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Posts about Home Improvement

On Your Side: Toxic Waste bars happen to be toxic

Posted by: James Eli Shiffer Updated: January 17, 2011 - 9:43 AM

 

 

Call it truth in advertising: An Indianapolis company is recalling all flavors of its Toxic Waste brand Nuclear Sludge Chew Bars because, by golly, they're toxic.

Tests in California show elevated levels of lead, a dangerous neurotoxin, in the candy bars, which are imported by Candy Dynamics from Pakistan. The labels show a 55-gallon drum overflowing with green goo, and a grimacing character in the shape of a mushroom cloud. While there's no lead listed on the label, the other ingredients aren't exactly health foods: the first three are sugar, corn syrup and hydrogenated palm kernel oil.

Announcing the voluntary recall of cherry, sour apple and blue raspberry flavors last week, the Food and Drug Administration notes that other Toxic Waste-branded products are still, apparently, fit for consumption.

Chimney sweep rip-offs

Among the "cold-weather cons" publicized by AARP this month is a warning about chimney sweeps, who may advertise a cheap cleaning and then discover all sorts of costly troubles once they look at your chimney.

If you're told you have to act immediately, be suspicious. If the chimney sweep says there's a carbon monoxide leak, ask for proof from a CO detector. If the sweep says the chimney's crumbling, look for chunks of masonry in the fireplace or outside the house.

AARP advises that a cleaning should cost $150 to $200 and that local fire department and the Chimney Safety Institute of America (317-837-5362) can offer referrals for chimney sweeps.

Discrimination complaints soar

Incidents of workplace discrimination reported to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) hit a record 99,922 in the most recent fiscal year, as claims of retaliation surpassed racial discrimination for the first time.

The EEOC reported last week that its 250 lawsuits and other actions on behalf of victims of discrimination compelled private sector employers to hand over $404 million "to promote inclusive and discrimination-free workplaces."

The agency defines retaliation as an employer's punitive action against a worker who complains about discrimination. Complaints of racial discrimination had previously been the most common category since the EEOC was launched in 1965.

Roofers who follow storms get new rules

Posted by: James Eli Shiffer Updated: September 23, 2010 - 11:02 AM

Roofers tend to flock to neighborhoods after hailstorms and other roof-wrecking weather. Sometimes they offer to take the homeowner’s place in negotiating claims with the insurance company.

Now the state is cracking down on that after complaints from insurers and consumers. A new law makes it illegal for roofers to advertise that they’ll pay a homeowner’s insurance deductible. Another law requires roofers to give a homeowner 72 hours to cancel a contract if an insurer denies the damage claim.

A state bulletin this month advises that roofers need a public adjuster license if they want to negotiate directly with insurers and notes that state law prohibits public adjusters from having any interest in a construction company.

"We received complaints from consumers and the insurance industry regarding language that was now appearing in a small group of contractor’s contracts that in some cases requires payment even in the event that the consumer did not ultimately pick that contractor to do the repairs," said Nicole Garrison-Sprenger, a spokeswoman for the Minnesota Department of Commerce.

Garrison-Sprenger noted that other states, including Iowa, Oklahoma and North Carolina, have taken similar action or issued alerts on this topic.

What has your experience been with roofers who appear after storms?

Would you want this parked in your driveway?

Posted by: Updated: October 26, 2009 - 12:14 PM

By Lora Pabst

The big green Dumpster that sat on Jeff Nelson's property for months will soon have a new home. Its contents will be carted away to the landfill and the late night drop offs should end.

I wrote about Nelson's botched home repair for Sunday's Whistleblower column. Nelson said he was naive to the many protections available for homeowners, including lien waivers. Make sure to read my colleague Jane Friedmann's lien waiver tip box that accompanied the story. You can also click here to read a helpful contractor guide from the state Department of Labor and Industry.

The guide also includes information about the Contractor Recovery Fund, which can assist homeowners who hired a licensed contractor. Jeff Nelson plans to pursue that option, just as soon as the Dumpster is out of his driveway. 

 

 

Must-see TV in Golden Valley - your sewer pipe

Posted by: Updated: October 5, 2009 - 10:17 AM

By James Eli Shiffer

My Sunday column told the tale of Ron Schmidt, who contacted me after the city of Golden Valley told him his sewer pipe allowed outside water to seep in. It's not the first time the Star Tribune has looked into the city's aggressive program for controlling "inflow and infiltration" - the costly phenomenon of rain and groundwater seeping into sanitary sewers. But with 1,800 of the city's 8,000 sewer services having been inspected and 90 percent of them failing their first inspection, the cost to property owners is also becoming clear.

Must-see TV in Golden Valley - your sewer pipe

Posted by: Updated: October 5, 2009 - 10:17 AM

By James Eli Shiffer

My Sunday column told the tale of Ron Schmidt, who contacted me after the city of Golden Valley told him his sewer pipe allowed outside water to seep in. It's not the first time the Star Tribune has looked into the city's aggressive program for controlling "inflow and infiltration" - the costly phenomenon of rain and groundwater seeping into sanitary sewers. But with 1,800 of the city's 8,000 sewer services having been inspected and 90 percent of them failing their first inspection, the cost to property owners is also becoming clear.

      

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