Licensed Bonded and Insured

Posted on Monday, April 7th, 2014

In our last blog post “Home Remodeling Services | Best Price,” I mentioned that my wife and were planning our own home remodel project. The main advice everyone gave us was, “Make sure your contractor is licensed bonded and insured .” But what exactly does it mean for a contractor to be licensed bonded and insured and why is it important to know as a homeowner? Let’s break it down.

According to the Official Internet Site of the Florida Legislator, there are several types of contractor licenses depending on the work you need done (general, building, residential, sheet metal, roofing, etc…). Your state may have different categories, but these three main types should be fairly similar.

 3 Main Types of Home Remodel Contractors

  • General contractor – services are unlimited to the scope of work to be done.
  • Building contractor – services are limited to remodeling, repair, or improvement of any size building – if the services do not affect the structural elements of the building.
  • Residential contractor – a contractor whose services are limited to construction, remodeling, repair, or improvement of one-family, two-family, or three-family residences which are not more than two floors high.


Residential Contractor

licensed bonded and insuredFor the purpose of this article, we are going to focus on a residential contractor in regards to being licensed bonded and insured. We should also distinguish between a registered license and a certified license. A County “Registered” license is issued by one specific County. It’s like a tax payment and is not really the license you want your contractor to have. A State “Certified” license can be used throughout the state. This is the one you want your contractor to have when you ask if they are licensed bonded and insured.

There’s an extensive exam that covers business and finance, contract administration, and project management. To qualify for the examination an applicant must be at least 18 years old and must also meet certain requirements, according to the Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation Construction Industry Licensing Board.


Certified Licensed Residential Contractor Examination Qualifications

  • Four year construction-related degree from an accredited college (equivalent to three years experience) and one year proven related experience
  • One year of experience as a foreman and not less than three years of credits for any accredited college-level courses
  • One year experience as a workman, one year proven experience as a foreman, and two years of credits for any accredited college level courses
  • Two years experience as a workman, one year experience as a foreman, and one year of credits for any accredited college level courses
  • Four years experience as a workman or foreman of which at least one year must have been as a foreman
  • Holding an active certified or registered Florida contractor’s license


To become a certified licensed contractor, an applicant must pass all parts of the exam, meet education/experience requirements, obtain worker’s compensation coverage, get a fingerprint back ground check, and demonstrate financial responsibility by including a credit report with the application.

In addition to the exam and other previously mentioned requirements, a certified licensed contractor must also be bonded and insured. While the license is issued by the state, the bond and insurance is backed by an insurance carrier. Contact information, for verification purposes, is listed on the insurance certificate; as is the expiration date of the policy.

Ask if your contractor is licensed bonded and insured. Do a search on your state’s website (Department of Business and Professional Regulation – this one is from Florida) to find information about the status of the license. Reputable companies are happy to provide proof of their adherence to the laws and regulations designed to make certain that contractors, employees, and homeowners are protected during the completion of a project.

NOTE: Minimum amounts required for general liability insurance are :

  • General and building contractors – $300,000 bodily injury, 50,000 property damage
  • All other categories – 100,000 bodily injury, 25,000 property damage


If you’re still wondering if your residential remodel contractor should be licensed bonded and insured, the answer is a resounding, “Yes!” By doing so you greatly reduce the odds of having a bad experience. Most states will likely be similar to Florida, so you should be safe just asking if your contractor is licensed, since being bonded and insured is a requirement of obtaining a certified contractor license.

Is being licensed bonded and insured important to you when you choose a contractor for your home improvement projects? Have you ever had a bad experience with a contractor who was not licensed bonded and insured? Share your stories with us so that others can benefit from your experience.

Home Remodeling Services | Best Price

Posted on Monday, March 31st, 2014

Home Remodeling Services | Best Price


Home Remodeling Services | Best PriceLet’s jump right in and address probably the most common concern that all homeowners have about remodeling – Price. Just like you, I’m a homeowner who wants to keep my home comfortable and cozy and fresh with modern-looking and energy-saving updates. Just recently my wife and I have been doing research for some of our own remodel plans and of course we’re looking for home remodeling services best price. If you’ve talked to friends and family about your remodel plans, then you’ve most likely heard this too… “Get at least 3 bids so you can get the cheapest price.”

