Generator for Storms

Got a New Generator?

You felt pretty lucky when you scored a generator prior to the storm this year.  And it worked pretty well, didn’t it? You plugged in a couple of extension cords, kept the refrigerator humming and got to watch TV.

Unless you are knowledgeable about using machines like this, and the electrical load you can safely conduct through various sizes and lengths of extension cords, you may be a lot luckier than you imagine.

If you connected your generator directly into your home, and didn’t have a licensed electrician make the connections with proper equipment, according to the National Electrical code, now is the time to call a licensed electrical company.   Your operating generator could injure or kill a nearby power company worker, if proper electrical equipment is not in place, when they are working night and day to restore your electricity.   You can also have a fried generator when the power comes back on, in the absence of that equipment.  Electrical work is serious and not a job for amateurs.

Now take a look at the extension cords you used, are they grounded?  That means they have three prongs on each end; two are blade-like while the third one is round.  If they don’t have all three of these, you don’t want to use them again; ungrounded extension cords are dangerous.  The second thing to ascertain is the gauge of wire inside your cord.  The heavier the gauge or thickness of wire in an extension cord, the farther they can safely and effectively carry an electrical load.   If you use a small gauge extension cord, you can have voltage drop.  This means your refrigerator is running, but not well, because it’s not getting the power it needs, which can put significant wear on it; the same with other devices.

Where did you run the generator?  It must be outside and not in your garage, even with the door open.  The manufacturer paid experts to provide information on safe operation of the generator.  Now that your power is restored, take a few minutes to re-read those instructions. If you put it in a carport or screened porch, you will see that’s a no-no.  Carbon dioxide (CO2), the gas produced by running your generator, is colorless, odorless, heavier than air and responsible for many deaths every year.  It also displaces oxygen in a confined area, so you absolutely must operate the generator outside.  If yours is not supposed to be out in the rain, just wait until the rain stops, instead of compromising your family’s safety

I’ve had a small generator more than twenty years, so here are a few suggestions.

Buy non-ethanol gasoline and use a preservative additive.  Small engines like your generator, outboard motors, and chain saws, don’t operate well in the long run, with normal gas that has ethanol.  A preservative, like the brand Stabil, will allow you to have useable gas much longer than if you don’t add it.

Finally, make a note in your calendar to crank up your generator once a month for 10 minutes or so.  If you don’t do that, when something like Tropical Storm Faye comes along, you’ll be in the dog house when your neighbor’s generators are humming and yours won’t.  I speak from experience; that was me in the dog house during and after Tropical Storm Faye.

Risky Business

Risky Business – Hiring anyone to work on your place.

I originally titled this Risky Business-Hiring After the Storm, and wrote it for the Tallahassee Democrat after Hurricane Hermine, in September 2016. Actually, it applies to any person you ever hire to work on your property.


It’s happening again; it always does when a big weather event strikes somewhere. Someone, perhaps your neighbor, your friends or maybe your parents are agreeing to do business with someone who isn’t licensed and insured for the work needed. What are the clues?

They want to get paid in advance and are asking for at least 50% of the money up front. Don’t pay it. Legitimate companies don’t ask for that much up front.

They say, “You can save a lot of money, if you pull the permit yourself.”

That is a huge red flag; because no real contractor licensed by the State of Florida, would ever ask a client to obtain a permit. It means they don’t have a license and/or the insurance required to be a contractor, in this state. They may not have either one.

But, we all want to save money, right? So, what’s the risk?

You may have to pay someone legitimate to fix poor work, but that’s not the biggest risk. Do these people actually know how to do the work? If they flood your home when they cut a water line or cause a fire with faulty wiring, who will pay for to clean up the mess and repair your home?

Before we discuss more about contractors, please understand this: no one who does work on your home, can do so without a license, whether it’s a roofer, plumber, or general contractor. is the website to go to and check out anyone’s license. Anyone can print a business card, but no one shows up at unless they really have a valid license.

