September 30, 2019

Episode 2 - Selecting an Environmental Response Contractor

Welcome to the Indoor Environmental Quality podcast. I'm Chris White, a project manager at Wynn White Consulting Engineers in Baton Rouge. Thank you for joining us for this episode.
In today's episode we're going to talk about selecting an environmental contractor to help you with disaster recovery. As in the previous episode, were in a pretty active part of the 2019 Atlantic storm season. Looking at the NOAA website, there are 2 storms in the Atlantic, and Texas is reeling from recent rain and flooding.
When something breaks, whether its our cars or computers or homes, we have a decision to make - fix it ourselves or pay someone.
When youre facing disaster recovery, not sure of the amount of money youll get from insurance or FEMA, its a tough call to make. The money may not be enough to try and put your entire life back together.
But lets say youve decided to hire an environmental contractor to handle your demolition and cleanup. 
There are some really good reasons to do this:
  1. The contractor will work with you to define the scope of work and price - that way everyone knows what is expected, and exactly what the work will cost.
  2. The contractor and their workers are trained and equipped to do the work - you don’t have to buy a bunch of equipment and learn how to do the work as you go.
  3. The contractor is licensed, bonded, and insured. If someone gets hurt on the job, or if the contractor screws up, the contractor doesn’t get to leave you holding the bag. And if there’s a dispute, you can go to your state’s contractor’s licensing board or to the contractor’s insurance company.
  4. The contractor knows what questions to ask - they may be there to do demolition, drying, and mold remediation, but what if there’s asbestos or lead - or other hazards? The best surprise is no surprise. 
  5. The contractor has experience in projects like yours.
  6. The contractor will follow all local, state, and federal regulations. 
  7. The contractor has experience dealing with insurance and FEMA - their paperwork and invoicing are clear so you can avoid problems getting reimbursed.
Here are some problems to avoid:
The contractor is not licensed, bonded, or insured. Verify the contractor’s licensure. Call their insurance company. I know time is of the essence when trying to dry out and clean up mold, and 
internet and cell coverage may be non-existent, but make sure you’re dealing with a legitimate contractor.
Most state contractor licensing board websites allow searches by company name or qualifying party. If you can’t find your contractor, find out why. Maybe they’re just getting setup to do business in your area as a result of the disaster. If that’s the case, get verification AND make sure they’re familiar enough with your jurisdiction’s requirements for doing your work. 
If you can’t find the contractor's listing, you may be dealing with someone you shouldn’t. Believe it or not, people chase storms and disasters and go door to door selling work. And they’re not licensed. Even if they do great work it’s not worth the risk. Sometimes it doesn’t end well for the home or business owner.
Unclear scope of work and price structure. You don’t want someone continually coming back saying the job is going to take more time or cost more. 
If the contractor seems inexperienced , don’t hire them, or at least make sure you’re comfortable with them before you do. You don’t want someone to learn how to do their job on your project. Let them get their mistakes out of the way in someone else’s home or building. Trust your instincts. You're right more often than not.
Don’t pay everything up front. I speak from experience on this one. I’m a trusting person by nature - maybe that makes me gullible. The good news here is it wasn’t a huge sum of money and wasn’t a time sensitive project. But if it had been I would’ve been in a bind. I’ll never do that again. If the contractor insists on getting paid all up front, either negotiate a percentage or walk away. The last thing you need is to pay someone and then you never see them again. Believe me, it's happened.
There's a right way to do environmental work, whether it's just demolition, cleanup, and mold remediation. If you have asbestos or other environmental issues, there are standard work practices (and regulations) the contractor must follow. Even though you may not face risk because a contractor doesn't follow regulations, it doesn't mean you won't wind up with a contamination problem down the road.
If you enjoyed this episode, please leave us a review at iTunes or on your favorite podcast player. To contact us or to learn more about Wynn White Consulting Engineers, visit our website:
If you have suggestions for a show topic, please contact us.
You can find me, Chris White, on Twitter and Instagram @chriswhitepe

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