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Home Improvement Guide 2007
Get ready
Before starting any home improvement project, research and planning is the key to successful results.
Hiring a professional

Sometimes during a home improvement project, even the most dedicated do-it-yourself types can find themselves in over their heads.

In fact, unless you work frequently in "the trades" -- carpentry, plumbing, heating/ventilation/air conditioning or residential electrical -- you will probably find there are some aspects of complex jobs, such as a complete bathroom remodel or room addition, that you don't feel comfortable doing yourself.

That's where a construction tradesperson comes in. These licensed professionals are trained to complete your job on time, in compliance with local building codes and within your budget. In addition, they bring a wealth of intangibles, including knowledge of fixtures, materials and cost-saving techniques that can save you money and headaches in the long run.

What type of tradesperson do you need? Generally speaking, if your project requires structural changes to your home (removing or adding walls, roofing, foundation, etc.), you're going to need a licensed remodeling tradesperson with the appropriate skills. You may want to narrow your search to those who specialize in specific type of remodels, such as bathrooms or kitchens.

If your project does not require structural changes, an electrician, plumber or HVAC tradesperson will usually suffice. If it's a major addition involving several trades, you'll likely hire a general contractor, ideally a remodeling specialist, who typically brings in subcontractors (or "subs") to handle the electrical, plumbing, HVAC, flooring and other elements of the job.

Finding Mr. or Ms. Right
How do you find a good tradesperson?

Forget the Yellow Pages; a good place to start is through referrals from satisfied customers in your area, including family, friends and neighbors.

Jan Burchett, executive director of the Kansas City Chapter of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, says nearly half of all remodeling contracts come through referral, while another 22 percent come directly from word of mouth.

"The biggest reality in this industry is we're in the top five complaints nationwide because we're an industry that is full of part-timers, fly-by-nighters and uninsured people," she says. "Unfortunately, anyone who picks up a hammer thinks they can remodel, and there is a world of difference between hammering a nail in a wall and building a room addition or gutting a kitchen and starting it from scratch."

-- Posted: April 4, 2007
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