Part One – How to choose a company to install a fence around your yard

If you’re looking to have a fence installed around your yard, listen up! In today’s article, we interview Eddie Clark, CFP of Accent Fence. He offers some awesome tips on selecting the right fence contractor in Atlanta. In this two-part series, we’ll investigate what to look for before choosing someone to work with. Eddie was a branch manager for a wholesale fencing manufacturer. When the company went out of business 17 years ago, he started his own fencing business – Accent Fence of Atlanta.

To make sure that you choose a trustworthy fencing company to work with, consider the following questions:

  • Are they a member of the National Association?
  • How long have they been in business?
  • What does their online reputation say about them?
  • Can you trust them?
  • Do they work for builders as well as doing residential installations?
  • What kind of workmanship warranty do they offer?

Let’s take a look at why these questions are so very important:

Are they a member of the National Association?

“The danger of this industry is the ease of entry,” Eddie said. “Anyone with a post-hole digger and a truck can be in business this afternoon. So, for example, I am a member of the American Fence Association. Most knuckleheads won’t want to pay to be part of this association. When a fencing contractor is an active member, it shows a commitment to the industry and that this is more than a job to them.”

He continued, “There are additional credentials to look for. For example, I am also a Certified Fence Professional.” Is that important? Notice what Eddie shared: “Less than 2% of fence installers ever achieve this certification. It takes a lot of time to be qualified to take this comprehensive test. In fact, more than half fail on their first try. It also requires re-certification every 3 years. Next, there is being recognized as a Blue Ribbon Contractor by the association. When you are selective like this, chances are really good that you’ll get a great contractor.”

The lesson? Be selective. Remember that anyone can call themselves a fence installer. However, only 2% of the installers out there have received recognition as a Certified Fence Professional. You deserve the best contractors working on your home, don’t you? So, don’t settle for anything less.

How long has the company been in business?

A company’s warranty is only as good as how long they’ve been in business. You want a company that’s been in business for a minimum of three to five years. Why three years minimum? “Most businesses die within the first three years,” Eddie said. “So a company that’s still in business after five years is a good sign. However, make sure that they have the same business name, same owner, and same phone number for the whole time they’ve been in business.”

Remember that five years of experience isn’t enough. You don’t want a bankrupt business working on your home under a new name, do you? Instead, you’re looking for a business with a trustworthy track record.

What does their online reputation say about them?

Look for contractors with good reviews on portals like Google and Kudzu. If you can, talk to the customers and look at the fence to prove to yourself that it was installed professionally.

Can you trust them?

Online reputation is one thing. Spending time with the fence professional when getting a quote is quite another. Does it sound like they know what they’re talking about? Are they able to explain their process and methods for installing a backyard fence in detail? “If they can’t explain to you what they’re going to do in an easy-to-understand, logical manner, why would you ever want them to install your fence?” Eddie asked.

In short, listen to your gut before signing on the dotted line.

Do they do work for builders as well as doing residential installations?

Why should you care about this? “Most fences will not need to be replaced for 15 years,” Eddie said. “That means if a contractor only does residential installations he does not need to focus on customer service. A residential fence installer can do poor to medium grade quality work and still stay in business because they don’t count on repeat business. They make their money and then disappear. On the other hand, if a contractor does work for home builders, then they must do good work or they will be replaced quickly!”

So, if you want a reliable contractor, choose a company that does work for repeat customers like home builders.

What kind of workmanship warranty do they offer?

Eddie told us that traditionally the workmanship warranty on a new fence is one year. He continued, “If there’s going to be a problem with the installation it shows up quickly, usually within 6 months. We’re not talking about warped boards because that’s the nature of wood. We’re talking about poor workmanship by the installer.”

Eddie went on. “Now, some salesmen will offer you a five-year warranty on workmanship to differentiate themselves from the competition. However, as explained already, this really has no value. It sounds good in theory. Remember that most fence contractors will not even be in business five years from now! So, if some smooth-talking salesman tells you he will give you a five-year warranty on workmanship, try this instead. Ask him what the price is with only a one-year warranty on the labor. They’ll tell you it’s the same price. You will quickly learn that this is a meaningless warranty.”

That concludes Part 1 of this series on how to select a good fence company in Atlanta. We want to thank Eddie of Accent Fence for his time and the great advice. We hope you have found this information helpful. In Part 2, we’ll examine a few shortcuts fencing contractors might take that you need to protect yourself from.

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Summertime grilling safety tips (Or how to grill without burning the house down)

Now that we’re well into the summer, you might be thinking about having a barbecue and inviting your friends, family, and neighbors over for an old-school grill-out. You’ve bought the burgers, the chicken, the hot dogs, and, of course, the condiments (which, let’s face it, are the best part.) So grocery-wise you’re all set. You’re ready to fire up the grill and fill the air with that juicy, smoky barbecue smell.

Don't forget to be safe when you grill!

But before you start throwing on the burgers, it’s important to remember that grills – in addition to producing delicious food – are dangerous. Yes, something that allows you to cook a mouthwatering meal might seem innocent, but grills can turn on you if you don’t take the right precautions. An unsafe grill is a home insurance claim in the making.

So, we’ve put together some of those precautions so you can get to grilling!

1. Know your grill.

Do you have a gas or a charcoal grill? This is important because they’re meant to be used differently. Gas grills require propane whereas charcoal grills require, well, charcoal and fire.

Anyways. This is important because you should never put starter fluid on a gas grill. Starter fluid is only for charcoal grills.

2. Take care of your gas grill.

If you have a gas grill, you need to make sure that you don’t have any propane leaks. Check the spot where the propane tank and fuel line are connected and make sure there are no leaks. If you think you have a leak, turn off the gas and DO NOT light the grill. Instead, get it fixed by a professional before cooking anything. (On the bright side, this gives you a good excuse to impose on your neighbors – now they get to host the get-together!)

Oh, and one more thing – never, ever use matches to check for propane leaks. Fire + propane = not good.

Make sure that your grill is in good working order.

3. Keep the grill outside.

Don’t bring your barbecue into an enclosed, unventilated space, like your garage or home. This is a major fire hazard, but it’s also a carbon monoxide and smoke hazard, too. Carbon monoxide is not to be trifled with. It’s an odorless, colorless gas that can cause extremely serious health problems, so make sure to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.