Trees a problem? Let’s put this in all caps; ANYONE who is going to work on your property, not just your house, must have the proper insurance. Anyone doing anything for money, needs to have Liability and Workers Compensation Insurance, valid in Florida, to protect you. PERIOD. That Mississippi guy may have great insurance, it just doesn’t extend across state lines.

And this, insurance or lack of valid, enforceable insurance, is where your biggest risk is when you hire those unlicensed and uninsured frauds.

State law says a valid workers compensation policy provides protection from being sued for all medical costs and loss of wages, by workers injured while working on your home. If they’re not covered by workers compensation, the injured worker can sue you to pay for all the injury related costs. Don’t think they are smart enough to sue you? Maybe not, but the hospital’s insurance is going to send a very sharp investigator to find someone who can pay all those medical costs associated with the concussion, broken bones, surgery, rehabilitation and wage replacement which that worker’s injuries racked up. Someone has to pay beside them, and that someone will be YOU, the homeowner.

Liability insurance covers your home, car and other property from damages caused by a company and their workers. So if the tree company you hired successfully avoids your home with that tree, but wipes out your carport with your 3 motorcycles, a generator and your tractor in it, when the tree doesn’t cooperate, you won’t pay to replace all of it out of your pocket, if they have the liability insurance to protect you.

So your biggest risk is hiring someone who doesn’t have up to date Workers Compensation and Liability insurance, valid in the state of Florida.

The biggest red flag, which should alert you, is the low price.

Got several quotations and one is really low? Didn’t your parents tell you if something seems too good to be true, it probably is?

One of the reasons why the price was too low is because someone isn’t paying workers compensation and liability insurance premiums, which those legitimate companies are paying.

When someone gives you an insurance certificate, say thank you. Then go somewhere private and call the insurance company and see if their insurance is currently in force. Many policies have monthly premiums; they may have been insured a few months ago, but if they haven’t keep up with the premiums, they aren’t. Which means right now, they have nothing, no insurance, just forms and you’re taking all the risk.

No one in the construction business, or any other business, can buy materials and pay workers and trades for 20-30-40% less than everybody else. If they could, why would they give you All of the savings? Why not just offer you a 10% discount, to get the job, while they make more money?

If you really like gambling, buy a Lotto ticket or go to a casino, but gamblling your home and family isn’t worth the risk.


Kip Carpenter, 2016 Chairman TBA Remodelers Council
Carpenters Construction Co., Inc., 29th Year
Aurora Award Winner 2013 and
2 Remodeler Showcase Awards 2013, 2014 & 2015
Since 2004 Leon’s 1st Certified-Aging-in-Place-Specialist

Painted and Stained Cabinets

Q:  Is there a really good reason to pick one over the other when considering Painted or Stained Cabinets?

A: Having built and remodeled a 100 kitchens or more, and visited hundreds of other existing kitchens, we’ve seen differences in colors, finishes and styles.

We’ve seen white kitchens or very dark stained cabinets be the “In Thing” then seen their popularity fade from fashion, in favor of other options, in cycles.

Here is what we’ve learned and our cabinet trade contractors agree is true.  Painted cabinets, like their stained brethren, all look great when they’re new, but suffer over time to a much greater degree than stained wood.  Paint gets scuffed, scraped and discolored easily and it shows up to a much greater degree on painted ones than those which are stained.  A number of times we’ve had a painter touch up a stained kitchen, which is in good condition, and put a new coat of clear finish on it, with very good results.  You can Never do this with painted cabinets.  They have to be completely repainted.  The paint finish on factory cabinets is far superior to what can be done in the field, because of more controlled factory conditions and the ability to use longer lasting, but toxic materials.  These finishes produce fumes which can’t be released in the atmosphere but in a factory, where fumes are scrubbed, captured and controlled they can be used.  If you ever want to repaint your kitchen later, you certainly can, just don’t expect the new paint finish to last as long as the original.

