Contract Smart welcomes Alside as a Preferred Supplier

November 21st, 2010 Contract Smart No comments

Alside, a leading provider of exterior building products such as siding and windows, has joined Contract Smart as a preferred supplier Contractors can now receive FREE materials quotes directly from Alside when they create projects using Contract Smart.  If you are a local supplier and would like Contract Smart contractors to be able to request materials quotes from you, please contact us.

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Affiliate Program Enhancements

November 20th, 2010 Contract Smart No comments

Contract Smart knows the most effective way to grow our business is through referrals.  Contractors and Suppliers already get 7% CASH commissions for referring their associates, customers and friends to Contract Smart, but now we’ve made it even easier. You can place a link on your website (https://www.contractsmart.com/bcms/?action=affiliate&rid=CS-XXXXXX), replacing the CS-XXXXXX with your own Contract Smart Member Number.  If you have a logo uploaded in the system, the landing page will automatically be customized to greet your referral, and ensure you get credit when they sign up.   Please contact us if you need help setting this up, or would like a customer banner image to place on your website.

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Alpine Lumber joins Contract Smart as a Preferred Supplier

November 20th, 2010 Contract Smart No comments

Contract Smart welcomes Alpine Lumber as a preferred supplier to Contract Smart.  Contractors can now receive FREE materials quotes directly from Alpine Lumber when they create projects using Contract Smart.  If you are a local supplier and would like Contract Smart contractors to be able to request materials quotes from you, please contact us.

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The Deck Superstore joins Contract Smart

November 20th, 2010 Contract Smart No comments

Contract Smart welcomes Colorado-based The Deck Superstore as a preferred supplier to Contract Smart.  Contractors can now receive FREE materials quotes directly from The Deck Superstore when they create projects using Contract Smart.  This saves the contractor significant time, as the materials you plan to use on a project are automatically sent to your preferred suppliers.  It also reduces the risk of underbidding a contract, as the contractor will have accurate timely materials pricing.

If you are a local supplier and would like Contract Smart contractors to be able to request materials quotes from you, please contact us.

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New Features!

November 20th, 2010 Contract Smart No comments

Contract Smart is pleased to announce significant enhancements to our Bid & Contract Management System (BCMS).

  • Document and Content Management: Now you can store any file related to your project on Contract Smart’s secure servers.  This helps you keep all your documents in one place, such as permits and drawings, and means you can retrieve them anytime and any place.  You can also choose to let your customers view these documents as well.
  • Job Site Photo Management: We are pleased to announce a partnership with JobSiteVisitor.com to bring our contractors first-class job site photo management for their individual projects.  Contractors can now upload photos from around their job site to document progress and improve communication with their customers.   Best of all, it has been seamlessly integrated into Contract Smart.

Accounts will automatically be upgraded to take advantage of these new features the week of November 22nd.

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Avoiding Subcontractor Liens

August 6th, 2010 Contract Smart No comments

Last week, three of the largest national consumer protection agencies released their annual joint report on the most common consumer complaints, along with their recommendations.  As a result of repeated complaints about contractors, The Consumer Federation of America, National Association of Consumer Agency Administrators, and North American Consumer Protection Investigators indicated in that more laws are needed to “Regulate home improvement contractors and protect consumers from subcontractors’ liens.”

Although most people have heard a story or two about a home improvement contractor that acted less than professionally on a project, many are not familiar with the subject of subcontractor liens, also known as mechanic’s liens.  In short, a subcontractor lien occurs when a subcontractor, typically working under a general contractor, makes a claim against property they have worked on as a result of non-payment for their time and materials.  Although a subcontractor lien often arises because a general contractor has failed to pay a subcontractor from monies provided by the owner to the general contractor, some can occur well after the job is complete.  The latter instance sometimes occurs when a subcontractor finds himself in a financial bind, even if he was originally paid for his efforts on the job he’s filed a lien on.

Regardless of when a lien is filed, it is usually costly and time consuming to have it removed, and is an especially frustrating process when the owner unfairly suffers from misbehavior by a general contractor or subcontractor.   So how can an owner avoid these annoyances?  By having each subcontractor that works on their project sign a lien release or lien waiver in conjunction with payment.  A subcontractor lien waiver is strong evidence that the subcontractor has received payment for their work. The waiver can serve to deter subcontractors from filing invalid liens on an owner’s property or have invalid liens removed more quickly.

While additional laws and regulations may help protect consumers, they may be a ways off from being drafted and passed.  And even with laws on the books,  there is no substitute for a lien waiver for each contractor that works on a project as well as a good contract that provides each party with legal protections.  In Colorado, Consumer and Contractors alike can take advantage of the contract drafted by Contract Smart’s attorneys, who have significant expertise in the field of construction law.   When a contractor uses the Bid and Contract Management System from Contract Smart, he provides the owner with a third party contract that is designed to be fair and balanced and to provide the owner and the contractor with important legal protections.  He also has access to a subcontractor agreement to cover any subcontractors on the project, as well as subcontractor lien releases that can be completed as each subcontractor on the project is paid.  And since he Contractor can e-mail the owner a contract and an up to date summary of tasks for your project, you can stay in the loop during each step of the project.

