........The Cajun Contractor, Michael King.........
..................Michael King
...........The Cajun Contractor

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  Call in the Pros

       I thought some folks might need a refresher course in just who does what during a rebuilding project. Even if you are a dye-in-the-wood-do-it-yourselfer, you simply can’t do it all...sometimes you just have to CALL IN THE PROS!

            A general contractor serves as the air-traffic controller of your renovation, overseeing day-to-day work, hiring and coordinating subcontractors and keeping in close touch with you.

            Most contractors specialize in one of three areas: new construction, remodeling, or historic restoration. Licensing requirements vary from state to state. In Louisiana, for example, anyone who supervises construction or demolition must be licensed. In any case, your contractor must meet or exceed state requirements. For state requirements and a list of contractors licensed in Louisiana, go to www.lslbc.louisiana.gov.

            The best way to find a contractor is to ask friends and neighbors for companies they’ve used and liked. If you already have a construction lender, or if you’ve been lucky enough to receive your Road Home money, you might ask you banker about builders who have good track records. If you’re working with an architect, he or she might work regularly with a particular contractor: Local building associations will offer list of members in good standing, or you can get names from the National Association of the Remodeling Industry. Be cautious about Web searches: Some online directories are paid listings.

            Once you have a list of potential contractors, call each one. If a former customer sent you, say so- contractors often respond better to referrals. Some won’t call you back; many will be too busy to do the work or will decline for other reasons, but after this initial sorting, you should have at least four willing to bid.

            My advice is to not simply take the lowest bid. Visit each contractor’s current job site to see how he or she works. Check for quality, neatness and professionalism. Look at tools, materials, even the trailer: You can tell a lot from how a person works by the organization of their trailer.

            A licensed architect develops plans, generates construction drawings and, depending on the terms of the job, supervises the contractor on your project. Professional qualifications usually include a degree from an accredited school of architecture, a three-year internship and passage of a state-administered exam.

            While membership in the American Institute of Architects is not essential, it’s a good sign: Members are required to abide by a strict code of conduct. Architects generally charge an hourly rate or a percentage of the cost of the home construction, or some combination of the two. Specialty designers, such as kitchen and bath pros, can handle smaller projects, but if your renovation involves structural work, an architect is the way to go.

            A certified kitchen or bath designer is just that- someone who specializes in residential kitchen and bath design. To become certified, a professional must have at least seven years of hands-on experience and have passed a series of tests administered by the National Kitchen & Bath Association.

            Some charge design fees which include only the plans; if the designer is also ordering fixtures or supervising the installation, he or she might also charge for the additional services. Most designers can work in a variety of styles, but some prefer to specialize. If you want ultra contemporary, you’re unlikely to get it from someone whose portfolio is mainly Greek Revival.

            Most contractors no longer do everything from framing to finishing flooring. For that, they’ve got a network of subcontractors: plumbers, electricians, painters, roofers, and the like. Subs are paid by the general contractor, who coordinates and signs off on their work.

            If you’re interested in using the services of a particular sub- a tile setter whose work you love for example- you can propose it to the contractor, but he may be reluctant to work with someone he has never worked with before. On a small job, a subcontractor may be all you need. But if you’re doing the hiring yourself be sure to get references and check the prospects thoroughly.

            Landscape designers are experts on soil conditions, plants and hardscaping materials. They typically draft landscaping plans and charge from $40-$100 per hour.

            Landscape architects, on the other hand, hold advanced degrees and are registered with the state. They draw up more detailed plans outlining hardscaping, drainage and structures such as retaining walls. They typically charge up to $150 and hr. Members of the American Society of Landscape Architects are expected to abide by strict guidelines of professional conduct.

            If you already have a landscape plan, you can hire another kind of professional, a landscape contractor, to build or care for it. Decide what kind of company you need: construction, construction and maintenance, or just maintenance.

            Look at their work. A garden should look pretty good, period, no matter what time of year it is. And always talk to the homeowner to see how the contractor treated them.


I suppose that all of the preceding advice can, in a way, be filed under the heading of being sure to measure twice, cut once. Good Luck!



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