4. Respect the grill’s power of flammability.

Keep your grill away from things that could catch on fire. You should place it at least three feet from things like trees, outdoor furniture, and, oh, yes, your house.

Also, don’t grill on a wooden deck or porch. That could end up catching fire.

 5. Keep the kiddos and pets away from the grill.

Your kids and pets might wander too close and end up getting hurt, so keep them at a safe distance and don’t let them run around or play close to the barbecue. You don’t want them to get burned. Make sure that your home is sufficiently childproofed to avoid any mishaps.

Keep the pets and kids at a safe distance from the grill.

6. Have good food-safety habits.

When you prep and cook food, you need to make sure that you’re keeping everything clean and not exposing the food to bacteria and other icky things that can make people sick. Food poisoning is not fun.

A few Food-Prep 101 tips:

  • Wash your hands frequently (or use moist towelettes if you’re outside working the grill).
  • Keep raw food away from cooked food.
  • Don’t use the utensils you’re handling the raw food with on the cooked food.
  • Marinate the meat in the fridge, not on the counter. Meat needs to be refrigerated.
  • Cook the food thoroughly. Burgers should be cooked to 160˚F and chicken should be cooked to 165˚F.
  • Put the leftovers in the fridge ASAP. Don’t wait longer than two hours to refrigerate the leftover food.

7. Don’t invite carcinogens to the party.

Carcinogens, or substances that cause cancer, are also a risk of grilling. When fat from meat drips onto the flames or charcoal, the smoke produced rises to the meat and releases carcinogens.

To reduce the chances of releasing carcinogens:

  • Cook lean meats, like turkey burgers or lean cuts of beef. These have less grease. Also, cut the visible fat from poultry before throwing it on the grill.
  • Marinate the meat. Herbs can prevent carcinogens from forming because they have natural antioxidants that do so.
  • Scrub the grill with a wire brush after every use. This will clear the grill of any leftover chunks of food that could drip through the grates and release carcinogen-rich smoke.
  • Use nonstick cooking spray. This prevents food build-up from forming on your grill.

A clean grill is a happy grill.

So, there you have it – how to have that relaxing, casual grill-out safely! Now that you’re a grill-safety pro, you’re ready to invite the neighborhood to your place and have a feast. Let the hamburgers and hot dogs fly!

Need home insurance, auto insurance, or renters insurance? We’d love to help you out with all of your insurance needs! We can get you free quotes for your insurance. Just fill out our quote form or give us a call today.

Part Two – How to choose a business to repair an alloy wheel

You’re driving down the road, just cruising along on your way home from work, when BAM! What was that noise? Turns out you hit a nasty pothole, and when you get to your house you realize that your tire has lost air pressure.

In Part One of this series, we talked to Manny Heredia of Rims Like New about your options for having a scratched or bent alloy rim repaired. In Part Two, we’ll talk with Manny about what you can do if your rim is cracked. Today we will answer the following questions:

  • If my wheel is cracked, can I go to any welder to repair it?
  • Is it safe to drive on a cracked rim that was welded?
  • How can a rim repair business guarantee that a weld won’t cracking again?
  • How can I choose a good rim repair company?

What options do you have if the tire shop tells you that you have a cracked rim?

Don’t jump to the conclusion that you have to scrap your old alloy rim and buy a buy a new one. The truth is that cracked wheels can be welded.

But can you go to any welder to repair it? “Sure, you could have someone weld it,” Manny said – but there’s a catch. “However, every time a wheel is cracked, the impact causes the rim to be out of round. In other words, it’s now also bent. That means your tire will be out of round also. Your tires perform best when they’re truly round. If you don’t [have it fixed], it will cause problems like we have discussed. The part that’s bent will cause the tire to wear flat in that spot. This will cause premature tire wear. You’ll have to replace your tire sooner and you’ll still be left with the same problem … A bent rim. Once you have new tires the problem cycle begins all over again. The sooner you repair it the better.”

So, what does Manny do differently? He said, “Prior to fixing the crack, we straighten the rim. We have an expensive machine that measures the wheel’s roundness to thousandths of an inch to determine its trueness. It also tells us where to push or pull to make it round again. Our goal is to make the rim round again to 15 thousandths of an inch. Which is a total run out of 30,000 thousandths of an inch. Our goal is 30 or better. This will allow the rim to function normally. Then we will weld the crack afterward.”

Is it safe to drive on a cracked rim that was welded?

 “Many people view the weld as a weakness,” Manny said. “In fact, most weld shops won’t guarantee a weld on a car rim for that reason. In the beginning, we had to outsource all our welding work. The welders didn’t like talking about a warranty for their work. They assumed that the person driving would hit a pothole and it might crack again. But I stand behind my workmanship and quality. In fact, I guarantee the welds to fix cracked rims for as long as the person owns the car.”

How can a weld be guaranteed to not crack again?

 “It’s funny. I’ve had wheels come back after they’ve cracked, but they cracked in another location,” Manny said. “My welds survived the pot hole. The same goes for pulling out the bends. The tremendous force used to straighten out the aluminum rim has not broken my welds either. Remember, this is up to 12 tons of hydraulic force and my welds hold up. Will another company guarantee this? I don’t know. All I know is that I do, and that says a lot about the quality of work that we do. This should satisfy the concerns of anyone that is concerned about driving on a cracked rim that is welded.”

However, the best way for any driver to avoid cracking their rims in the first place is to be a cautious driver. Watch the road in front of you at all times. Avoid potholes and road debris to begin with and save yourself some headaches and money later on.

Why not buy a new rim?

 “Generally, on a low-end car like a Honda Fit, Subaru Imprezza, or a Nissan Sentra, a simple aluminum alloy wheel starts at $300 each. When you look at a Cadillac, Lincoln, or a Corvette you are looking at up to  $1,000 or more per rim. Sure, you can try a junkyard. But remember, those cars were in an accident. The odds are that those rims are bent also!”

Manny told us, “Our cosmetic repairs start at $99. Fixing bent wheels also starts at $99.” That’s a heck of a deal compared to buying a $1,200 wheel! It sounds like a no-brainer, doesn’t it?

