Rebuilding after a Disaster
Working with a contractor
Check that that they are licensed with the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry and if they have a history of disciplinary actions. Ask for references, a local phone number and address (not a PO box). Research complaints online and how long they have been in business.
Avoid contractors who use high-pressure sales tactics, require upfront payment, or try to rush you into signing an "estimate” or “authorization” before you have decided to hire them. Be wary of individuals who show up unsolicited at your door, arrive in an unmarked truck or van, or don’t have a Minnesota contractor license number.
Signing a contract
Before you sign a contract, make sure that you understand what you are signing and read the document carefully. Ask questions if you don’t understand the terms.
Make sure the contract include a detailed summary of the work to be done, a description of the materials to be used, and a total contract price or how the price will be calculated.
Resolving a problem or complaint
Contact the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry’s Construction Codes and Licensing’s Enforcement Services unit at (651) 284-5069 to discuss your situation with an investigator who may offer suggestions about how to resolve the dispute. If the dispute cannot be resolved, you may submit a written request for a formal investigation.
Contact the Construction Codes and Licensing’s Enforcement Services unit at:
Phone: (651) 284-5069
Fax: (651) 284-5749
Contractor’s Recovery Fund
The purpose of the Contractor’s Recovery Fund is to compensate consumers who have suffered losses due to a licensed contractor’s fraudulent, deceptive or dishonest practices, conversion of funds or failure to perform. All licensed contractors are required to pay a fee to the fund.
The total amount that can be paid out against any one licensed contractor is $75,000. If multiple claims are filed against the same contractor they are divided among the claimants. In that case, you may not be able to recover your entire loss. To better protect yourself, request that your contractor obtain a performance bond for your specific project. A performance bond would provide a specific level of protection for your project.
Replacing home equipment
Furnaces, water heater, air conditioner and other mechanical equipment may need to be replaced as you repair and rebuild.
Most mechanical equipment and associated supply and vent lines damaged by water will need to be replaced, including furnaces and boilers, water heaters, energy recovery ventilation, and air conditioners. If there is any question whether water has reached a gas or electric appliance, the unit should be checked by a professional. Opinions vary regarding replacement or repair of water-soaked heating systems, but most experts recommend replacement.
Furnace ducts may appear undamaged, but moisture may have collected in low spots, leading to potential problems with mold. Horizontal sections should be opened and thoroughly dried. Proper sealing at all joints should be part of reassembly.
Improving the energy efficiency of your home
Efficiency should be one of the top factors to consider when replacing energy-related equipment. Always look for the ENERGY STAR® label (the government-backed symbol for energy efficiency) and check out the ENERGY STAR website for comparisons between different models. Investing in efficiency will result in lower utility bills and operating costs over the long term.
Minimum efficiency suggestions include:
- Furnace: Annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) rating of at least 90 percent; additional savings with variable speed fan motors.
- Boiler: AFUE of at least 85 percent.
- Air conditioner: Seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) of at least 14.
- Water heater: Energy factor (EF) of at least 0.67.
- Other: Many appliances and mechanical equipment commonly found in basements—including heat recovery ventilators, dehumidifiers, clothes washers, and chest freezers—have energy-related ratings that should be carefully compared before making purchases.
Incentives for replacement equipment
Many utility companies offer rebates when purchasing high-efficiency equipment. Tax credits and other incentives may exist for energy-saving products and renewable energy systems. For instance, Commerce administers the Made in Minnesota Solar Incentive Program for new solar electric and solar thermal systems. Go to the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency for the latest listing of rebates and incentives in Minnesota.
The U.S. Department of Energy offers a list of resources for residents and businesses that are looking to rebuild after a disaster—“From Tragedy to Triumph: Resources for Rebuilding Green after Disaster” (pdf).