A medium brown stained cabinet, of which there are hundreds of colors and hues to choose, never goes out of style.  Their finishes look better and hold up longer than their darker stained cousins and any shade of painted cabinets.

We want you to be happy the day your cabinets are installed and for years to come, which is why we offer these observations. We shared this with clients over the years, many of which then installed painted cabinets and that’s fine with us, at least they had the benefit of our experience. Sincerely,


Kip Carpenter, 2016 Chairman TBA Remodelers Council

Carpenters Construction Co., Inc., 29th Year

Aurora Award Winner 2013 and

2 Remodeler Showcase Awards 2013, 2014, 2015 & 2016

Since 2004 Leon’s 1st Certified-Aging-in-Place-Specialist


Remodeler’s Q&A, You do the shell and let me finish it myself

Q:  I would like to have a 20’x60′ workshop-storage building built.  I  just want someone to build a concrete slab with walls and a roof and let me finish the rest myself.  How do I select a builder?  Do I need a set of plans before I contact a builder?  Whose responsibility is it to make sure the building is in compliance with local building codes?

A:  There are so many things involved in this question that can’t be addressed within this space so we’ll just try to speak to a few of the larger issues.
When a builder obtains a permit for any structure, whether a home, office building or a storage building the builder is responsible for ALL of the work, the workers themselves and the workmanship of that project, until the governmental authority issues a certificate of completion or certificate of occupancy.  Therefore, the answer to one of your questions is that the contractor is responsible for adherence to the building codes.  However, one’s license, as a builder, is on the line every time a permit is issued with one’s license number on it.  We count on making a living for our family and the list of others that are depending on us includes our employees and their families and to some extent our subcontractors and suppliers.  When we, as contractor’s, obtain a permit we are required to hire licensed subcontractors for most work.  This includes, but may not be limited to: electrical, plumbing, heat and air conditioning, roofing, septic system, and gas.  To allow an unlicensed person, whether the Owner or any other worker, to work unsupervised, doing what they happen to want to do, while the entire time one’s contractor’s license may hang in the balance, would be foolhardy, not to mention a violation of the license holder’s responsibilities.  Pulling a permit and allowing others to work under that permit without participating in the supervision and construction of that project is called “selling ones license” and is a gross violation of license law.  Recently a prospective client told me he had almost hired another person but the guy told the owner that he should obtain the permits.  If anyone that is supposed to be licensed asks you to “pull the permit” it means they do NOT have a valid license, they do NOT have current insurance to meet the minimum insurance requirements or both.  In short they are not a contractor, they are a fraud.

We always inform prospective clients that without a completed set of plans any discussion of their project is mostly conjecture.  To give just one example, it’s very difficult for me to ask a roof truss designer to commit to a cost for the roof until he can ascertain what he being asked to build.  A completed set of plans includes, at a minimum, a floor plan, elevations, roof plan, foundation plan, electrical plan, site plan and a wall section all drawn to a common scale.  One quarter inch equals one foot is the most commonly used residential scale. (1/4″=1′)  No one knows what you want to build until a set of plans are finished.