How can you choose a good rim repair company?

Manny shared the following tips to choose the best wheel repair company to work on your car.

  1. “First go to Google and social media. Check to see if the company has reviews. I am sure every once in a while you’ll find a disgruntled customer that can never be satisfied. But overall there should be plenty of satisfied customers.”
  2. “Make sure they have proper liability insurance to work on your car. Ask to see a copy of their insurance to see if it’s up to date.”
  3. “One of the most important things, however, is if they stand behind their work. The right rim company is the one that is willing to stand by its work and compensate their customers if they are not 100% happy.”

We hope that you found this two-part article on how to choose a business to repair your wheels helpful! To learn more, you can visit the Rims Like New website here.

If you need home, car, life, or renters insurance, we can help! Just fill out our quote form and you’ll be on your way. We’ll get you a quote for free! 

Part One – How to choose a business to repair an alloy wheel

There may come a day when you need to get a wheel replaced or repaired.

You just ran your car through the local car wash. Ah, now your car is nice and shiny! You’re drying your car, and…wait a minute. Are those scratch marks on your beautiful alloy wheel? Then you remember – yesterday you lent your car to your teenage daughter, who just got her driver’s license. Yikes!

What will you do?

Buy a new wheel? Well, expect to pay anywhere from $300 – $1,200 a pop.

Your other choice? Have your alloy rim cosmetically repaired so it looks like new again. For today’s article, we interviewed Manny Heredia of Rims Like New. He’s been repairing wheel rims for almost 13 years now, and he’s got some tips to share with us today! We’ll cover the following topics:

  • How you can get the scratches on your wheels fixed
  • If it’s possible to change the color of your rims
  • Why you need to have your bent wheel repaired
  • Why it’s important to make sure that the business you use offers a warranty

How can I fix my wheel scratches, bubbles, and peeling paint?

 We asked Manny what options a person has for repairing or refinishing their rims. He shared, “Well, that depends on the issue your wheel is having. For example, are your rims’ finishes peeling or bubbling? We can refinish these and even powder coat them. Of course, this depends on how much of a budget a customer has and how finicky they are about how it looks. So, are you looking for a facelift or do you want a perfect showroom finish? We have the ability to make it look new or to simply make it look better than it did before. The choice is up to you.”

What about the scenario we talked about – a teenaged driver scratches the rims on the curb when parking the car? “We have different options for this as well depending on how perfect they want the rim to look afterward,” Manny said. “We can make it look good to the eye so no one can tell there was a problem before. We provide different levels of service depending on your budget. Overall it’s still worth it compared to buying a new one.”

Can I have the rims of my car custom painted?

What if someone wants different-colored rims? Do they have to buy new ones? “We can change the color,” Manny said. “For example, we have done red rims, pink rims, and black matte rims. We can also machine them.”

What if someone has pitted chrome rims? Can you change the color on these too? “Yes. We can sandblast them to remove the chrome finish,” he explained. “Then we can powder coat them to any color that you want.”

Driving on a bent wheel can shred your tire.

Why are potholes the nemesis of low profile tires and rims?

Manny shared, “Sometimes I have people tell me, ‘My tire went flat. I filled it with air and it was fine for a few weeks. Now all of a sudden it is flat again. What happened?’ Where the rim is bent, it sometimes pulls the tire enough so that it holds the air. However, when the wheel is in a certain position, the weight of the car pushes the air out of the tire, causing it to go flat quickly. That can happen easily.”

“Other times you get a flat tire immediately, like when you hit a curb hard enough or a big pothole. By the way, if this happens I encourage you to get your rim fixed immediately. If you ride on the tire with no air in it the rim will literally cut the inside of the tire. Eventually, the cords, which hold the tire together, will fail,” Manny said.

Can the driver tell that something’s wrong right away? “The funny thing is that on the outside the tire will look perfectly fine,” Manny said. “However, on the inside, it will be shredded to pieces. You will now have to buy a new tire. So, I recommend that you fix it quickly and save yourself the cost of a tire. Unfortunately, this happens often. Especially with low profile tires. People are surprised how quickly the bend will start cutting into the tire on the inside. Sometimes they don’t believe us, so we have to show them the shredded threads for them to take this risk seriously.”

What if the tire place told me that the wheel is bent?

Sometimes you might hear this if you have your car’s wheels balanced or you get new tires. So, that raises the question: is fixing a bent rim a need or a luxury?

“The consequence of driving on a bent rim with low air or no air is having to buy a new tire plus having to pay for the rim to be fixed afterward,” Manny explained. “How much would it cost you to replace your tire? Every car is different. Many good tires are $150 – $200 each. Bent wheels also have additional hidden costs. If you let it go, it eventually affects your steering, your suspension, and your alignment, so over time the cost of fixing these things increases.”

Do you offer a warranty for repairing bent rims?

“I guarantee the rim will hold air and balance out on the tire machine,” Manny said. “If the wheel can’t be balanced and it’s a little off, I will tell you so. Then you have 2 options: you can live with it, or you can buy a new one. If you decide to live with it, I’ll give you a discount because it isn’t within the “rounded” specifications we shoot for. On the other hand, if you want to buy a new rim…Then I’ll eat the labor. I want you to take that money and put it towards buying your new rim. So, it’s a risk-free offer. I assume all of the risks. There is nothing to lose by trying.”

Does the company you're considering offer a warranty for the wheel?

Does my car insurance cover this?

Here are a few things to consider:

  • First, talk to your car insurance agent.
  • Next, what’s your deductible? Most repairs are under $200 a wheel.
  • You might want to pay for cosmetic repairs out of pocket, instead of risking your premiums going up.

 

We want to thank Manny for talking with us today. You can learn more at Manny’s website. This ends Part 1 of our article on repairing your alloy wheels. In Part 2, we’ll discuss how to fix a cracked rim.

 

Need car insurance? We can help you find a great rate for your car insurance! Just give us a call or fill out our quote form today.

10 fireworks safety tips for the 4th of July (or any time of the year)

Stay safe while using fireworks.