If you’re an owner and you like to learn more about why the contractor on your next job should use Contract Smart, click here.  Or, if you’re a contractor, and you’d like to know how Contract Smart can help you better protect you and your customers, click here.

Finally, while we do our best to provide useful information to contractors and owners regarding the home improvement process, we are not attorneys and we do not provide legal advice.  We recommend that you always consult an attorney to address legal matters.

Construction Budgets as a Savings Tool

July 19th, 2010 Contract Smart No comments

Contractor Plans

We’ve all heard that home improvement projects “always take longer and cost more than you expect them to.” However, here’s a great article from homebuildingremodeling.com that illustrates how you can use a project budget and a detailed schedule as tools to buck this conventional thinking, while saving you both time and money on your next project.  We hope you find these simple tools as useful as we do.

Creating a budget and schedule for a construction project is going to be a great savings tool for you. While you can save money by shopping around for the best bargains, getting the best subs for the best prices, and many other cost cutting, money saving keys, it is important to realize that one of your biggest money savers is going to be your budget and schedule. These will help you to create a viable way to build the house you want at the price you want, and stay on task to do it.

If you are going to use your budget and schedule as a savings tool, you definitely need to have one. A great way to figure out the very most realistic budget and schedule you can is to get some help. In fact, your best option is to have a general contractor do it for you.

You probably want to save money by not using a general contractor, but using them as a resource is a great idea. What you are going to do is make sure you have all of your options covered. In case of the unforeseen, you might end up turning your project over to a general contractor anyway, so it doesn’t hurt to find a few and get bids on your project right from the start. Their bid will be extremely helpful to you in planning and budgeting your work, but only if you can get the most thorough bids possible. So, when you ask for a bid for your project ask for the following:

1. A written cost break down or budget. This is something you will want to see broken down well so that you can see what each line item will cost you separately. It will help you see what your most expensive items are, and give you an idea of where you should look harder for a bargain.

2. Have them indicate in writing (with contact info) who will likely perform each line item. In other words, have them tell you which subs they are going to be using. This is especially important so you can compare this bid to that of the other general contractors you get bids from, and find subs that can do your jobs well and for great prices.

3. A written calendar of completion, or in other words a schedule that meets your deadline. You will likely want to have them draw up a schedule for a six-month project. Have them break your construction project down and show you how long each item will take.
When you ask for the bid remember that if they give you a good enough price, it might be worth using them, so simply be straight forward with them, and challenge them to give you the best price they can. If you tell them that you will defer building, go with another contractor, or build your house yourself if their prices aren’t good enough, so you would like their best price, you will likely get it. Give them a chance to talk you out of owner building, and into using their services, but only if the price is right.

This approach will help you in two ways. One it will give you a more accurate idea of what your costs are going to be, you won’t have nearly as much mark-up from the general contractor, and two it gives you an option in case you find you can’t, or don’t want to owner build after all.

Use the information the general contractors provide you to come up with your budget and schedule. They have been doing this for a long time, and likely will be accurate in their bids, with some mark-up. Utilize your resources well, and your budget and schedule will act as a money saver you did not even realize you had.

One great resource available to homeowners and contractors alike to help with a project plan and budget is Contract Smart.  Through its innovative Bid and Contract Management Service, Contract Smart Member Contractors can collaborate with homeowners to develop a step by step project plan. With specific project goals and a timeline with payments tied to project completion, the Bid and Contract Management System can provide clarity and peace of mind for your project.  Contract Smart’s Bid and Contract Management System is currently available in Colorado. If you live outside Colorado, please check back with Contract Smart frequently for updates regarding our national expansion.


How to find the right landscape contractor

May 1st, 2010 Contract Smart No comments

Denver  Landscaper Contract

9 News in Denver recently posted a great article on selecting the right contractor for your landscaping project.

“To find potential contractors, network through people you know and also go to www.alcc.com and click on Find a Pro where you can search for contractors who do specific work in your area.

Check out professionalism. Ask prospective contractors how long they have been in business. This will indicate their knowledge about Colorado’s climate and environmental conditions. Ask what certifications their staff have achieved they and the professional organizations they belong to. Find out if they will use subcontractors and be sure to get proof of liability and workers’ compensation insurance. Also ask what local licenses and permits will be required to do your work.

Get references. Look at other jobs they have done. Then call those clients and ask specific questions about the company’s responsiveness, how they handled it if something went wrong on the job and would they work with this contractor again. This information can help you narrow down the choices.

Finally, get it in writing. Make sure you get a landscape design and the related specifications for the work. This is essentially an outline of what you are buying. Also, make sure you have a signed contract with the landscape contractor that spells out the complete scope of work, how and when payments are due and how disputes will be resolved, if they occur.

