Using a Contractor

When to use a contractor for home improvements

The cost of having major improvements carried out to your house is in the same league as buying a car - something that needs to be done carefully and only after much thought and planning. When spending large sums of money, you will want the finished product to be of a high standard so, unless you are experienced at DIY work, you need to give some thought on whether your skills will be able to produce the standard of finish you want.

If you have no DIY skills at all, or if you do not have the time to undertake the work, then you must employ a contractor to do it for you. But if you are reasonably experienced and believe that what you lack in experience you can make up for in common sense and enthusiasm in some parts of the work, you should make a list the parts of the work you could carry out yourself. Take a single storey brick extension, for example.

Work that could be done by DIY enthusiast

Work probably better done by contractor/tradesmen

Many of these items of work can be interchanged depending on the particular skills of the home-owner, but if enough thought is given to the allocation of work at the planning stage, working to a programme will be made much easier. In the above example, it would be unusual to find a contractor that was willing to carry out only part of the work. Self-employed tradesmen, however, would find the arrangement acceptable.

An important point to remember in planning a project is the likely effect it will have on the rest of the household. In the best situation, the property will be empty and in the worst, there will be young children in the house. Upgrading a bathroom or kitchen needs particular thought. Even if you have the skills to do the job but can only work at weekends and the work will take three weekends to complete, it sounds like a job for a contractor because a family couldn't operate normally without a bathroom or kitchen for three weeks or more.

If you decided to build an extension in tandem with various tradesmen, you must make every effort to complete your sections of the work on time. Even building a simple structure such as a small extension still requires the work to be done in a certain order with each trade following on in a prescribed sequence. Failure to meet a deadline would have a knock-on effect and tradesmen may not be able to fit in with the revised starting dates.

Types of Contractor Work

In the construction of a single-storey extension, there are two tasks that must be carried out by specialists. The first is the electrical work and although it may seem straightforward enough to fix a few plugs, there are stringent safety regulations to be observed, and the needs of insurance companies and possible future owners of the property need to be considered.

The second category of work is breaking out the opening between the existing building and the new extension. Unless the opening will be created within the width of an existing opening where the existing lintel will continue to support the overhead wall, this work must be carried out by a specialist.

Another factor to be considered in the decision on whether to use a contractor or do the work yourself is the question of cost. Can you afford to employ yourself - assuming, of course, that you are capable of doing the work? If you are self-employed or benefit from paid overtime, you may decide that it would be cheaper to employ a contractor.