Sure, price is important, but it’s vital you understand the downside of only considering the cheapest price, since there are so many other factors that should affect your decision. There’s a big difference between the cheapest price and home remodeling services best price. Choosing the best price means you’ve taken the time to do your research and, you’re positioning yourself for a winning remodel experience.

In order to properly compare prices, everything must be the same – apples to apples – same project,  same products, same specifications, same quality of work. Most contractors will do everything they can to give you what you want at the price you want to pay. Just be careful what you ask for, because if you ask for “cheap” you just might get it, instead of getting home remodeling services best price.

An unusually low bid may be a red flag – a warning that something is wrong. The contractor may not fully understand the scope of the project; he may be underestimating the amount of labor and materials required because of inexperience; perhaps the contractor is planning to cut corners by using cheap materials and cheap labor. Worst of all the contractor may be trying to give you the cheapest price by not following local building codes. Home remodeling services best price is one that buys you a good listener and someone who is respectful of your budget.

Most remodel contractors take great pride in their work. They’ve spent many years working hard, doing research to find the best products and team members to make their work the best it can be. Do your research. Consider more than just the cheapest price. Express your passion for a job well done. Reputable business owners will reward you with their home remodeling services best price and a remodel job that will make you proud for years to come.

Is price important to you? Share your stories with us – good or bad. Read more Summary of Qualifications | Hire a Remodel Contractor.

Summary of Qualifications

Posted on Monday, March 24th, 2014

Summary of Qualifications | Hire a Remodel Contractor

After publishing one of our blog articles titled, “Experienced Remodel Contractor,” it became apparent that homeowners are looking for a summary of qualifications when it comes to hiring a remodel contractor. We spoke with some of our System Remodelers and came up with just that – a summary of qualifications we believe are the most important things to consider when you want to hire a remodel contractor. So we decided to write a series on the subject and share the wisdom of some of the best remodel contractors in the business.

Summary of QualificationsOver the next few months we’ll explore our summary of qualifications to consider when getting ready to hire a remodel contractor and share ideas on how you can do your research to make a well-informed decision. Although we do not claim that our summary of qualifications will eliminate any challenges that may arise from your remodel project, we do hope you‘ll be better prepared and able to avoid many of the pitfalls and stress associated with the process.

Very often, friends and family will tell you “get several estimates, and make sure they are licensed, bonded and insured.” Of course this is excellent advice, and it is on our summary of qualifications. But there are so many more things to consider when preparing to hire a remodel contractor, to ensure a  successful remodeling process. At System Home Improvement Products, we believe that education is the key to creating better relationships and a higher level of satisfaction with our System Remodeler projects.

Some of the topics (not in any order of importance) we’ll cover in our series, “Summary of Qualifications | Hire a Remodel Contractor,” are things like…


  • Price
  • Licensed, Bonded and Insured
  • Reputation
  • Thorough estimate
  • Contract
  • Experience
  • References from customers
  • References from professional organizations
  • Training / Certifications
  • Company history
  • Job organization
  • Professional associations
  • Design services – Use of Technology to Visualize
  • Quality subcontractors
  • Job schedule
  • Employees or Subcontractors
  • Communications with Homeowner
  • Source of Business
  • Customer Service
  • Community Involvement
  • Creativity
  • Guarantees & Warranties
  • Craftsmanship
  • Jobsite clean up
  • Product selection
  • Reliable product supplier
  • Financial stability
  • Finance offering


If you can think of anything else that should be on our summary of qualifications to consider when you want to hire a remodel contractor, please let us known and state your case for why it should be added. If your idea is selected, we’ll send you a snappy System Home Improvement Products baseball cap that we hope you’ll sport with pride, and we’ll allow you bragging rights on our social networks.



Experienced Remodel Contractor

Posted on Monday, March 17th, 2014

Experienced Remodel Contractor

Experienced Remodel ContractorWhen planning your home remodel, it’s wise to hire an experienced remodel contractor for getting the job done right. You’ll save time, frustration, and money. Experienced remodelers help homeowners take the worry out of their remodel project and put the focus back on refreshing their home with beauty, comfort and efficiency. Save time and money by hiring an experienced remodel contractor because they have years of training and home remodeling experience.