The Fourth of July is here, and with it, lots and lots of fireworks. You might be thinking about putting on a display to celebrate Independence Day. Yes, fireworks are part of the Fourth of July deal, but they’re also very dangerous. It’s important not to underestimate the damage that they can do. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, about 250 people go the emergency room for firework-related injuries every day in the month surrounding July 4th.

But guess what? We’ve got some tips that you can follow to help you stay safe this Fourth of July.

Tip #1. Keep the pyrotechnics outside.

Set fireworks off outdoors and make sure to choose your location wisely. That means staying away from things that are flammable, including people, homes, and trees or bushes.

Tip #2. Have water on hand.

Just in case things get out of control, it’s a good idea to have some water handy. Have either some buckets or a hose that’s ready to go nearby.

Tip #3. Carry and set off fireworks intelligently.

Okay, a few basic rules for handling the pyrotechnics:

  • Don’t carry them in your pockets.
  • Don’t set them off from a metal or glass container – bad idea.
  • Light them one at a time.
  • Never place any piece of your body over the device while you’re lighting it.
  • Back up to a safe distance after lighting.
  • After they’re done burning, dump a lot of water on the used devices before you throw them away.

Tip #4. Use the fireworks as they’re meant to be used.

In other words, follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Don’t deviate from the instructions or try and make your own. And don’t combine fireworks for a bigger boom – that’s just not a good idea.

Be sure to follow the safety instructions on your fireworks.

Tip #5. Keep the audience at bay.

Make sure that the people who come to admire the pretty lights are a safe distance away. Also, make sure that they don’t get too close to the debris.

Tip #6. Wear goggles.

Eyes are sensitive. Fireworks can be especially dangerous for your eyesight, so make sure that you’re wearing come protective eyewear when handling and setting them off.

Tip #7. Don’t drink and fireworks.

This is just common sense. Alcohol and things that explode don’t mix.

Tip #8. Don’t try to force a firework to light.

If there’s a firework that just won’t light, don’t try to relight it after it doesn’t ignite the first time. Give it about twenty minutes, then dunk it in a bucket of water.

Be sure to handle fireworks safely.

Tip #9. Don’t let small children near the sparklers.

Sparklers burn at almost 2000˚F. That’s really hot – hot enough to melt some metals. Small kiddos shouldn’t handle sparklers, and you need to supervise very carefully if there are older kids using them. Set some ground rules for sparkler fun, too – no running, throwing, chasing, etc.

Another note – don’t let the kids pick up the remains of the devices after the show. These could still be flammable or liable to explode.

Tip #10. Make sure you’re respecting all relevant rules and laws.

You need to check and make sure that fireworks are legal in your area. Does your area even allow them?

If your area does allow them, you also have to check about the type of fireworks you set off. What kind of fireworks are allowed? (You should stick to the ones meant for consumers.) Make sure that you use the legal ones, not the illegal ones. Check out the rules and laws about what fireworks are okay and which are not. And for the ones that are not – steer clear. Do not use.

There may also be also certain restrictions on where you can set off fireworks and what time of day. Make sure you check those out. Also keep in mind that your specific neighborhood or city could have its own ordinances about fireworks, so don’t ignore those.

Bonus: Tip #11. Think about your pets.

If you’re going to have a show near your home, make sure you keep your pets safe. The loud noises could scare them, so make sure that they’re comfortable in an interior room of your house. Don’t bring pets to the display. They don’t understand why things are suddenly going boom, so they might not like it too much. You don’t want them to run away because they get spooked.

Don't forget that your pets might get scared because of the fireworks.

Bottom line: fireworks are dangerous.

Stay safe while you celebrate the Fourth of July, and take extra care if your patriotic plans involve a firework display. It might be best to leave the pyrotechnics to the professionals. Plus, it’s a lot less work to kick back and enjoy the show rather than putting it on yourself!

Sources:

http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/fireworks.html

https://www.cpsc.gov/Safety-Education/Safety-Education-Centers/Fireworks

Part Two – How to choose a tree removal company in Atlanta

Every spring, you might have tree cutters drive through your neighborhood. A guy might jump out and point out dead trees and then offer a good deal to take them down right away. You might wonder how they can afford to do it so cheaply. In Part Two of our article on how to choose a tree removal service, Bob Delbridge of 404-CUT-TREE gives us the answer.

Tree removal isn't easy.

In Part One of our article, we discussed the benefits of hiring an arborist. We also talked about how to find a tree service you can trust and the benefits of talking to a tree service before buying your next house. In Part Two, we’ll discuss the importance of making sure the tree removal company has both general liability insurance and workers’ comp insurance.

Why does a tree removal contractor need proper general liability insurance?

Tree contractors that don’t carry insurance can quote a cheaper price to remove your tree than the insured competition. So, Bob warned us that you need to make sure that the tree contractor is properly insured before letting them work on your tree.

There are two kinds of insurance that you should look for. The first is general liability.

Bob told us, “First, you need to see proof of liability insurance. It’s very easy for a tree to fall the wrong way and hit your car or house, or for a branch to crash through your window or ceiling. But many tree guys don’t carry insurance. Remember, your home insurance policy and umbrella policy will NOT cover you for damages incurred from an uninsured tree cutter you hired.”

Make sure that your tree removal company is properly insured.

Bob went on to talk about his experience. “I would guess that less than 30% of the prospects I give tree removal estimates ask if I’m insured,” he said. “Even worse, only about 10% of those actually check up on it to see if it’s valid. That means that about only 3% of homeowners are checking if tree cutting services are insured or not.”

But is checking if they have insurance enough?

Bob told us, “There are different quality standards of insurance carriers. There are A, B and C carriers. The A carriers are the healthiest insurance companies. If you’re hiring a contractor, then you need to check out the quality of the insurance they have. A C-rated insurance carrier will have cheaper tree-cutting insurance. An A-rated carrier is well capitalized and will be able to pay on big claims. Don’t be a statistic. First, ask for proof of insurance. Then call the insurance company to prove it to yourself.”

Why does the homeowner need to make sure that the company has workers’ compensation coverage?

Bob had an interesting take on this question. By Georgia law, a company isn’t required to have workers’ comp insurance if they have less than three employees. This means that many of the small tree cutting services in Atlanta may not have workers’ comp.

Should you be concerned? If it’s not required by law and all…

Does your tree removal company have workers' comp insurance?