At this point you know that you must have a set of plans and that it should be very difficult for you to find a licensed builder that would obtain a permit and let you do a lot of illegal work.  So, what can you do?  State law allows the homeowner to obtain their own permit and act as their own contractor on their own home.  There are a monumental number of pitfalls to being you own contractor that you may wish to consider prior to taking this leap into the unknown, but it is do-able and not as complicated rocket science.  Mostly it involves those guidelines you would use when you hire a professional or make major purchases, meaning for you to be a good consumer.  That means you should be a cautious and well informed consumer that thoroughly checks out anyone before they perform any work.  As contractors we hear that someone is licensed and insured only to find that instead of state licensed, for the trade we are discussing, it turns out they have a driver’s license and car insurance.  Go on line to and check out licenses.  And when someone hands you a copy of their insurance certificate, thank them and then immediately, and before that do any work, call that insurance company and ask for an official copy of that insurance.  An invalid, forged, cancelled or out of date policy is difficult to detect just by looking at a copy, so be judicious and protect yourself.  And remember, just because someone is properly license and reasonably insured doesn’t mean they do even minimally acceptable work.  You wouldn’t buy a $5,000.00 used car without seeing it, driving it and having a mechanic check it out so don’t hire a building contractor, concrete man, painter, carpenter, electrician, etc. without checking out their work.  Check their work, check their references, check their licenses, check their credit and check anything else if you can before you sign a contract.  Always get a written contract so everyone knows exactly what will be done for exactly what price.  No one wants to hear any more stories of someone giving out 50% of the cost of a job to a stranger and getting almost nothing in return before the stranger vanishes, so think long and hard about handing out your money.  At this point it has happened so many times everyone should be aware.



Kip Carpenter, 2016 Chairman TBA Remodelers Council

Carpenters Construction Co., Inc., 29th Year

Aurora Award Winner 2013 and

2 Remodeler Showcase Awards 2013, 2014, 2015 & 2016

Since 2004 Leon’s 1st Certified-Aging-in-Place-Specialist



Open letter to homeowners:

Kip Carpenter changed our lives. He helped me and my wife create a safe, functional and beautiful home where we can age gracefully. We will never forget this transformation as we enjoy his handiwork daily.

Thirty years can go by quickly and even a well maintained residence can become unsafe and uncomfortable. Things wear out. Codes change. Our bodies deteriorate even faster than our house. Things that once worked suddenly stop functioning. The alternatives are simple—live with it, move, or change it. We wanted to change it but were overwhelmed by the scope. Where do we start? What about our pets? Where do we live? How long will it take?

He did the kitchen first. It was a total rip and replace which took just two weeks. There was a dust wall. The refrigerator was in the living room and we ate out for awhile. The kitties napped in the bedroom. We got a beautiful kitchen that works for us and our lifestyle. The previous kitchen just did not work. We ate and ran. The new kitchen is the most relaxing room in the house and we rarely leave. Everything in the room is outstanding and the new GFCI outlets add a new level of safety.

Next we worked on the bathrooms. Mold is a serious problem and it loves a moist place. Our bathroom fans were original to the house. They just moved everything to the attic. Kip replaced the old rattletraps with new units. The new fans exhaust through the roof and use timers so they continue to pull the moisture out even after you leave the room. I call them Whispersuck 2000s because they are so quiet and powerful.

According to the CDC, people over 65 slip and fall at least once a year. Some of these falls are fatal. Our bathrooms were small and had tubs. We knew that a fall in a steel bathtub would be serious. We just did not know what to do. Kip managed to squeeze in a walk in shower for us. We not only got a shower that is easy to access, it even opened up the room. For us, the project was painless. There was a dust wall. It took three weeks. We slept on the sofabed. The kitties napped in the extra bedroom. I recall hearing loud banging one day. The rest of the time things were quietly moving along.

Kip managed the impossible. He understood us and had a vision of what we needed. He gave us detailed estimates. One project came in quite a few dollars below estimate. One came in a few dollars above. The dollar variance on both projects was less than 2%. That is pretty remarkable for construction projects. I wish I was the same low variance on my information technology projects. These projects were affordable and made our house a place we can live for a very long time. Kip took on all the worries of how to do it and how to correct mistakes. Construction requires that the right people install the right stuff according to schedule. Reality intervenes with rainstorms, delays and incorrect products. We led our lives and our kitties napped while Kip solved all the problems.

By every measure, Kip greatly exceeded our expectations. We expected the projects would be more expensive but they were less expensive. We expected the projects would take a long time, but they were finished quickly. We expected to make a few compromises on finished products but we made none.

Our desire was to stay in our home for a long time. These updates allow us to do just that. We are delighted with the results of Kip’s efforts which have updated our house and made it safe.