spring home improvement guide - april 5 2013

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  • SpringHome Improvement Guide

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  • 2 Community Advocate Spring Home Improvement Friday, April 5, 2013

    Advice from Angies ListTen rules for a home improvement contract

    By Angie Hicks

    Having a contract that clearly spells out the details of the job is crucial for both the homeowner and contractor doing the work for any major home improvement project. Its protection for both the consumer and the con-tractor, says Becky Watson, co-owner of Agape Home Services. If you dont have a contract, either party can be unprotected. A solid contract will spell out the goals, responsibilities, payment terms and penalties if the contract details are not met. Contracts should include the job description, start and completion dates, payment terms, licensing, insurance and permit requirements, details on material and labor costs, change order procedures, penalties for missed comple-tion dates, and a termination clause, which spells out rea-sons the homeowner or the contractor can end the job without penalty. The more information that is in the contract, the

    more the homeowner under-stands whats to be expected of them and what s to be expected of the contractors, says G. Paternostro, owner of GianFranco Contracting Ser-vice. Its a clear outline stating the scope of work, the mate-rials to be used, the amount of manpower, the number of days. Its just giving a general idea of what the homeowner

    should expect from hiring that particular contractor. Th eres no gray area. Everybody knows their responsibility. A contract can offer a homeowner protection if fully read and understood, but it can also contain clauses that could lock unsuspecting homeown-ers in to an agreement they didnt plan for. According to a nationwide Angies List poll, nearly one-third of the re-spondents admitted they dont read contracts thoroughly. Walker says her company requires customers to initial each page, showing theyve read it, and encourages them to ask questions if there are provisions they dont under-stand. Homeowners are not at the mercy of the contractor when it comes to what is or isnt included in the contract. Both parties should discuss and agree upon the terms before beginning any project. Th e more details in the contract, the better, Walker says. If theres any doubt or anything they dont under-stand in their contract, I think its really important they be

    able to call their contractor and go over it with them. Here are 10 rules for a home improvement contract: 1) Job description. It spells out the project and who is responsible for what. 2) Start and completion dates. Th ey set dates to give a framework of time the project should take and outline how and when contractors can ac-cess your home. Be prepared to amend completion for good cause, but dont accept unrea-sonable, unnecessary delays. 3) Payment terms. Tie payment dates to job comple-tion. Most contractors will ask for at least 30 percent down. Some state laws establish down payment limits, so determine

    your state requirements. Hold back at least 10 percent until the job is completed to your satisfaction. 4) Local authorization. Specify that your contractor is responsible for securing necessary regulatory permits for your project. Walk away from a contractor who cant or wont approach local licensing or permitting agencies. 5) Penalties for missed completion dates. Give yourself options to deduct or delay pay-ment if completion dates are missed to encourage the con-tractor to meet your time frame. Be specific about amounts, and clearly define terms. 6) Procedure for work or-ders/changes to initial agree-ment. Outline a process to follow for project changes or additions. Large-scale projects often uncover hidden problems that must be addressed before work can continue, so change orders are not uncommon; but a well-de ned project should not have several of them. Be wary if your contractor rou-tinely seeks changes. 7) Detailed outline of costs and materials. Require an itemized list of mate-rials, labor and any other costs you will incur. Spell out whether you want specific materials, brands, colors, etc. 8) Proof of licensure, in-surance and bonding. Ask for proof of licensure if applicable, workers compensation insur-ance, liability insurance and bonding to protect you from liability for property or job-related injuries. 9) Termination clause. Spell out reasons you or the contractor can leave the job without penalty (e.g., failure to pay the contractor, no rea-sonable explanation for delay, poor work quality or failure to adequately communicate). 10) Other protection. Ask the contractor to provide a lien release, which protects you from liability should the contractor fail to pay his or her subcontractors who worked on your project.

    Angie Hicks co-founded Angies List, which provides user-generated reviews of service companies.

    The more information that is in the contract,

    the more the homeowner understands

    whats to be expected of them and whats

    to be expected of the contractors.

    G. Paternostroowner of GianFranco Contracting Service

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  • Community Advocate Spring Home Improvement Friday, April 5, 2013 3

    Bathroom reduxAdd value and comfort to your home

    By Joseph Pubillones

    Nothing embodies a sense of luxury more than nicely appointed bathrooms and powder rooms. Th is is one of the best improvements that can be done to any home, townhouse or condominium, as it adds both perceived and actual value. Since the times of ancient Rome, baths have been a great place for cleanliness and also for establishing a connection among body, mind and spirit. Baths were a refuge for one to go and think clearly and even, in some cultures, to negotiate the ner points of a business deal. In our world today, bathrooms are more private but, nonetheless, just as important. Todays bathrooms are not just functional rooms of the house, but also extensions of ones living space, and they are no longer clinical in de-sign. Designs for these spaces have gone in many directions, often including saunas, hot tubs, massage tables and even exercise areas. Gone are many of the materials one used to expect in bathrooms: ceramic tile, traditional xtures, tones of mint green, cherry pink and sky blue (unless you are involved in a historical resto-ration). Th ese materials have been replaced with warmer tiles, slates and marbles in a variety of incredible colors. Some have textures; others are laser-cut for intricate designs. Stones are mixed with glass and mirrors, and tiles and xtures that glow in the dark are available. Some of the newer bath-rooms rival the size of their en suite bedrooms. Larger spaces are favored over the typical

    A new bathroom adds both perceived and actual value to your home.

    5-by-7-foot bathrooms of yesteryear. Most homeowners are even willing to eliminate a spare room so that the square footage can be used for their new bathroom. Lounging areas are de rigueur, and this provides space for a chaise or a pair of club chairs and an ottoman. Fixtures such as toilets, lavs and tubs are available in traditional styles to t in with most conventional ar-chitectural styles. But some are also available in sleek ver-sions that look as if they have been designed by aeronautical engineers. Materials for x-tures have evolved to include the traditional porcelains and enameled irons, as well as newer materials, such as resins and polyesters that can easily be molded into any shape, while having the same sheen as earlier models. Custom cabinetmakers

    can make bathroom furniture in any style to t your decor and lifestyle. Th e one caveat is to use materials that are not a ected by direct contact with water or humidity. To-days styles range from oat-ing wall-mounted cabinetry to furniture-like pieces that completely conceal the fix-tures. A whirlpool tub was the must-have 10 or 20 years ago. Today high-end plumbing xtures are all the rage. Most whirlpool tubs are being re-moved for lack of use and are being replaced with larger showers - sometimes large enough for two. Th ese syba-ritic showers feature multiple massage sprays, rain show-erheads and spa-like steam options. Th ese features, once found only at therapeutic clinics and spas, now are com-monplace as people search for antidotes to their hectic lives.

    Licen