Remodel Budget

Most remodelers enjoy the chance to use new products and proven solutions to help homeowners increase the value of their home and save on utility costs, all while staying on budget. This ability to work within a budget is a specialty of many experienced remodel contractors. They help suggest options that keep your budget in check, such as providing a variety of product choices.

Commitment to Excellence

An experienced remodel contractor has years of business skills and understands that remodeling is about providing superior customer service. They know how to prioritize and take great pride in customer satisfaction. The best of the best will hire 3rd party customer satisfaction survey companies, like Guild Quality to make sure they are on track and help them remain proactive in their efforts. Experienced remodel contractors know what’s important to homeowners because they ask.

Technical Training

Experienced remodel contractors have years of technical training and experience that cannot be matched by DIY videos or “how-to” books. They understand details that most overlook and that must be considered before attempting a home remodel. Inexperience and simply not knowing any better can create expensive mistakes.  Experienced remodel contractors can prevent disasters and solve unexpected problems.

Save Money | Tax Credits

Experienced remodel contractors know how to help you save money on remodeling expenses by installing energy efficient products like new windows, doors, insulated siding, roofing, and more. They will likely refer you to organizations like the Department of Energy or Energy Star for more information on energy efficient products and tax credits. Experienced remodel contractors may also know of additional local or state credits, rebates, and other ways of saving money on your home remodel project.


Experienced remodel contractors have been around for a while and are more likely to belong to trade associations like the American Architectural Manufacturers Association, (AAMA), and the Vinyl Siding Institute, (VSI). By belonging to these organizations they benefit from continuing education programs, and obtain knowledge and skills to better run their businesses. An experienced remodel contractor can provide references from past clients, many of whom are repeat customers. They can also show homeowners examples of previous work to give you an idea of their style and attention to detail.

Your home is probably the most significant investment you’ll ever make. You need the very best to plan and implement your remodeling project. Make the smartest investment in your home and peace-of-mind by hiring a experienced remodel contractor. They’ll help you stay on budget, solve remodeling challenges, and provide a higher-quality service.


Contact your local System Remodeler to find out how we put our experienced remodel contractors to work for you.

Winter Remodeling Is a Hot Topic

Posted on Monday, March 3rd, 2014

Winter Remodeling Is a Hot Topic

Winter is a great time to tackle your home remodeling project. Yes, the days are shorter – leaving you less time to work. Yes, it’s colder and the weather may not always cooperate. But on the sunny side of things, here are a few reasons why winter remodeling is a hot topic.

Winter Remodeling Is a Hot TopicVacations. Many people migrate south for the winter to find warmer weather. If you’re one of many people who prefer to thaw out down south during the winter, then it could be the perfect time to have your project completed by a trusted contractor. Let’s not downplay the advantage of avoiding the racket and  associated stress of living through a remodeling project. You’ll want to be away from your home during your winter remodeling project, so why not take a vacation?

Pricing. Because contractors are not as busy during the winter months, they tend to lower prices to pick up more business. Likewise, contractors may raise prices during the spring and summer months to correspond with the demand. Get the best bang for your buck and hire a trusted contractor to knock out your winter remodeling project before the prices begin to go back up.

Manufacturer incentives. Many manufacturers offer incentives to contractors to buy more product during the winter months. In turn, contractors may offer deeper discounted rates and extended warranties to make your winter remodeling project even more advantageous.Winter Remodeling Is a Hot Topic

Planning and scheduling. Winter remodeling allows more attention to be focused on your job, because contractors don’t have as much work during these “down times.”  The pace of most business slows during winter – especially if Jack Frost has his way with things. It’s easier to find quality contractors to plan your project, and schedule the work at your convenience.

Exterior remodeling. Ok… So it’s not advisable to paint the outside of your house during the winter because it tends to be wet in most areas of the country. But there are plenty of other exterior projects that are perfect for winter remodeling. Ideas for winter remodeling are things like, putting up a privacy fence, adding a deck or enclosing a porch.

What’s on your wish list for a winter remodeling project?

