October 14th, 2017 11:07 AM by Jackie A. Graves, President
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
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
An electrician will carry out all types of
electrical work, usually for the wiring of outlets, light switches, phones, and
televisions. Most states require electricians to be certified but specific
requirements may vary by county and state jurisdictions. Check with the city
building department about the specific type(s) of required certification and/or
licenses and verify that your electrician meets those requirements.
General flooring companies can tackle any
floor requests, ranging from initial leveling to waxing a hardwood floor, for
example. However, make sure they have the relevant experience in all areas. You
can also employ carpet installers, wooden floor specialists, or floor tilers.
Before a building starts to go up, excavators generally do all the preparatory
work, including digging for foundations and routes for drainage and utilities.
Many are employed by a builder, but some work independently. It can save time
and money to employ an excavator and his equipment for the day to carry out all
of the heavy earth-moving requirements on a project.
Skill and experience in this trade vary greatly. Good laborers are skilled at
helping another trade to finish a job. General laborers will price themselves
based on knowledge and experience, and hourly rates will vary widely. Personal
recommendation is essential.
Painters and Decorators
A good decorator will carry out all aspects of
decorative coatings, including painting, papering, and, in some cases, tiling.
Specialist tilers sometimes tile both walls and floors as a full-time
occupation. Good decorators can provide very-high-quality finishes-a preferable
option when looking to hang expensive wallpaper, for example. Make sure that
the number of coats, type of paint, and general quality of materials is
specified in any painting job. Decorators can be an excellent source of ideas
for new effects and finishes.
Minimal drywall repair is easily done by the
"do-it-yourselfer" but large scale jobs require skill. Pricing for
repair work is usually set according to square footage or estimated time. Check
that the price includes all coats required and whether painting is included.
They may also offer "tacking" services-cutting and fixing drywall
Plumbers and Heating Contractors
There is often an overlap in expertise between
plumbers and heating contractors. When installing, servicing, or maintaining a
gas- or oil-fired furnace, they must have the relevant county and state
certification/licensing. If you do not have experience in working with gas or
propane piping, hire a professional. For general plumbing work such as
installing tubs or toilets, the law is less exacting but most often also
requires state or local licensing. Always find out what is required by your
area before you hire one of these specialty trades.
A general contractor may be the best choice
for project management. He can schedule the job, coordinate the various trades,
and communicate on your behalf with everyone involved in the project. If you
are employing an architect on new building work, it may be best for them to
project-manage. If the size of job warrants a professional project manager, be
certain of their credentials based on proven experience.
Usually, roofers only deal with roof
coverings, such as tiles, shingles, felt, and finishing and any mortar work on
the roof. A carpenter will deal with any structural elements. Large companies
have carpenters working with the roofers. Smaller firms subcontract out structural
carpentry. Roofing bids or prices can be complicated. If weather delays work,
this can have effects such as increasing the price of scaffolding rental. On
large jobs, a roofer may actually scaffold over the top of the house and
provide a waterproof "tent" so that work can continue in most
weather. This increases cost and is only worthwhile on larger jobs. Check
samples of materials, such as tiles and felts, before they are bought and make
sure your choices are specified in writing.
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.
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.
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.
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
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