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Not Doing It Yourself (page 4 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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Other Installers
This category includes all those trades and services that offer a product with their own installation service. This can be anything from new windows, to garage doors, blinds, or custom kitchens. Make sure the product you receive is the same as the specification you were sold to avoid problems with your installers. As the number of different installers a project involves increases, more vigilance is required to ensure that the job runs smoothly. Make sure that you specify each installer's individual responsibilities. For example, a company that installs blinds only has to supply what you ordered and use relatively basic skills to install them. A company that offers a custom kitchen installation service needs to supply carpenters, plumbers, electricians, and possibly heating engineers, decorators, and tilers.

Structural Engineers
As their name suggests, structural engineers assess the structural and load-bearing issues of a building and provide specifications. For example, they can calculate requirements for headers and for foundations. They are often consulted by architects when plans are being made, and generally charge a flat fee. Many municipalities require a stamp from structural engineers for new or remodeling jobs and ignorance of this requirement could cost you serious money in fines or replacing work in place.

Payment and Extras
On small jobs, never pay the entire fee up front. It's not uncommon to pay a deposit but be clear on what your recourse is. Pay the full amount only when you are satisfied that work has been completed to specification. On larger projects, it is common to stagger payments through the course of the project. Link these to clear stages, such as the completion of excavation, for example. On large projects, a builder may require some money up front. This acts as a deposit and allows the builder to order and buy materials. The builder usually has a clear "progress schedule" for payments and you should feel comfortable with the requirements. It is standard practice to retain a portion at the end until all work is complete to satisfaction. Any payment in addition to that originally estimated, or quoted, should be backed up by reasoning agreed between both parties, in writing.

Building Permits
As building materials, environmental protection policies, and health and safety standards change, so do planning and building regulations. Local authorities deal with most planning issues under an umbrella of national policy and rules. Further rules apply to listed buildings and conservation areas. If you are considering structural work, always contact the local building department first. They are there to help, not hinder. A quick phone call can often put your mind at rest about what does or does not need a permit. Construction is supervised by an inspector. Again, a quick phone call can often solve many problems. If you are carrying out work, the inspector will often need to check various stages to ensure that regulations are being adhered to. Insulation, ventilation, electrical wiring, water supply, and drainage systems have all recently become more stringently regulated. Use these highly trained professionals as allies. They offer excellent advice and help.

Tradesperson Checklist

  • Always use personal recommendations for tradespeople.
  • Always get estimates or prices put in writing with a detailed job specification.
  • Check that heating, plumbing, and electrical contractors have the required qualifications.
  • Check that any tradesperson has the appropriate insurance.
  • Ask for samples of any materials that will be used, such as bricks, blocks, shingles, or finish material.

Excerpted from Do It Yourself Home Improvement

© Dorling Kindersley Limited 2009

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