Okay, let’s paint a scenario.

You hire a tree guy with the lowest price. They are lower in part because they may not have workers’ comp insurance. You feel good because you got a good deal on cutting your tree down. However, while taking down the tree, there’s a terrible accident. The tree cutter’s assistant is killed.

Here’s what happens next.

“The injured party or the family of the deceased may hire a lawyer, and they go after the employer,” Bob said. Unfortunately, the tree service in our example doesn’t have workers’ comp. Who will pay for the lost wages and medical bills of the deceased assistant, plus pain and suffering? Guess what the lawyer goes after next?  The assets of the employer. But what if the employer doesn’t have enough assets to cover a million-dollar claim?

Bob told us, “The lawyer may look to go after the assets of the homeowner.”

We asked Bob if this has happened here in Georgia. “Yes. In Georgia, a case can be made that the homeowner is the employer of last resort.” He then told me about an incident where the homeowner was sued for lost wages since the contractor’s helper died. The poor woman wound up losing her house.

Couldn’t the homeowner fight that case? “Sadly, lawyers tell me that it may cost anywhere from $25k to $50k to defend yourself in a case like this,” Bob said. As you can imagine, that money alone could bankrupt many people. “I always suggest hiring a company that has workers’ compensation insurance. By the way, this is for any kind of contractor you may hire. Please don’t limit this to tree cutters only.”

So, the advice here is to select a tree service that has workers’ compensation coverage. By the way, if you’re willing to take your chances to get a cheaper price, keep this in mind that arborists do a very dangerous job and so have a higher fatality rate than most other professions.

 

 

We hope you have found this series on selecting the best arborist and tree removal service in Atlanta to be helpful, and again we want to thank Bob Delbridge of 404-CUT-TREE. If you have a question for Bob he can be reached at his website. Remember, we at Atlanta Insurance want you to be educated so that you make good financial decisions for yourself and your family.

Need car, home, renters, life, or business insurance? Great! We can help with that. To get a free quote for the type of insurance you’re looking for, all you have to do is fill out our quote form or give us a call today!

Part One – How to choose a tree removal company in Atlanta

Millions of dollars are spent every year in repairing homes that are damaged by trees after storms or heavy rains. Dead or rotting trees are dangerous because they can fall and seriously injure or even kill someone. Georgia’s got a lot of trees, and many Georgians have a dangerous tree in their yard right now.

Not all tree removal companies are the same.

In this two-part article, we interviewed Bob Delbridge of 404-CUT-TREE of Atlanta. Bob had some great tips for hiring a tree removal service. He also pointed out some situations in which you should hire a tree removal service that you might not have thought about before.

Today, we’ll tackle the following topics:

  • Why it’s important that the company has arborists
  • Why you should talk to a tree removal company before you buy your next house
  • How you can find a tree removal company you can trust

Bob was in a corporate sales and marketing career for 25 years, but at age 50 he knew he wanted to do something else, so he started a new business. “Looking out the window, I saw all of the trees we have in Atlanta,” he said. “I realized that people will always need help with their trees. I found and bought a small tree company that was for sale. We’ve now been in business for 15 years.”

What are some questions that a homeowner should ask before choosing a tree removal service in Atlanta?

Bob’s first suggestion was to ask them if they have arborists that will cut the tree down.

Back up a second – what’s an arborist? “Theoretically, anyone that cuts down a tree is an arborist,” Bob said. “Certified arborists have three years of experience in the field working with trees. They also take a tough national exam. Very few arborists are actually certified. Learning about trees never ends. So, certified arborists have to take several hours of continuing education each year, just like a CPA does.”

Bob continued, “However, from the viewpoint of an arborist, there is a huge difference between a tree cutter and an arborist. A tree cutter’s first thought is, ‘How can I cut this tree down?’ On the other hand, an arborist’s first question is, ‘How can I save this tree?’”

Bob said, “Two or three times a week our team will give an estimate to cut a tree down and will ask the question, ‘Would you like to save the tree?’ The client stops and says, ‘What do you mean? Do you mean I can save it? I have had two quotes already and no one else told me I could save the tree.’ We then go ahead and tell the client that for only $250 we can treat the tree and the odds are very good that we can save it.”

Ask if your tree removal company can save the tree.

So, be sure that the tree cutters that will be working on your yard are arborists. Ask if there’s anything they can do to save the tree if that’s what you’d like to do.

Why should you talk to a tree removal company BEFORE buying your next house?

Bob said the best advice he can give Atlanta home buyers is to look before you buy. “Did you know that home inspectors are not trained to see if trees are healthy?” he asked. “Can you imagine buying a home with many dangerous dead trees on the property? That happened to a young couple that called us. They just bought a house and wanted help with a few dead trees in the yard. How surprised they were when we pointed out fifty dead trees in their yard instead.”

They asked for help, but it was too late. These trees were a hazard and needed to come down. This oversight wound up costing them $12,000. That’s an expensive price to pay for a house that you just purchased.

Tree removal can get expensive!

We asked if it’s still necessary to contact an arborist before buying the property if there’s only one dead tree. Bob answered, “Yes, it’s still a good idea. For example, one time there was a dead tree that cost $15,000 to remove.”

Ooof! We asked Bob how on earth it could cost $15,000 to remove one dead tree.

“The $15,000 tree removal required a huge crane to be brought in to manage it,” Bob explained. “Many of Atlanta’s small postage-stamp-sized yards don’t have a way to safely take a tree down. Now you can see why we suggest calling an arborist before you buy the home.”

By the way, Bob told us that it only costs $75 to have a tree professional look at the home you’re thinking of buying. $75 seems worth it for peace of mind.

The lesson? Find a trustworthy tree professional. Then be sure to include them in your home purchase decision.

How can a homeowner find a tree service they can trust?

“The old saying “buyer beware” applies to all purchases,” Bob said. “This includes hiring a tree-cutting service. First, recognize that you are not an expert. Unfortunately, there are many ways for a tree contractor to pull the wool over your eyes. It comes down to character and integrity.”

That’s great – but how can we tell that a company has a character and integrity?

