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Before hiring a contractor

Advice from the state and the International Hurricane Protection Association:

 Ask for references, and check them.

 Ask when the contractor established the business.

 Ask local suppliers about the contractor's reputation.

 Ask the building department about the contractor's status for pulling permits.

 Don't pay for the entire up up front, and beware of contractors who ask for cash.

 Obtain a release of lien covering all workers and materials before making the final payment.

 Be cautious of writing checks individuals, especially when dealing with a company.

 Ask for everything in writing, including a detailed description of the work to be completed, a completion date and the total cost.

 Don't sign the certificate of completion until you are satisfied with the work and the local building department has approved the work on final inspection and issued a certificate of completion.

 Obtain a current copy of the contractor's insurance documents, including workers' compensation, property damage and liability. Read them carefully,including the fine print.

WHEN CHOOSING SHUTTERS

 If you buy shutters, make sure they meet Miami-Dade County wind-resistance standards; Broward uses the same code. Standards to look for include the SBCCI Test Standard for Determining Impact Resistance from Windborne Debris (SSTD 12-97) or the ASTM Standard Specification for Performance of Exterior Windows, Glazed Curtain Walls, Doors and Storm Shutters Impacted by Windborne Debris in Hurricanes (ASTM E 1996-00).

 When shopping for shutters, ask about the weight gauge or thickness. The greater the thickness (for aluminum), the stronger the shutter. However, don't buy shutters that are too heavy to be installed efficiently before a storm.

 Consider buying shutters for the doors. Be sure to shutter any door containing a substantial amount of glass. In addition, pick one door, such as a side door to the garage, as an entry and exit point for the house. Ideally, that would be a steel door. If you have large attic wall vents, put shutters over them, and don't forget the skylights.

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