Top reasons to let contractor handle permits

How much is your time, sanity worth?

Paul Bianchina
Inman News™

Q: What are some reasons that a homeowner should defer to the contractor to acquire a building permit? –Glen D.

A: Probably the main reason is that experienced contractors can expedite the process, and can also sometimes head off potential problems before they arise. Contractors know and understand the "system," and they typically know exactly what will be required to obtain specific types of permits.

If there are any irregularities, they also usually know who to talk to at the permit office, and may be able to resolve things more readily simply because they know the construction process and the related terminology and can suggest solutions that might not occur to a homeowner.

Also, if subcontractors are involved, the contractor will have all the necessary information about those subs that the permit office will require. All of that can also translate into a contractor being able to obtain the permit faster than you can, simply because he will have all the necessary information available on the first visit, where you may have to make multiple trips.

The actual cost of the permit is the same whether you obtain it or the contractor does. The contractor will typically charge you for his or her time, but on the other hand you save your own time in not having to deal with what is often a very confusing process.

Q: The panels of my 1977 garage door are made of fiberboard, and even though I caulk and paint, they still get wet and smelly in the winter. Can I replace the panels or must I replace the entire garage door? –Trish A.

A: You basically have three options. Option 1, depending on the style and construction of the door, is to replace the small individual panels within the framework of the door. This is done by cutting out the strips that hold the panels in place, installing new panels, and then installing new strips. However, if you have a lot of pieces to replace, this can be a pretty tedious process. You also still have the old door frame, and all the old door hardware and tracks.

Option 2 is to replace the individual door sections. This is done by first taking all the tension off the spring, then unbolting the hinges that hold the sections to one another and sliding each section out of the track. New sections are then slid into the tracks and reconnected, then the spring is rewound. You now have all new upgraded door panels, but still have the original door hardware and track. This is the best option if all the old hardware is in good condition.

Option 3 is to replace the entire door. This will give you upgraded panels, plus a new track and new hardware. I’d suggest getting a price on both option 2 and option 3, as they may not be all that much different in cost.

If you would like to do the work yourself, the door company should be able to order all the parts for you. They can also do the unwinding and rewinding of the spring. Do not attempt to wind or unwind the spring on your own, as it can be very dangerous if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing.

Q: I had a house fire about two years ago and had to have the interior rebuilt. When the carpet people installed the carpet they made two seams in the hall. These two seams have always been visible; they pucker up slightly above the rest of the carpet. I had the carpet folks come out and look at it.

They rolled it and trimmed it, but that didn’t help. He said that was all he could do. He also said he couldn’t stretch it anymore. It’s been a year now and the carpet is still puckered. Do you have any suggestions? –Chuck R.

A: Unfortunately, that’s not a terribly unusual situation. It typically comes about when two pieces of carpet are turned 90 degrees in relation to one another, and the "grain" of the carpet doesn’t match exactly. Halls seem to be particularly susceptible to that, because they’re often where smaller pieces are carpet are seamed together.

The only thing I’ve ever seen done is for the carpet installer to cut a small piece off the edge of one or both pieces of carpet along the bad seam, then restretch and reseam the two pieces together again. They let the seaming tape dry and cool really well, let off on the stretcher, then carefully trim the seam down with carpet scissors. Since your installer said that restretching can’t be done in your case, this may or may not be possible.

Since you say it’s been over a year, you’re already out of the warranty period for the original contractor to do anything for you. I’d suggest you contact a different carpet store and just tell the store you have some newer carpet with a seam problem. See if the store has an experienced installer who can come out and take a look, then go from there.

Remodeling and repair questions? Email Paul at All product reviews are based on the author’s actual testing of free review samples provided by the manufacturers.

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Copyright 2011 Paul Bianchina