“The best way is to talk to their past clients,” Bob said. “For example, some of my clients have hired me five or six times over the last 15 years. You want to talk to repeat customers. That tells you a lot about a tree company. For example, our motto is, ‘We want to be the tree company you would refer to your mother.’”

Why chose this motto? “Many of the referrals we get are for parents and older family members. They happen to trust and often do not get two or three estimates to compare. This means our clients are counting on us to take care of their family members,” Bob said.

“Now when I first bought the company I didn’t know the tree business yet,” Bob explained. “I hired a bunch of hotshot salespeople to work for me. They were overcharging customers to get bigger commission checks. This didn’t go over well with me since we wanted to be the tree company people referred their mother to.”

So, what did Bob do? “We came up with the idea of doing Job Cost Reports for every job,” Bob said. “If we make more money on the job than we thought we would, we send the client a refund check. This prevents the sales team from overcharging. Each month, we write anywhere from two to ten refund checks. They average anywhere from $25 to several hundred dollars each.”

The biggest refund check Bob’s ever mailed out? “The biggest refund check we mailed out was for $1,500. The funny thing is that I sold the job! The lady called me and asked if I made a mistake because she just got a check from us for $1,500. She told me she couldn’t believe it and would be telling everyone on her tennis team about us.”

If you can, talk to past customers of the tree removal company.

So, the lesson here is to talk to past customers. You want a tree company that has both character and integrity to work with, don’t you? Trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, then keep looking for a tree removal contractor you can trust. We also suggest looking at online reviews. These, however, don’t replace talking to real customers.

We hope you’ve found this article on how to choose a tree removal service to be helpful! Special thanks to Bob Delbridge of 404-CUT-TREE for his time and advice. In Part Two of this article, we’ll discuss the types of insurance that a tree removal service should carry. Thanks for visiting Atlanta Insurance!

Need home insurance? We can help you build a home insurance policy that’s specially tailored to your needs and risks. We’ll get you a free quote, too – all you have to do is fill out our quote form or give us a call today. 

Can a drop in your credit score hurt your home insurance rates?

Your credit score has an effect on your home insurance rates.

Your credit score has an effect on your home insurance rates.

Everyone knows that filing claims can cause your homeowner rates to go up. But the latest news shows that your bill paying habits (and your credit score) could work against you too.

You probably know that your credit score can affect your mortgage rates, right? The better your credit score, the better the mortgage rate that you can qualify for. But what about your home insurance rates? You might want to hold onto your hat.

The latest reports show that paying your credit card bills late can hurt you when it’s time to renew that home insurance policy next year. While you might wonder what your credit score has to do with your insurance rates, underwriters tend to think it’s pretty important. In fact, the industry will often use a credit-based score to calculate your rates. That means that you level of debt and your late payment history count. Bottom line: paying those credit cards late will hurt you insurance-wise.

How much are late credit card payments costing you?

Are you the type of person that pays your bills on time? Well, that’s good! You’ll be rewarded. But if you struggle to pay your credit cards on time, that’ll be reflected in the rates that you pay annually.

Let’s find out what kind of an effect a drop in your credit score can have on your insurance rates. The latest study from Insurancequotes.com tells us that a drop from an “Excellent” to a “Fair” credit score can cause a 36% increase in your premiums. Yikes! And that’s just the “Fair” rating. What about a “Poor” credit score? Prepare for an average increase of 114% on your premiums. That’s more than twice what people with excellent credit will pay.

Now here’s the scary part. Every insurance company is different and every state is different. Some poor folks wish they were only paying 114% more! Depending on your state, you might be paying a stiffer penalty for your low credit rating.

What about here in Atlanta? Drum roll, please…

The same study from Insurancequotes.com shows us that overall, as far as premiums go, Georgia ranks 22nd out of the 50 states. But Georgia currently has 132% higher rates for people with poor credit than for people with excellent credit. So, for example, a person with excellent credit might have a $1,000.00 homeowner’s premium in Atlanta. His neighbor with poor credit would pay a $2,320 premium for the same house next door.

Improving your credit score can help lower your home insurance premiums.

Wait a second, that doesn’t seem fair!

Well, it might seem that way. Insurance companies and lenders make their decisions based on statistics. Since they’re the ones taking the credit risk, they get to make the rules. They point to the fact that the statistics don’t lie. It seems that a homeowner’s credit history helps to predict the likelihood of filing a claim. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t do something to help yourself.

 

How to get lower home insurance quotes.

Remember, every insurance carrier is different. That means you need to shop around! We encourage you to reach out to an independent agency like Atlanta Insurance to get a few quotes to choose from. Why do we suggest an independent agency? Certain agencies are “captive” agencies. In other words, they only work for one insurance company. On the other hand, an independent agency, like Atlanta Insurance, can provide free quotes from many of the top carriers in the nation. This means you have more quotes to choose from.

So, if your homeowners rates have gone up, it means it’s time to shop. Every dollar you save is a dollar earned that can go towards taking care of your family.

How to clean up your credit score and save some money.

If you want to raise your credit score, there are quite a few things that you can do. Doing this proactively will help you next year when it’s time to renew. Here are a few suggestions to protect your credit beginning now:

1. Set a budget.

A budget is a “four-letter word” for many people, yet setting a budget is the key to taking control of your finances and your credit ratings. Some people use the old-fashioned envelope technique. This means setting up an envelope for each of your monthly expenses. Then you pay the envelopes weekly as you get your paycheck. At the end of the month, each envelope will ideally have the money to pay the bill. This means we need to get tough with ourselves.

2. Make your lunch at home.

It’s amazing how many people buy breakfast, lunch, and coffee every day at work. This could easily add to $500 a month on your credit cards. That’s money that could go towards paying the credit card bills. It may not be glamorous, but eat breakfast at home. Make your coffee at home and put it in a thermos to drink with your brown bag lunch. Remember, saving $500 a month is equivalent to saving $6,000 a year. Now that is glamorous!

3. Pay your bills on time.

This requires self-discipline. If you can, use the auto-pay feature so that you pay on time every month. If you can’t, use “auto debit” then set an alarm on your phone to remind you every month when the bills are due.

