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LARA Offers Tips to Protect Consumers for Spring Home Improvement Projects

Contact: Mario L. Morrow 517-373-9280

May 5, 2011 - Spring means the return of the robin to Michigan, but it also means many residents' thoughts turn to building or sprucing up their own nests. The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs reminds consumers of important tips that will help them avoid common - and often costly - mistakes while building or renovating a home.

Verify a Builder/Contractor License 
"Always check to make sure the people working on your home are properly licensed. Ask to see a copy of their license, then take a few minutes to look up the license online or give us a call," said LARA Director Steven H. Hilfinger. "Those few minutes spent at the beginning of the project may prevent big problems later."

Residential Builders and Maintenance and Alteration Contractors: An online license search is available at http://www.michigan.gov/licenselookup or by calling LARA's Bureau of Commercial Services Licensing Division at (517) 373-8376.

Contractors: Electricians, plumbers and mechanical contractors are licensed by LARA's Bureau of Construction Codes and must have a license that corresponds to the work to be done. Mechanical contractors must also have the proper license classification. To verify license information visit www.michigan.gov/bcclicense or call (517) 241-9313.

Online Referral and Advertising Sites 
An Internet search for builders or contractors will yield service provider referral sites and advertising sites such as Craigslist. Many of the ads will state that the individual is licensed. Regardless of the source of the referral, consumers should exercise caution and confirm that the builder or contractor is properly licensed.

Don't Pay in Advance 
Consumers should never give a contractor a large sum of money prior to work being done.

"It's never a good practice to pay the full contract price at the start of a job or before the job is complete," Hilfinger said. "If it's a large job and an upfront payment is agreed upon, it should be a reasonable percentage of the total contract price. Homeowners are inviting trouble if they pay the full contract price amount at the start of a job or prior to completion."

Don't Forget Your Permit! 
Before starting a project, check with your local or state building department to determine if your project requires a permit. A permit provides the legal permission to start construction of a building project in accordance with approved drawings and specifications.

Permits are usually required for: 
  • New buildings 
  • Additions (bedrooms, bathrooms, family rooms, etc.) 
  • Residential work (decks, garages, fences, fireplaces, pools, water heaters, etc.) 
  • Renovations (garage conversions, basement furnishings, kitchen expansions, reroofing, etc.) 
  • Electrical systems 
  • Plumbing systems 
  • HVAC (heating, ventilating and air-conditioning) systems


"In today's economy, do-it-yourself home improvement projects make financial sense. But it's important for homeowners to remember that even if they do the work themselves, they are responsible for obtaining the required building permits. Not all home improvement projects require permits, but some do…and it's best to double check to save possible headaches and costs in the future." Hilfinger said. "Checking with your local or state building officials ahead of time could save you costly mistakes in the long run."

A permit ensures that the proposed construction meets minimum safety standards and allows code officials to protect the public by reducing potential hazards of unsafe construction. Property insurers may not cover work done without permits and inspections, so the value of the property could be affected and problems may arise when the property is sold.

Routine Maintenance Protects Your Investment
Even if home renovations aren't in your immediate future, homeowners should take some basic steps to make the most out of your investment.

"Routine maintenance will keep your house or residence functioning properly," Hilfinger said. "For example, changing the filter on your heating and air conditioning system is a relatively simple task, but is often overlooked. A clean filter will help the system run more effectively in removing dirt and dust from the air."

Other Common Sense Tips

  • Spring Cleaning - Cleanliness is a factor that will make your home last longer and work better. Dust and dirt, if allowed to accumulate, can harm the finishes on blinds, cabinets, countertops, floors, sinks, tubs, toilets, walls, tiles, and other items. If dirt does accumulate, make sure to clean it with a substance that does not scratch or damage the finish.
  • On the outside of your home, make sure that gutters and downspouts do not get clogged with leaves or other objects. The exterior of your house is built to withstand exposure to the elements, but a periodic cleaning will improve the appearance and, in many instances, prolong the life of siding and other exterior products.


For more information, visit the Bureau of Commercial Services website at www.michigan.gov/bcs or Bureau of Construction Codes at www.michigan.gov/bcc. To determine if a state license is needed, you may also check www.michigan.gov/statelicensesearch.

For more information about LARA, please visit www.michigan.gov/lara. Follow us on Twitter www.twitter.com/michiganLARA, "Like" us on Facebook or find us on YouTube www.youtube.com/michiganLARA.

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