Ask the Contractors
Experts Answer Common Home Improvement Questions
By Bert Sandman, Chair
California Contractors State License Board
Sacramento: Do you have questions about hiring and
managing building contractors? The California Contractors
State License Board (CSLB) has answers. For more
information, or to check out a contractor’s
license, bond and workers’ compensation insurance
information, visit the CSLB Web site at www.cslb.ca.gov.
Q: My grandmother is getting ready to repair some
storm damage to her home but she does not speak
English. Although I will be assisting her in hiring
a contractor, I want her to read about the hiring
process for her own peace of mind. Are there CSLB
materials available in other languages that explain
A: A number of CSLB publications are available in
foreign languages. They are available for free and
can be ordered from the CSLB website at www.cslb.ca.gov.
The materials cover topics such as what you should
know before you hire a contractor and simple tips
to follow when managing one. These should provide
your grandmother with the information she needs
to be an informed consumer.
Q: I hired a contractor to work on landscaping my
front yard last month. He went way over budget and
now I am broke and displeased. I don’t know
what to do about it, please help!
A: Hopefully you have a signed written contract
that spells out everything the contractor agreed
to do, as well as how much it would cost. As long
as there weren’t changes to the contract,
the contractor would be required to complete the
work for the set price. Written “change orders”
should reflect changes to the contract, including
price changes. It may be difficult to prove the
contractor was at fault otherwise. If you can’t
resolve the problem with your licensed contractor,
the CSLB may be able to help you through mediation,
arbitration and referrals to other agencies. Learn
more about filing a construction complaint by clicking
on the CSLB Web site, www.cslb.ca.gov. You can also
download a complaint form, or have one sent to you
by calling 1-800-321-CSLB (2752).
Q: I had a new roof installed a few months ago and
I am wondering how long I should expect it to last.
Should I expect to install another one in the next
few years, and what can I do to increase its life?
A: Most roofs, if properly installed and maintained,
last about 20 years, so I wouldn’t anticipate
you needing a new one for some time. The best way
to preserve your roof is to stay off of it. Don’t
walk on the roof unless you are repairing it. Also,
keep the gutters clean of debris to avoid clogs,
which can cause flooding and subsequent water damage
to the roof. Additionally, when small leaks or storm
damage do occur, have it fixed right away to prevent
the problem from worsening. Learn more in the CSLB
publication, Tips for Hiring a Roofing Contractor.
You can download it by clicking on www.cslb.ca.gov.
(Bert Sandman is the Chair of the Contractors State
License Board. The Contractors State License Board
operates under the umbrella of the California Department
of Consumer Affairs. The CSLB licenses and regulates
California's 299,000 contractors, and investigates
more than 20,000 complaints against contractors
annually. In fiscal year 2004-05, the CSLB helped
consumers get more than $36 million in restitution.)