By Greg Stopher

Recently I received a call from an insurance agent who had a client in her office who just lost half of his roof in a windstorm. I responded to the call and met with the homeowner to go over his loss and to cover the roof until the insurance details were worked out and the weather permitted putting down a new roof. Upon inspection, I was unable to find anything right with the roof. In talking with the homeowner, he had just found out that the “contractor” that did his roof in September was not a licensed contractor. The unlicensed individual was in need of money and charged the homeowner for a roof and a deposit on painting the house in the spring as well. The homeowner ended up out the money for the roof and did not have a decent roof on his home. I have heard of this scenario down south but I never thought I would run across this in a small community such as Juneau. What options does the homeowner have in this case? What can a homeowner do to make sure that they are hiring a legitimate contractor?

Homeowners need to continue to complete projects to make their home comfortable, safe, and healthy but sometimes they don’t know where to turn. I can say that most, if not all, contractors have run into projects that took a little longer than anticipated, budgets that seemed to creep up and up, and accidents that happen on the job. Building in Southeast Alaska can be a challenge for the homeowner and contractor alike. There can be a lot of stress in dealing with something so valuable. Here are a few things to keep in mind to reduce some of the stress in any home project you might be undertaking.

In the state of Alaska it is required that contractors be licensed and that all licensed contractors hold insurance. There are specialty licenses, contractor licenses, and contractor licenses with residential endorsements. A contractor should be able to prove that they are licensed and insured before starting a job because if something goes wrong and sometimes something does go wrong, you will be covered. If a contractor is not insured the homeowner can be negatively affected. An individual performing the work of a contractor without a license has not taken the steps to make a commitment to the profession, does not have the required minimum education and is not invested in the outcome of the project. The price might be right but what happens when your roof blows off in a windstorm? Licensing, insurance, and bonding is the first step to being a professional in the construction industry.

Another important way that contractors can build professionalism in the industry is through involvement in organizations like national, regional or local building associations, and through their involvement in the community. These building associations bring contractors together and even though some may be in direct competition with one another, the organization or association sets them apart from the rest of the contractors by sharing current industry best practices which help set a more consistent standard among members. There are often healthy discussions between contractors within these organizations to bring better, higher quality, healthier homes to people. A contractor who is involved in the community shows that they are vested in the community they work in and are involved in trying to provide a better quality of life for the residents of the community.

Lastly, a contractor who is involved with continuing education, not just by meeting minimum requirements for keeping their license up to date but also in educating themselves in the current practices within the construction industry. Research and development in the construction industry have come a long way since our fathers were contractors and what we learned with them early in our careers as contractors is now only a base for putting projects together and shaping our work ethics. Continuing education has put a lot of contractors on the cutting edge of development in the construction industry today. Houses are getting more efficient, healthier, and more durable.

Construction is a profession. We all go and see a doctor when things aren’t right with our health. Doctors to this day still continue to learn more about the human body, so why not choose a construction professional who continues to develop professionally and is always learning how a house works and functions.

This is a great time to be in the construction industry. Building science is coming a long way; some important innovations are coming in the areas of homes working as systems, energy efficiency and weatherization. I love doing what I do, and I know other contractors love doing what they do. I know that as a contractor, I have a lot to overcome but I want to elevate the field from one that is often not trusted to one where people see their contractor as a professional. A professional is committed to the science of construction and is honest, reliable and committed to looking at your home as a balanced system.

Greg Stopher has over 16 years of experience in the construction field and earned a degree in Construction Technologies from the University of Alaska – Southeast. His company, Stopher Construction, LLC, is a general contracting company specializing in remodeling, custom finishes, additions and new home construction projects. He can be reached at 907-321-2350.