4. Stop using credit cards.

Just because you have them doesn’t mean that you have to use them. Pay them off one at a time and stick them in a drawer. If you must use them, set a few family rules. For example, in my home, we don’t put anything on the card unless we can pay it off in full by the end of the month. If you have to carry a balance, keep it minimal.

Paying credit card bills late can hurt your credit score.

5. Consumer credit counseling.

Talk to a credit specialist to set up a plan that will help you to raise your credit score. There’s no shame in asking for some help to figure out your finances.

Some final encouragement.

Nothing worthwhile is ever easy at first. So stay focused on the prize. Raising your credit score could cut your home insurance rates up to 50%. It will also allow you to get lower interest rates on your credit cards and for any future mortgages. This will save you many thousands of dollars over the life of the loan.

Hang in there, Atlanta. Set a budget. Reach out to a consumer credit counselor. Then contact your local Atlanta Insurance agent to get you affordable home insurance quotes to choose from.

If you’d like to get a free quote for your home insurance, let us know! Fill out our quote form or give us a call and we’d be happy to help you build an insurance plan that’s specifically designed for your family. 

Part Two – How to choose a landscaping company in Atlanta

It's important to choose the right landscaping company to work on your lawn.

Avoid landscaping contractors that cut corners instead of grass

It's important to choose the right landscaping company to work on your lawn.

If you’re ready to create your backyard oasis let’s dig right into today’s article about choosing a landscaping company!

In Part One of this series, we shared the benefits of hiring a horticulturist to do your landscaping. We also talked about the importance of finding someone that cares about your yard as if it was their own.

In Part 2, we’ll discuss some consumer education tips to make sure you actually get what you pay for. Brooks Hutcheson of Hutcheson Horticultural discussed the following helpful questions to ask a potential landscaping company with us.

  • What are some common ways lawn maintenance companies cut corners when spraying for weeds?
  • How do some landscapers cut corners with mulch and pine straw?
  • What should you look for after they mow your lawn?
  • Do they send the same crew out every time?
  • Are the workers happy with their job?
  • Do they have landscapers’ insurance for their business?
  • How can you keep broken windows from happening?

What are some common ways that landscapers might try to cut corners without the homeowner knowing about it?

Spraying for weeds

 “Let’s say you hire someone to manage your weeds so you have a green lawn,” Brooks said. “This is a trick that some lawn guys use to cut corners. They will spray a broad application weed killer for your yard. Then they tell you all the weeds will be dead in a few days. Now this will kill some weeds…but not all of them. So, you’re stuck with these mysterious weeds that never die even though they ‘sprayed’ them.”

The lesson? Different weeds may require different weed killers to do the job. Check your contract. If it merely states they will be applying a “broad application” weed killer, it may not be enough. As a reminder, keep your pets indoors and make sure no one walks barefoot in the grass for 24 hours – these pesticides are very toxic.

Pine straw and mulch

“Let’s say you get a bid for a landscaping company to spread pine straw and mulch in your yard,” Brooks continued. “First, make sure they specify in the contract how many bales of pine straw and how many cubic yards of mulch you will need. So, for example, let’s say they give you an estimate for 30 bales of pine straw. To cut corners they may only install 25 bales instead. It’s the same with the mulch. Perhaps they told you it would take 5 cubic yards, but they only install 3 instead. This happens often, unfortunately.”

 How would a landscaping company get away with this? “They’ll install the ground cover thick in the front where you’ll see it,” Brooks explained. “However, they’ll lay it thin in the corners and in the shade where you’re most likely not going to look. By the way, the industry standard for mulch is laying it three inches deep.”

Mulch is one way a landscaping company might try to cut corners.

The lesson? Make sure your contract clearly states how many bales of pine straw and cubic feet of mulch you will be receiving. Make sure it also lists that the mulch will be installed three inches thick. Then take your ruler and go measure in the corners!

Mowing your lawn.

 Any tips for knowing if a lawn crew is doing a good job? “Watch the workers as they do your lawn,” Brooks said. “When they’re done, does it look like they flew through your yard so they could get to the next job? Or do they care enough to take care of the little details?”

Here are a few telltale signs to look for:

  • Are there lawn clippings everywhere?
  • After they mowed, do you see lines of grass that they missed?
  • What about against the fence, stairs, and in the corners where the lawn mower can’t reach? Did someone go back with a weed whacker to clean up?
  • Did they blow your lawn out so that it looks manicured?

Do they send the same crew out every time?

 We asked Brooks why it’s important that they send the same crew every time. He shared, “Think about this. Instead of having new people that do things inconsistently and have to learn your lawn when they come, we provide the same crew for you every time. This way they know your yard. You explain how you want it only once. Then they’ll do it like you like it every time. Simple, but the customers LOVE it.”

The lesson? You know how many people like to have the same barber or hair stylist do their hair every time to make sure that it looks its best? Why not have the same lawn crew work on your lawn every week too? Just like with your hair stylist, insist on getting the same lawn maintenance crew that understands your yard.

Are the workers happy with their jobs?

 Brooks added this bit of wisdom about choosing a landscaping company: “Would you rather have grumpy lawn guys or people that love their job working on your lawn? Happy workers take pride in their work… AND your yard. On the other hand, disgruntled employees complain about their boss to the clients. This is bad business. Instead, you want lawn maintenance crews that love their jobs. This tells you that their company takes care of them and appreciates them. Why should you care? Because it’s reflected in how they treat you as the customer and how they care about your yard.”

Make sure your landscaping company has proper insurance.

Do they have landscapers’ insurance for their business?

It only takes a push mower and a pick-up truck to start mowing lawns in your neighborhood. Unfortunately, many of these hard-working guys are handing flyers out without having any insurance. How can you protect yourself? “Look to work with a lawn service with an LLC or a Corp listed as part of their business name,” Brooks said. “By law, they need liability insurance. Ask for a copy of their certificate of insurance. It should be kept on file. Keep this handy in case there’s an accident.”

What kind of accident can you have mowing lawns? “Lawn mowers are famous for picking up rocks and shooting them out at a hundred miles an hour,” Brooks said. “This can easily break a window in your home. They also can crack your car’s windshield or dent your car door. If they have insurance, you can call them and make a claim. Most landscapers will gladly pay for things like that out of pocket to avoid their rates going up.”

