Beware of Insulation Scams
When this homeowner paid to get his basement insulated, he was surprised to find his investment was all wet.
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Q: A few years ago we had our basement insulated. Holes were drilled in the cement blocks and white stuff was blown in. I saved some and put water on it. It melts away like cotton candy. I feel as if we just threw $800 away. Is it even legal to use stuff like this and call it insulation? -- J.M., Fredericksburg, Ohio
A: It appears that your investment is all wet. First, concrete blocks are hollow, but the openings inside are offset, making it almost impossible to fill blocks with loose, fill-type insulation. Second, concrete blocks that are below the outside grade absorb moisture from the soil.
From your own experiment you already know the answer to your question. The product cannot be mixed with water and is probably long gone.
Is it legal? You would need to identify the material used (probably an expanding foam), review any contracts or warranties and hire an attorney to contact the contractor, who is probably also long gone.
In the future, if a contractor solicits you or if you hire a contractor you know nothing about, you stand a good chance of losing your investment. It pays to take the time to investigate before you invest. High-pressure sales and scare tactics are the work of unscrupulous companies, and that may be illegal in some states.
Before you sign any contracts or make a deposit, contact the Better Business Bureau in your city. Ask the contractor for references, and contact at least three people on the list. Find out who will be supplying the materials for the work. Contact the supplier to see if the company or contractor is a customer "in good standing."
If your state or community requires a contractor to be licensed, contact the licensing authority to verify the contractor's claims. Finally, ask for proof of insurance and for a release of liens when the work is completed. A reputable contractor will be willing to comply with any reasonable request.
(Dwight Barnett is a certified master inspector with the American Society of Home Inspectors.)
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