Winter Remodeling | Insulated Vinyl Siding

Posted on Monday, February 24th, 2014

Winter Remodeling | Insulated Vinyl Siding

Winter Remodeling | Insulated Vinyl SidingWinter in parts of the United States can be harsh. There is nothing like a bone-chilling draft in the house to remind you about that insulated vinyl siding remodeling project you’ve been meaning to do. Energy costs continue to soar and can be quite a strain on any budget. Fortunately, insulated vinyl siding is quite affordable and can help to significantly reduce energy consumption and lower your electric bill.

An older home can lose a fair amount of heat through the walls and can feel drafty during high winds and storms. You can eliminate the drafts and heat loss by installing insulated vinyl siding made with sheets of rigid foam insulation. The insulation will help hold in the heat while the siding helps keep the wind and cold out.

So now you’re wondering… “Can I install insulated vinyl siding as part of my winter remodeling project?” The answer is YES… but proceed with caution.

Winter Remodeling | Insulated Vinyl Siding

Insulated vinyl siding can be installed as a winter remodeling project, but there are a few things you will want to keep in mind. According to expert insulated vinyl siding installers, it takes more skill to install vinyl siding once the temperature drops near freezing. Vinyl siding becomes brittle and can easily break when struck hard. It requires experience to install vinyl siding without a large amount of cracked material.

Vinyl siding installed in extremely cold weather will expand slightly when temperatures rise, a fact experienced contractors keep in mind when detailing corners and windows.  When installing insulated vinyl siding as part of a winter remodeling project, prepare for a half inch expansion in length when summertime roll around. If not you could be dealing with some warped siding when things heat up.

Winter Remodeling | Insulated Vinyl SidingAlthough installing insulated vinyl siding as a winter remodeling project may have its challenges, if professionally done, it can last a lifetime and provide substantial comfort as well as reduce your energy costs.

Share comments and photos/videos of your insulated vinyl siding winter remodeling project with us.

Stop Winter from Entering Your Home

Posted on Monday, February 17th, 2014

Stop Winter from Entering Your Home | Check Windows Doors and Siding

It’s not too late to winterize your home’s exterior. The first thing you’ll want to do is a thorough inspection of your windows, doors and siding. You may discover your home is ready for winter. But many times you will find areas that need minor repairs. Here are a few easy ways to stop winter from entering your home.

Check Windows Doors and Siding

Stop Winter from Entering Your Home | Check Windows Doors and Siding

Test for drafts with a candle

Test drafts with a candle

  • Inspect your home’s siding and trim. Look for ways that winter can find its way into your home through cracks and any gaps or other open areas.
  • Check around pipes. Not only can cold air get in, but let’s not forget about those little critters who would love to snuggle up to you by the fireplace.
  • Use paintable caulk to winterize your home’s exterior by sealing small cracks and gaps.
  • Use expanding foam to seal large exterior gaps up to ½ inch wide.
  • Plug very large exterior gaps with fiberglass insulation and then fill with expanding foam.
  • Inspect all windows and doors for drafts inside your home. Using a lit candle can detect even the slightest of drafts.
  • Lock the windows to give them a tight seal.
  • Use weather-stripping around doors and caulk windows to prevent winter drafts from entering your home.

Unless you’re inviting Disney’s Anna and Elsa from the movie Frozen over for dinner, then you’ll want to perform these winterizing techniques every year to stop winter from entering your home. Best to do it before winter settles in, but it’s never too late. If you’re unable to stop winter from entering your home by using these easy to do tips, you may want to consider new energy efficient windows, doors or siding.  The investment will be well worth the money in energy savings, longevity, and peace of mind. Is your home winterized? Share your tips for keeping winter out of your home.

2013 Cost vs. Value Report

Posted on Tuesday, March 26th, 2013
cost vs. value exterior

For the first time in six years, the overall average cost-value ratio has improved, reaching 60.6%. This is 2.9 points better than the 2011–12 number, which hit a low of 57.7% (the lowest point since at least 2001), and is more than a half-point better than the 60.0% ratio from two years ago.  Click here to view the 2013 data.

Cost-recouped percentages were up for all 35 projects in the survey, a complete turnaround from the 2011–12 report, when percentages dropped in all but three projects, some precipitously.

The biggest gainers this year were mostly replacement projects, which have always outperformed discretionary remodeling projects, more so in recent years as the economic recession brought price to the forefront for homeowners making remodeling decisions.

