Handyman: Do homework to avoid scams

Glenn Haege
Special to The Detroit News

Spring and summer are the busiest times for home improvement projects. It is also the season for scam artists and less-than-reputable contractors who try to take your money for a project without delivering the work they promised. That’s why it is vital to know what to do when hiring someone to do work around your home so you don’t become a victim.

“People want to be trusting when hiring a contractor or they end up rushing to get things done quickly, so they don’t always do their homework,” said Melanie Duquesnel, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau-Easter Michigan, (248) 799-0316,

So before signing with any contractor, Duquesnel recommends following the BBB tips that include talking with references from the company’s last three jobs; verifying their licensing and liability insurance; getting a written contract that spells out the terms, conditions, warranty and payment schedule; and making sure final payment isn’t made until the work is completed satisfactorily. They can also go on the BBB website to check out the company’s rating and complaint history.

The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (517) 373-1820,, provides ways you can verify a contractor’s license and check on any disciplinary actions against a company or individual. You can also call Michigan Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at (517) 373-1140 to see if they have any actions pending against them.

Licenses for other professional contractors in specialties like electrical, mechanical or plumbing are governed by the Michigan Bureau of Construction Codes Division, (517) 241-9313. You can also do a license search online at Unfortunately, some trades, such as drywall contractors, don’t need to be licensed, so make sure you do additional due diligence, such as finding a contractor through the particular trade association that serves that industry or getting a recommendation from a building supply store.

Warm weather and asphalt go hand in hand. I recently interviewed John Becsey, executive director of the Asphalt Pavement Association of Michigan,, on my radio show and he warned consumers about door-to-door contractors that push you to make a quick decision and only accept cash. You can listen to the interview at and look for “Beware of door-to-door asphalt paving scams.”

Another popular project in the summer is getting a new driveway or walkways, but cement contractors who cut corners can turn your project into a nightmare if they don’t do it right.

“I had a lady call us to look at her driveway that was only a year old and it was already cracked everywhere because the contractor didn’t prepare the base properly or use the right mix, and unfortunately, we would have to rip it out and do it over to make it right.” said Dino Stathopoulos, a crew leader and foreman for SAS Services, (248) 546-2345,

He said 30 percent of his work right now is repairing jobs that other contractors didn’t do properly. Often these contractors cut the price in half but the cement mix is watered down so that is easier and faster to work with. Unfortunately, that greatly diminishes the quality.

That’s why Stathopoulous said it is important to make sure any cement contractor builds a solid base that includes 4 to 6 inches of crushed concrete and uses the proper bag mix and slump rate for the cement. Check my article entitled “Redo driveway with good contractor in mix” at

If you are planning a project now, start doing your homework to make sure that the contractor you hire is reputable. Also remember that the good contractors are very busy, so you may have to wait to get it done. But it is better to wait until fall to have the job done right than to hire someone who isn’t busy or will put you to the front of the line if you give them a hefty deposit. As always, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

If you would like to suggest a question for this column, e-mail If you want to talk to Glenn Haege, call his “Handyman Show” on WJR-AM (760) at (866) ASK GLENN, (866) 275-4536 between noon and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. “The Handyman Show” can be heard on more than 130 radio stations.