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Not Doing It Yourself (page 1 of 4)

For all of us, there are tasks for which we need professional help to complete a home improvement project. Whatever help you require, here are some guidelines for hiring professionals.

Excerpted from Do It Yourself Home Improvement

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Finding good tradespeople can be difficult. Seek out help through personal recommendations or through professional organizations, and preferably view their previous work before hiring them. Always insist on a "price." This should be the amount you pay for the job specified — no less and no more. The only reason a price should change is if you alter the specifications of your particular job or if the professional discovers "unforeseen problems." Both should be clearly defined in the contract.

An architect will draw plans required for construction, if you are seeking a building permit, for example. Architects generally charge a flat fee for drawings, and then extra to oversee work being carried out (normally a percentage of the final building bill, ranging from 5 to 25 percent). If the architect is going to oversee work, check what this entails and get it in writing.

Masons and Bricklayers
Bricklayers tend to solely lay bricks and blocks, whereas masons will also build natural stone walls and construct special stone features. Charges for stone and masonry work are normally based on every 1,000 bricks laid, or a lump-sum price for a specific job, such as building a chimney. If you hire a bricklayer, specify the brick type and insist on seeing samples.

Large building companies manage trade contractors to do the work on your behalf. Smaller building companies or general contractors will normally have trade skill sets themselves, such as carpentry or bricklaying, but may also become the project manager for part or all of the work being carried out. The builder may include this cost in the submitted price, or charge a further percentage on top of the final cost. Get this in writing before work starts.

Carpenters and Joiners
Finish carpenters assemble custom-made, wood-based items such as doors and windows, whereas rough carpenters or framers will fit these items into your home, and tackle structural tasks. There are overlaps between the two. A good carpenter can be invaluable in complex tasks, such as calculating complex roof layouts. With a finish carpenter, be clear on specifications for any items that you have commissioned him to make. If he is making custom cabinets, for example, make sure that he specifiesthe type of wood and the finish detail. The difference in quality and price, can vary greatly.

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Excerpted from Do It Yourself Home Improvement

© Dorling Kindersley Limited 2009