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Consumer News and Advice Archive


What if the job is botched?

If you are displeased with the results for obvious reasons, keep after the contractor to make the needed repairs. When that fails, contact your local consumer protection agency. Make sure you have a copy of the contract, receipts showing payments, and photographs of the work. ...


How do I avoid being ripped off by a less than reputable contractor?

According to the Federal Trade Commission, there are several ways to spot less than reputable contractors because these hucksters tend to do the following: ...


What guidelines should I use to find a contractor?

Use caution. Your home is your most valuable financial asset. You will want someone who completes the job, not botch it up. It is important that you find a competent and reliable contractor who will successfully complete your home improvement project. ...


Are there different types of contractors?

Home improvement professionals vary. Who you hire also will depend largely on the size and complexity of your project. What follows is a brief description of the different contractors who do work for homeowners: ...


Should I always get a permit before making home improvements?

To save both time and money, some people avoid getting building permits. But most cities require them. Besides ensuring safety during construction - housing inspectors sometimes stop by to check on the progress of projects at key points - they are also a source of revenue. ...


How do building codes work?

Building codes set minimum public-safety standards for such things as building design, construction, use and occupancy, and maintenance. The codes are established and enforced by local politicians and government officials, who also tend to modify them constantly. The codes are usually enforced by denying permits, occupancy certificates, and by imposing ...


What is a variance?

It is a request made to your local jurisdiction to deviate from current zoning requirements. If granted, a variance will allow you to use your land in a way that is normally not permitted by the zoning ordinance. ...


How can I find out how my property is zoned?

Zoning ordinances and maps are a matter of public record. Visit your local zoning office, city hall, or some other local planning board and get a copy of your local ordinance. ...


What do zoning regulations do?

Zoning is the government's way of controlling the physical development of land and the kinds of uses to which each individual property may be put. ...


Is there such a thing as “over improving”?

Yes. The last thing you want to do when undertaking a home improvement is go overboard. This means fixing up the home to the point where it becomes worth far more than nearby neighborhood properties. ...


What kind of return can I expect from home improvements?

Some improvements offer a greater return than others do. This will vary greatly depending on the type of work you have done. Remodeling magazine publishes an annual "Cost vs. Value Report'' that can answer this question in more detail, based on the top 15 home improvements. A recent study it ...


Are there ways to save money when adding new space to my home?

The direction in which you build can make all the difference. Experts say building up is normally less expensive than building out on the ground level. Adding an expensive wing or addition requires a new foundation. It is less costly to extend plumbing and other mechanical systems upward, as opposed ...


When should I tackle the job myself or call in the pros?

A lot will depend on your time, level of expertise or willingness to handle the job, amount of help from friends or relatives, and how much you want, or need, to save by doing the job yourself. You could save up to 20 percent of the project cost through your ...


What should I consider once I decide to add on?

If you must construct new space, ask yourself the following questions: ...


What should I weigh before considering an addition to my home?

Thoroughly assess your space. You may find you have the room you need, particularly if there is unused or under utilized areas in your home. Perhaps a garage, attic, side porch, or basement can be converted to fit the use you have in mind. Or, maybe, a small area can ...