Lawn mowers are actually very dangerous. In one recent year, over 83,000 people – many of them children – were sent to the emergency room because of them. Sadly 75 people die a year in lawn mower accidents. This doesn’t even include the number of people that have a foot or arm amputated.

The lesson? Ask to see proof of insurance. Make sure it’s up to date. Keep your children indoors while workers are working on your yard.

How do you keep broken windows from happening?

 “It starts with caring about the customer,” Brooks said. “For example, every lawn mower has a side that it shoots the lawn clippings out of. We educate our staff to point this away from the house and cars. We also train our workers to do the same with leaf blowers. Here’s another pet peeve of mine: train your workers to watch for traffic. Let’s say your next door neighbor just washed their car and is heading home. If the lawn guys are blowing dirt, clippings, and leaves into the street they dirty your neighbor’s car. It’s bad for him, bad for you, and bad for business.”

Take the time to choose your landscaping company carefully.

Brooks’s last piece of advice? “When interviewing landscapers, go with your GUT! Don’t shop by price alone. What kind of feeling do you have about the company? Remember you want a company that cares for your yard like it’s their own.”

Thanks again to Brooks of Hutcheson Horticultural. If you have a question for Brooks feel free to reach out to him on his website here. We hope you found these tips on how to choosing a landscaping company helpful. You work hard for a living. You deserve a beautiful backyard that you can spend hours relaxing in with friends and family. Choose a landscaping company that will design a horticulturally sound yard that will give you years of pleasure.

Want to talk about home insurance and get a free quote? Great! Fill out our quote form or give us a call today and we’ll help you build an insurance plan that will protect your family.

Part One – How to choose a landscaping company in Atlanta

If you’re looking to choose a landscaping company to turn your yard into your own personal Garden of Eden, then you’ll enjoy today’s article! We interviewed Brooks Hutcheson of Hutcheson Horticultural in Woodstock, GA for this two-part article. He’s going to share lots of great tips to help you find the ideal landscaping company.

In Part One of this article, we’ll talk about what a horticulturist is and why you want one to work on your lawn. We’ll also talk about some of the things you should look at before hiring a landscaping company.

Brooks explained that Hutcheson Horticultural is a family business. “My dad is a horticulturist that started a landscaping business,” he said. “It gives us an edge. How many landscaping companies do you know that have a university-trained horticulturist on staff? I grew up helping my dad with the business. When I got out of college, Dad offered me a job. Today I am the client relationship manager. One day I’ll run the company. I love this business – and I’m in it to win it!”

What is a horticulturist and why should you want one working on your yard?

That may be a new word for some of us. Basically, horticulture is the science of growing plants. It also includes the study of plants and landscape/garden design and maintenance.

In other words, not all landscapers are horticulturists. It requires getting a bachelor’s degree, having several years of work experience, and successfully passing a state licensing exam.

How does having a horticulturist on a landscaping team make a difference? Brooks told us, “We’re horticulturally sound. What does that mean? It means that some landscapers plan things on how they will look in your yard. It sounds good in theory. However, it often causes problems.”

On the other hand, when a landscaper designs things that are horticulturally sound they take the following questions into account:

  • What’s the pH of your soil like? Do you have chronic lawn issues? Have your soil tested. A horticulturist will pinpoint your soil’s pH level and identify any missing nutrients. They’ll also prescribe the best course of treatment, for example spreading limestone if the soil is acidic or sulfur if it’s overly alkaline.
  • Is your soil too compacted?
  • Do you have drainage issues?
  • Is there the right amount of sun or too much sun?
  • Is there too much shade? Shade-loving plants seek the shelter provided by nearby trees. In turn, these plants protect the forest floor from erosion with their thick tangle of shallow roots.
  • Will the chosen plants actually be able to grow and thrive in your yard?
  • Will the different plants be able the thrive side-by-side?
  • Do you have a vegetable garden? Which vegetables thrive when planted next to each other? Which vegetables suffer when you plant them too close to each other?
  • How close should your vegetable garden be to your flower garden? For example, did you know that beans and potatoes do poorly when planted too close to sunflowers?
  • How much mulch should you put around the trees? Here’s a tip: Sometimes people pile the mulch so thick around the tree they create mulch volcanoes that will slowly kill the tree.
  • When is it the right time and wrong time to prune your trees and bushes?

If you’re going to spend money on sod, shrubs, plants, bushes, and trees, you might as well hire a landscaper that’s a horticulturist to make sure that your lawn and garden are designed to thrive.

What are some things a person should look for before hiring a landscaping company?

“Look for someone that loves what they do!” Brooks said. “If they love landscaping like we do, it’ll come across when they work on your backyard. When we bid a job, we treat the project like it’s our own landscaping project. In other words, we never cheat customers by cutting corners. We always look for ways to give more than we were asked to do.”

How do you find someone that loves their job to work on your yard? “Ask for referrals from friends, family, and colleagues,” Brooks suggested. “Landscaping is one of those services where you want a reference from someone that you know and trust. In fact, word of mouth is the biggest way we’ve grown our business. You want to ask them not only about the work [the company] did for them… But how much did [the landscaper] care about them?”

“This goes back to giving more than you are under contract to do,” Brooks added. “For example, we have a big HOA contract here in Kennesaw. We are under contract to do 3,000 bales of pine straw two times a year. We also regularly mow many acres of land for them. Now here’s the point: we look for ways to provide value above and beyond what our contract requires. Recently our workers finished earlier than expected. Looking to take advantage of the extra time they had, they cleared out all of the underbrush in the wild space on the client’s property. That’s what you want – someone that goes above and beyond what is expected of them. Someone that cares about the project like it’s their own home.”

How about on-line reviews? Brook told us, “The best place for honest on-line reviews is Google, Angieslist and Home Advisor. In fact, Home Advisor has bulletproof reviews, in my opinion, because they qualify the contractors beforehand. However, I still believe in the importance of talking to referrals face-to-face or on the phone so they can share their story of how much the landscaper cared about them.”

 

And that concludes Part 1 of our series on what to look for in an Atlanta landscaping company! In Part 2 of this series, we’ll discuss the common ways landscapers may cut corners on your project. We look forward to seeing what Brooks of Hutcheson Horticultural has to say on this!

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