For the third year running, lower construction costs had a strong influence on the improved market picture, although stabilizing resale values also played an important role. (The cost-value ratio expresses resale value as a percentage of construction cost. When cost and value are closer to each other, the ratio is higher; as they diverge, the ratio gets lower.) Construction costs had risen rapidly between 2005 and 2007, then at a diminishing rate through the early part of the recent recession, while resale value remained fairly stable (see Cost vs. Value 10-Year Trend). When costs finally dropped in 2010–11, it was by a whopping 10.4%, but resale values slid even more (15.8%), pushing cost and value further apart and driving the ratio down.

Costs stabilized in 2011–12, decreasing just 1.9%, but once again a larger downward slide in average value (5.6%) pushed the cost-value ratio lower. This year, that trend reversed itself as another big drop (6.0%) in construction costs met up with a modest decline (1.4%) in value.

As is always the case, some markets performed better than others. Once again, the best-performing group of cities is in the Pacific region (see “Cost Recouped by Region”), where both construction costs and resale values, though lower than last year, were the highest in the country. Next in line are the three southern regions — West South Central, South Atlantic, and East South Central — which had the lowest construction costs in the nation. All four of these regions performed better than the national average.

Of the five remaining regions, all of which performed below the national average, the West North Central region was most improved. Significantly lower costs and increased resale values in these regions combined to produce a cost-value ratio that is 4.3 points higher than last year.





High-Value Projects

Historically, exterior replacement projects have always achieved a higher overall cost-value ratio than discretionary projects, and that is once again the case. The average cost-value ratio of all 14 replacement projects in our report is 67.6%, almost 8 points higher than that of the 21 discretionary projects, which together average 59.7% (see “Replacement vs. Remodeling”). And seven of the top 10 projects in this year’s report are siding, window and entry door- or garage door-replacement projects that collectively generate an above-average cost-value ratio of 74.6%.

Some of these projects displayed extremely high value. One way to measure that is to compare a project’s cost-value ratio with the historical high average, which peaked in 2005 at 86.7%. By this measure, too, replacement projects are clustered at the top, with many achieving a cost-value ratio of 90% or higher in a large number of cities (see “High-Value Projects” ). One reason for this is their relatively low cost: most replacement projects are priced at less than $20,000; four at less than $5,000. And, given the emphasis on resale value built into the Cost vs. Value survey, the dramatic improvement to curb appeal that most replacement projects produce is a strong factor in raising the perceived value of a home in the eyes of prospective buyers.

Minor Kitchen Remodel (75.4%) is also once again in the top 10, although given its scope of work (replacing cabinets fronts, countertops, cabinet hardware, and appliances with no structural or system modifications) and relatively low cost — it averages $18,527 nationally — it could easily be classified as a replacement project. Not so, however, for the other two projects in the top 10, Attic Bedroom and Basement Remodel, both of which carry higher-than-average cost-value ratios (72.9% and 70.3%, respectively). The higher average costs for these projects — $47,919 for the Attic Bedroom, and $61,303 for the Basement Remodel — are still the least expensive way for home­owners to add living space.

High-Value Cities

While averaging is an important tool when drawing broad conclusions, it also can obscure the fact that some projects perform much better in specific markets. Though city data samples vary in size, counting the number of high-value projects can help to identify how well a particular market is performing.

This year in almost half of the cities surveyed, at least one project exceeded the historical high (86.7%), and 16 cities recorded five or more such projects (see “High-Value Cities”). In fact, in many cases, high-value cities supported projects that scored well over 90% in cost recouped. For example, Deck Addition achieved a cost-value ratio of more than 100% in eight of the 81 cities surveyed, and more than 86.7% in nine others.

Note, however, that this phenomenon has more to do with the particular market than with the project. This is perhaps more true today than in the past because of the slow recovery of housing prices. Projects that exceed 100% return are less common than they were five to seven years ago.

Often, the phenomenon is localized within markets where house values are rapidly appreciating. (We saw this in 2005, when house prices were rising so fast that almost any investment a homeowner made in remodeling would more than pay for itself at resale.) In other cases, buyer expectations for a particular neighborhood play an important role. For example, in a neighborhood where most houses have two-and-a-half baths, adding a bathroom to a house with one-and-a-half baths brings that house up to “standard.” This makes it more likely to meet buyer expectations, and can result in a higher sales price or a shorter time on the market.

