It is likely that you will want to have some professional help for many home improvement projects. The experts can help you solve design problems, make sure you satisfy the requirements of the building regulations and stop you falling foul of your local government planning committee. They can also organize and manage large scale projects in a way that no home owner with a frill-rime jog could hope to do. Which experts you call in and what you get them to do for you depends on the project concerned.
You are most likely to call on the services of an architect or a building surveyor if you are building a home extension, converting a loft (attic) or carrying out major internal alterations to your house. Apart from that, many jobs around the home, such as replacing tiles on the roof, can be done safely and thoroughly by the home owner. If major repairs or renovation work is needed however, it is always worth obtaining a quote train a contractor before starting the project yourself.
While waiting for government approval, get renders(bids) for the work from contractors, prepare contracts, devise work schedules and supervise work on site. Architects and surveyors will usually charge a percentage of the project cost as their fee.
If you are planning a loft (attic) conversion, a conservatory, replacement windows, or a kitchen or bathroom refit, you can call in firms who specialize in each of these areas. Since each may offer a complete package, from computer aided design to completion, they may be very tempting to employ. However, this area is very much one of ‘buyer beware’. If you decide to use this route, try to find a firm that either comes with a personal recommendation or is prepared to put you in touch with several satisfied customers. Read the contract offered by the firm in detail, querying any unclear terms and, above all, do not part with any money in advance.
Calling in professional help with your home improvements raises a few questions, since you are effectively handing over the work to a third party. You need to keep control over the job to ensure you get the results you want. If you need contractors to carry out the work for you, decide first of all whether you want a main contractor to run the entire project and bring in his or her own specialist subcontractors, rooters, plasterers, plumbers, electricians and so on, for individual parts of the job.
The alternative is to employ those sub-contractors yourself for the parts of the job that are beyond your abilities. As always, the best way of finding contractors and subcontractors is by personal recommendation. If you are employing an architect on your project, he or she may be able to recommend firms in your area.
Other ways of finding contractors include local newspaper advertisements, telephone directories and trade associations, which will send lists of their members working in your area. One last method involves looking round your area for houses where projects similar to yours are being carried out. Knock at the door and ask the owner how the work is going; people cannot resist discussing things if they are going well.
What a home improvement project will cost is of prime importance to every householder. If you are doing the job yourself, make contact with all the relevant local trade suppliers builders and other specialist merchants, plus second hand outlets such as salvage yards, and explain to them what you are doing and what your requirements are. Some projects will be easier to price than others, but suppliers will generally be eager to help you estimate costs if there is an order in it for them.
Don’t forget about hire (rental) shops for the equipment not included in your do-it-yourself toolkit. It is also worth hiring (or even better, buying) heavy duty versions of your existing power tools, which are likely to be burnt out by the sort of use they will get on a major improvement project. If you are employing an architect, he or she will be responsible for obtaining costs for the job. If you are putting the entire job in the hands of builders, they will be responsible for pricing the job and for buying all the materials.
Never employ any contractors on a home-improvement project without a contract, however simple. This will give both parties a clear description of what the job involves and who is responsible for what. Above all, it will give each party the protection of the law if the other breaks its terms. A simple job probably needs no more than a letter of agreement. This should include a description of the work to be done, the price, the agreed starting and finishing dates and details of how payments will be made. On more complex jobs, a contractor’s derailed quotation plus your signature will constitute a valid contract. A builder will save you the trouble of hiring specialist equipment unlikely to be found in many a home owner’s toolkit.