Home Improvement

Ask the Remodeler: Who ya gonna call? From chimney issues to failing foundations, where you should seek help.

Just maintaining a house here in New England is a challenge.

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Tip: Be sure to ask for an insurance binder from your contractor.


The typical New England home has a lot of moving parts. Our weather goes from one extreme to the other, and this has implications for the outside, as well as the mechanicals inside. Just maintaining a house here is a challenge; if you want to remodel your home on top of that, the list of contractors involved can be daunting. Below is a list of tips that should help you navigate the waters.

(Important note: Be sure to ask for an insurance binder from your contractor. This should be sent via e-mail or direct mail from the contractor’s insurance company and must show a policy for liability insurance and workers’ compensation.)

Exterior

· Roofing This is an obvious one: You need to seek out a qualified roofing company. The caveat here is that if you have a slate or wood-shingle roof, you should be doing much more vetting. These types of roofs require far more skill and experience, and the majority of roofing companies out there are not well versed in either.

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· Chimneys Chimney repair requires a mason to determine the amount of work required and to identify the right products to use, which depends on the type of brick originally used. Flashing that waterproofs the chimney to the roof is typically something the roofer can handle, but a skilled mason can do that as well.

· Gutters and downspouts A roofing contractor can replace or repair most aluminum, fiberglass, and copper gutters. As with the slate roofs above, if you have copper gutters, you want to vet your contractors with greater care. Copper requires much more skilled work. Wood gutters are also a little tricky. While some roofing contractors can do them, it is possible you may need a general contractor since this type of project often becomes a collaboration between the carpenters and the roofers.

· Windows

Replacement — There are quite a few companies that do straight-up window and door replacement. They could be vinyl, ones clad in wood on the exterior, or metal types.

Restoration — This is a far more involved process that you would consider only in an older home with vintage windows. There are a handful of true restoration companies out there, so vetting companies is very important.

· Doors As mentioned above, there are companies that specialize in window and door replacement. If you are looking at installing a custom door, consider hiring a general contractor because this could involve changing the opening size, etc.

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· Painting This is pretty obvious, although you want to ask a lot of questions before you hire a painting company. Will they spray or brush? If they find rot as they scrape and prep, do they have the carpentry skills to do the repair? What is their prepping process? (This is the most important aspect of house painting.)

· Foundations Repairs to foundations in almost all instances will require a masonry contractor. Concrete foundations rarely need help, so it is typically brick or stone ones that necessitate a call. A qualified mason will know the right types of mortars to use on a given foundation.

Interior

· Electrical A licensed electrical contractor should handle general wiring for the house — including all lighting, switching, and power for utilities and mechanicals.

· Audio/video/security There are many electrical contractors who can do all of the above. Some companies, however, specialize in just audio-video design. Their expertise in the newest technologies will tend to be broader and deeper than an electrical contractor’s.

· Plumbing This is also obvious: Plumbing contractors will take care of all your basic plumbing needs, from your water supply to fixtures. They should also be able to coordinate with your city or town if there are problems with the water supply from the street.

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· Heating There are several options here.

A plumbing contractor designs, installs, and maintains forced-hot water or steam systems.

An HVAC (heating/venting/air conditioning) company designs, installs, and services forced-hot air/air-conditioning or heat pumps.

· Insulation There are several options here as well. Virtually all insulation contractors can install blown-in cellulose and fiberglass. Icynene is a spray foam that is becoming more common. It is a much better form of insulation, but only a relatively small number of insulation contractors are set up to do this.

· Finishes

Painting — Most painting contractors can handle general repairs, painting, and staining.

Wallpapering and faux painting — Most painting contractors don’t specialize in either of these, so you would need to be clear about what you want when hiring a painter, or refine your search for these specific skill sets.

Plastering — Most painting contractors can do basic repairs, but larger-scale work calls for a plastering contractor.

Ornamental plastering —There is not a great deal of demand for this very defined skill set, but quite a few homes in and around Boston have ornamental plaster details. Cornice moldings, columns, even some exteriors have such detail. The vast majority of plastering contractors cannot do this work, so you would need to contact an ornamental plasterer.

· Flooring There are a fair number of companies with showrooms that can help find and install all kinds of flooring. Much of the time, homeowners are dealing with the following flooring contractors:

Wood — When you are installing or repairing prefinished or conventional wood floors, there are quite a few flooring contractors from which to choose. Some have dustless systems to sand floors, some don’t. As always, ask lots of questions.

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Tile (for floors or walls) — Like wood flooring contractors, there are many from which to choose.

Vinyl or laminates — These floors do get specialized. There are fewer showrooms that work with them, so you need to do your research. The supplier you are working with should be able to help find qualified installers.

Carpeting — Carpeting tends to be fairly easy, and any showroom that you use for selection will be able to provide you with installation services.

Mark Philben is the project development manager at Charlie Allen Renovations in Cambridge. Send your questions to [email protected]. Questions are subject to editing. Subscribe to the Globe’s free real estate newsletter — our weekly digest on buying, selling, and design — at Boston.com/realestate. Follow us on Twitter @globehomes.

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