Looking Ahead

The upturn in this year’s Cost vs. Value Report is an encouraging sign that the remodeling industry may have turned the corner. It squares with the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies’ LIRA (Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity) and with our own RRI (Residential Remodeling Index), both of which forecast a strong recovery for remodeling in 2013. Anecdotal evidence also supports these forecasts, with many remodelers reporting more qualified leads, larger projects, and a shorter sales cycle.

That said, supply still outstrips demand in many areas, and recession-induced price sensitivity continues to promote strong competition. Combined with the tempering effects of political and economic uncertainty on consumer spending decisions, most contractors will likely proceed cautiously through the early part of the year.

But if house prices continue to rise and the economic recovery continues, by mid-year there may well be reason to celebrate.

Click here to view the complete 2013 Cost vs. Value Report

$135 Million Dollar Listing!

Posted on Monday, March 18th, 2013
Crispi Exterior 1

Everything’s bigger in Texas, and the Lone Star State has
taken the title as the locale with the most expensive home for sale in the
United States.

The Crespi/Hicks estate in Dallas is on the market for $135
million. For that price, you get a big home: 28,996 square feet on 25 acres
within eight minutes of downtown. Plus, there is a 7,200-square-foot pool house
and a 6,300-square-foot guest house.

The home is owned by Tom and Cinda Hicks, who spent five to
10 years and close to $100 million expanding and remodeling, according to Candy
Evans of Candy’s Dirt. But now that their six children are grown, they have
decided it’s time to downsize. Hicks, an investment banker, is the former owner
of the Dallas Stars hockey team and the Texas Rangers baseball team.






The home was built in 1939 for Pio Crespi, an Italian count
who came to the United States to establish the cotton trade between the United
States and Europe. He and his wife, Florence, were, as the Dallas Morning News’
Pop Culture blog put it, “jet-setters before there were jets.” The
two fell in love when both were married to other people, and Florence’s husband
sued Pio in 1929 for “alienation of affection.” The spurned husband won, but
only $10,000, not the $1 million that he had sought.






After the trial, the couple married and built the grand home
they called Villa Fiorenza – though they built it only half as large as
initially envisioned, in deference to the Depression. They lived there until
their deaths, Pio in 1969 and Florence in 1999, at age 100.






The architect was Maurice Fatio, who also designed homes for
E.F. Hutton and the Vanderbilts and was considered one of the top architects of
his time in New York and Palm Beach, Fla. The Crespis brought in artisans and
unique materials from Europe, building a European-style home with timeless
proportions and unique materials. It was also the first home built in Dallas
with central air conditioning and central heating.









The Hickses bought the house after Florence Crespi died, and
Cinda Hicks hired New York architect Peter Marino to update and expand the
home, staying true to Fatio’s style.

Unlike many mega mansions, the home is widely praised in
architectural circles. It’s considered one of the most architecturally
significant homes in Dallas and perhaps in the United States.






Much of the information on it is written by Douglas Newby,
who is the listing agent and also writes the Dallas Architecture Blog. He has a
number of posts about the home, a video and lots of photos, including some of
the original construction.

To learn more about this home go to it’s full listing at

System Council Meeting

Posted on Sunday, March 10th, 2013
System Council Meeting Room

We are just geting back from our annual System Council Meeting.  This week, our System Remodelers from around the country gathered at Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill in Orlando, Florida for a two day meeting.  We discussed topics such as service, product development, marketing and providing our customers (the home owner) the best possible experience.  Overall, our System Dealers attended this meeting to learn and network from other System Remodelers while improving their business practices.










A special thank you goes to our vendors that participated in the meeting:

Randy Bailey President of GP Industries –  Manufacturer of System Guter Protection

Chris Reilly VP Marketing of  Atrium Windows and Doors – Manufacturer of Signature and Supreme Series Windows

Greg Lanzaro – Sure Fire Social

Nick Waslien – Guild Quality










The bottom line is that when you select a System Remodeler for your project, you can rest assure that you have selected a remodeler that is committed to their business and improving it over time.  Click here to learn more about System Home Improvement Products