Deep discounts can be so irresistible that some homeowners are willing to believe the impossible. Leo and Shirley Schmidt of Yakima, Washington, fell for this one. The contractor pledged that a newfangled sealant would fix their leaky roof so they wouldn't have to replace expensive shingles. The job, guaranteed for 10 years, would cost just $1,000. But when he finished, he handed them a bill for more than $6,000, with no explanation for the increase or for the mess he left behind—green stains on the garage door, fence, and shrubs in the yard. Suspicious, Shirley Schmidt checked him out with the local chapter of the Better Business Bureau, but since there were no complaints on file, she paid the contractor. It wasn't until the leaks resumed after a big rainstorm two weeks later that the Schmidts discovered he had simply painted the roof green and hadn't applied a sealant.
How Not to Get Taken: There's hardly ever a cut-rate alternative to an expensive and labor-intensive job like roof repair or siding replacement. If a contractor says he can sidestep the work by using a new, less costly material, ask for the product name and call its manufacturer to verify the claims. Then, double-check what the manufacturer says with experts at your municipal building department or a knowledgeable salesperson at your local hardware store. A wide variety of building products—including plumbing fixtures, electrical switches, skylights and door hardware—are also certified for quality and safety by independent testing groups, such as Underwriters Laboratories and NSF International, that list results on their websites.