Know the Facts

When it comes to any type of home renovation work—whether it’s a do it yourself job or you are hiring professionals—navigating any home improvement process can be confusing. While you don’t need to know every construction detail, having the facts and a solid understanding will help you be aware of what to expect. This month, let’s focus on some terms and important pieces of information to know before doing home improvements.

Finding a contractor for your home improvement job can be overwhelming if you don’t know what type of contractor you should be looking for. General contractors, sub-contractors and specialty contractors often perform different home improvement functions. For larger sized projects, a general contractor (GC) is hired as the coordinator who oversees the entire job. The general contractor will often hire sub-contractors if the scope of the job calls for work in a certain trade such as a roofer, excavator or plumber. A specialty contractor also has a specialized trade, but is hired as an individual contractor, usually by the homeowner, for his area of work. To make sure you are protected and to avoid liability issues, always hire contractors who are both licensed and insured.

When you decide to begin a home renovation project, expect to spend time with measurements and math. A square foot is the key unit of measurement when it comes to home size. Square feet, or height times length or width, applies to most areas of construction, from measuring a wall that is being painted, to measuring a roof, or the outside of a home to replace siding. The square footage of a home or addition is calculated by measuring the square footage of floor space. It is also important to note that garages and unfinished areas of a home such as an attic or basement are not calculated into a home’s square footage. Some home improvement products, such as gutters, moldings and countertops are measured in linear feet.

The Internet is a great resource for home improvement and most unfamiliar terms are explained in multiple places. Ask your contactor to explain unfamiliar terms and research anything that you do not completely understand before committing to it. Use legitimate websites and check two or more to make sure that all nuances of your question are covered and to avoid surprises.