Recent  news stories about unscrupulous contractors, builders and subcontractors have inspired Atlanta’s paint Doctor to suggest ways our clients can avoid  a similar fate. In the next few posts, you’ll get our 4-1-1 on how to avoid scams and what you should know to protect yourself if you’re planning a big home improvement project this summer or if you find yourself facing repairs thanks to Mother Nature so that you can improve or rebuild your home without getting scammed.

Know What Your Insurance Policy Covers: Some contractors are known as ‘storm chasers’ or ‘wood chuckers’ because they show up on your doorstep and offer their services that end up far more expensive than what your insurance company will reimburse. And, naturally, they want cash payment. Check your insurance policy or call to find out precisely how much your insurer is willing to pay for tree removal, for example, and whether or not there’s a cap on the cost of such work. Also, find out what services are excluded. In some policies, for instance, a failed sump pump or drains and sewers that are backed up may be excluded, meaning you’ll have to pay to fix these yourself.

Use Caution With Door-to-Door Salesmen and Out-of-Town Contractors: If someone comes knocking on your door unsolicited, offering to repair something around your house, that should raise an immediate red flag. Good contractors, builders and carpenters are typically busy enough – via referrals and advertising – that they don’t need to go trolling neighborhoods seeking odd jobs. Don’t be pressured into a speedy decision by sales gimmicks such as prices that are “good for today only.” No legitimate business will insist you drop everything and pay for something right on the spot with no time to consider your options, review a contract, or consult others.

Get Referrals and Do a Background Check: Before you agree to do business with any contractor, be sure to get at least three referrals from his most recent clients. Then call those homeowners and make sure they were completely satisfied with the work that was done. You should also check out a contractor with the Better Business Bureau or call (404-766-0875) to see if other consumers have lodge complaints against the business. And if a contractor says he’s licensed, bonded and insured, double-check that information with the local building inspector’s office and the contractor’s insurance company. Places like can tip you off to individuals and companies with particularly negative reputations.  You’ll never see us on either of those sites, but you can read our stellar customer feedback from Guild Quality, a third-party independent customer survey company.

Pay the Smart Way: Once you decide to hire a contractor, use sound practices when it comes to paying him. A deposit may be required for the contractor to get started, but don’t pay too much up front because it leaves you vulnerable if the contractor simply skips off with your money without doing any work, or if he doesn’t complete the job as agreed. Beware of contractors who won’t accept checks or ask that you make a check payable to him personally, rather than his company. This is another sure-fire sign of a scam contractor. Most insurance companies will pay contractors directly and may require inspections in phases throughout the repair process to ensure that each stage of work is completed to your satisfaction.

Use a Written Contract as Your Guide: Never do business with a contractor based on a handshake or a verbal promise. Instead, get everything in writing, in as much detail as possible, to avoid potential misunderstandings later. Any oral agreements the contractor makes should also be written down. Under federal law, you have three days to think things over when it comes to home improvement or repair projects, or for any contract over $25 signed in your home. So make sure your contract includes a three-day notice of cancellation, which protects you should you change your mind. Finally, never sign a blank contract or agree to let the contractor just “fill in” certain spaces later. If there’s a space in the contract, either fill it in immediately or cross it out.

Report a repair rip-off to the BBB and the consumer division of your state’s Attorney General. For a list, visit

And, of course, if you’d like a quote from us, call 888-902-5023 or send an email.

Archie Deese