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It’s important to preface this article with a relevant point: most waterproofers, whether small businesses or large, established contractors, are trustworthy and honest with their customers.
Still, a few rotten apples in the waterproofing industry can give a bad name to the rest of the barrel, and the high average cost of basement drainage repairs means that a homeowner needs to to be especially careful with projects of this scope. That’s why Basement Waterproofing Pro has put together this special report about basement waterproofing scams, what forms they take, and how to identify them.
Most basement waterproofing scams aren’t going to be blatantly obvious, even after the work has been completed, and in fact homeowners might never even realize that they’ve been cheated at all. Since waterproofing estimates and prices can vary so widely from one company to the next, it’s not always easy to realize that you’ve been overcharged; especially if you don’t know much about the industry.
Fortunately, most basement waterproofing scams can be avoided by a minimal amount of research, due diligence and simple questions. The first and most important rule when having your basement waterproofed is to get estimates from several companies before signing any contracts. While flooding emergencies might not allow you to take too much time looking for the right company, scammers like to prey upon homeowners who are in a hurry to get the job done.
Below is a checklist of simple steps you can take to ensure that your basement waterproofing company isn’t trying to cheat you. If your contractor isn’t willing to answer questions to your satisfaction, or if you just get a bad feeling about them, then by all means seek another company. In most moderately sized cities, there are always many different businesses to choose from that specialize in basement drainage repair.
Top 10 ways to stop waterproofing scams
1. Ask For References
Any basement waterproofing company that has been in the business for a while will have plenty of satisfied customers who are willing to tell others about how happy they were with the work that was done for them. In fact, most professional contractors will already have customer testimonials available without having to ask for them, whether it’s on a website page or on company literature.
2. Ask for examples of work
Much like customer references, a waterproofing company worth its salt will be able to showcase examples of its best work for new potential clients. If sample photos aren’t available, ask the contractor for addresses of local basements they have worked on.
It’s important to remember, though, that just because a company doesn’t have dozens of huge projects under their belt doesn’t mean that they are unprofessional. There are plenty of small, family-owned companies out there that still do quality work.
3. Check out their facilities
Again, just because a basement waterproofing company is small and family-owned doesn’t mean that it won’t do quality work. They don’t have to have sprawling offices to be trustworthy, but a quick look at their facilities might give you a better idea of how professional, organized and serious they are about their work.
4. Check the Better Business Bureau
Even small basement waterproofing companies should be members of the BBB in good standing. It’s a simple matter to do a quick Internet search for information about companies you are looking at, or call the Better Business Bureau to find out if they are trustworthy.
5. Look at their equipment
There’s nothing wrong with older equipment, and you don’t need millions of dollars worth of excavating machinery and high-tech gadgets to do a quality basement waterproofing job. But if a company’s equipment is poorly maintained, falling apart or just plain inadequate, then it might be an indicator that they don’t take their profession very seriously.
6. Look at their employees
This rule is much more important than most homeowners realize. Don’t just shrug off unprofessional employees and assume that since they are doing manual labor, they have an excuse to be sloppy looking or rude. Unprofessional employees probably means that the company has unprofessional owners. If they aren’t serious enough to maintain a dress code or encourage good customer service with their employees, then they probably aren’t a company you want in your home.
7. Never pay for an estimate
Even scammers aren’t usually bold enough to ask you to pay for an estimate, but there are still some who will try, especially when dealing with elderly customers. The only exception to this rule is if you are asking for an estimate on a home that you don’t own or are thinking of purchasing. In this case, many companies will charge you a small fee for an estimate or inspection, but with the understanding that it will be refunded if you use them for any future repairs.
8. Ask questions throughout the process
Don’t get in their way or be too bothersome while they are performing the work (especially when heavy equipment is being used), but never be afraid to ask questions if you don’t understand what they are doing.
9. Ask for several options on work
The best way to have your basement waterproofed is usually the most expensive, lengthy process, but there are always less expensive measures that can be taken to stop severe water damage until you can afford to complete the work. Ask your waterproofing company for several different options for repairing your property. If they refuse to do anything but the most expensive work, then it’s time to find another company.
10. Watch for type of backfill used
This is one of the most common ways that basement waterproofing companies cheat their customers, who might never even realize that they have been scammed. All trenches around the home that are dug for basement waterproofing should be backfilled with clean #57 limestone (which provides excellent drainage down to the footer drain tiles) or similar material.
Some dishonest waterproofing contractors will fill in trenches with slag (a byproduct of steel production), which is similar looking to limestone gravel but much less expensive to buy. The problem is that slag, which can give off a sulfurous smell when used, will eventually solidify into a mass that doesn’t allow water to properly drain down to your perforated footer drains.