When you take the time to follow these steps, you will be well on your way to getting the quality and value you want from your landscape investment.”

All this sounds good, except for one problem. Most landscaper’s don’t have a contract that meets local laws and regulations, nor do they provide a detailed scope of work that clearly defines how and when payments are due.

Fortunately, there is Contract Smart. We provide a personalized contract that is neutral to both parties and adheres to local laws.   It includes a scope of work where each task is itemized along with the specific materials that will be used during the project.  The scope of work uses payment milestones, meaning the contractor is paid only after each task is completed, thus avoiding large swings of leverage and risk. Finally, dispute resolution, such as arbitration and exit clauses are built into the contract, so everyone is protected throughout the project.

So, before you select a contractor, ask them if they use Contract Smart.  It’s the smart thing to do.

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Feds: Homes with Chinese drywall must be gutted

April 29th, 2010 Contract Smart No comments

Chinese DrywallNEW ORLEANS – Thousands of U.S. homes tainted by Chinese drywall should be gutted, according to new guidelines released Friday by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The guidelines say electrical wiring, outlets, circuit breakers, fire alarm systems, carbon monoxide alarms, fire sprinklers, gas pipes and drywall need to be removed.

“We want families to tear it all out and rebuild the interior of their homes, and they need to start this to get their lives started all over again,” said Inez Tenenbaum, chairwoman of the commission, the federal agency charged with making sure consumer products are safe.

About 3,000 homeowners, mostly in Florida, Virginia, Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana, have reported problems with the Chinese-made drywall, which was imported in large quantities during the housing boom and after a string of Gulf Coast hurricanes.

The drywall has been linked to corrosion of wiring, air conditioning units, computers, doorknobs and jewelry, along with possible health effects. Tenenbaum said some samples of the Chinese-made product emit 100 times as much hydrogen sulfide as drywall made elsewhere.

The agency continues to investigate possible health effects, but preliminary studies have found a possible link between throat, nose and lung irritation and high levels of hydrogen sulfide gas emitted from the wallboard, coupled with formaldehyde, which is commonly found in new houses.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said now the question is who pays to gut the homes.

“The way I see it, homeowners didn’t cause this. The manufacturers in China did,” Nelson said. “That’s why we’ve got to go after the Chinese government now.”

Southern members of Congress have sought to make it easier to sue Chinese manufacturers and to get the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help homeowners pay for costs not covered by insurance. They also say the U.S. needs to pressure the Chinese government, which allegedly ran some of the companies that made defective drywall.

About 2,100 homeowners have filed suit in federal court in New Orleans against Chinese manufacturers and U.S. companies that sold the drywall. U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon is expected to rule soon in a pivotal case against the Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin Co., the only Chinese company that has responded to U.S. suits.

Separate claims by thousands more homeowners against Chinese manufacturers are pending, said Jordan Chaikin, a Florida lawyer whose firm represents about 1,000 homeowners.

They are “continuing to live in their homes with Chinese drywall, patiently waiting for this thing to be resolved so they can move on with their lives,” Chaikin said. “We’re not waiting for the government to move quicker than we are in the courts.”

In some cases, homebuilders have paid to gut and rewire homes. In others, homeowners who can afford it have paid for the work themselves.

On Friday, Knauf Plasterboard agreed that high hydrogen sulfide levels appeared to be the main concern, but it noted the commission’s studies were preliminary and may not reflect conditions inside a home. The company said its studies have shown that drywall should be removed, but that plumbing and wiring do not need to go.

Daniel Becnel, a New Orleans lawyer representing Chinese drywall plaintiffs, including Sean Payton, the head coach of the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints, said the government guidelines issued Friday were “word for word what our experts said.”

He also said Congress should give homeowners grants to cover the cost of home gutting.

“Get these people out of this environment,” he said. “You’re making these people sicker and sicker and sicker. You will have long-term effects.”

In Cape Coral, Fla., Joyce Dowdy, 71, and her husband Sonny, 63, plan to move out of their $150,000, 1,600-square-foot home while it is gutted to get rid of tainted Chinese drywall.

Joyce Dowdy said she suffers from nose bleeds and her husband has a persistent cough. They blame the drywall.

“We can’t live like this anymore,” Joyce Dowdy.

They’re borrowing money to do the gutting, which means that instead of a mortgage-free retirement they will be paying monthly bills cover the costs of repair.

“It’s costing us as much as we paid for the house,” Joyce Dowdy said. “But we can’t just walk away … Our house is worth nothing at the moment.”

But Randy Noel, past president of the Louisiana Home Builders Association, said the Chinese drywall problem has been exaggerated. He called the new guidelines “overkill.”

“Nobody has come up with a house yet that has caught on fire from the Chinese drywall, no one has come up yet with a house that leaks water or gas because of Chinese drywall,” he said.

He has examined numerous homes containing Chinese drywall and found minor problems, he said.

“It’s a black soot on top of the copper, brass and silver,” he said. “You wipe the stuff off and it looks as good as new.”

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