Los Angeles" Gala to benefit Habitat for Humanity at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on September 30, 2008 in Beverly Hills, California.

John Shearer/WireImage.com

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger arrives at "Building A Greater Los Angeles" Gala to benefit Habitat for Humanity at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on September 30, 2008 in Beverly Hills, California.

John Shearer/WireImage.com


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