Question: Last week I signed a contract...

Question: Last week I signed a contract for home improvement, and the contractor insisted that he and his superintendent hold a pre-construction conference in our home before starting work. Is this usual?

Answer: It certainly should be usual. This is probably one of the most important functions that a legitimate contractor can render to minimize possible problems later on.

The pre-construction conference should last about two hours and cover every aspect of the contract and the actual job. It should cover seemingly minor points, including the care of your pets during construction, trash disposal, reuse of some items, such as plumbing. It may also cover the contractor’s schedule, and how that schedule can be affected should you delay the work.

I recently spoke with a homeowner who said he was quite upset with the contractor because his remodeling was not going to be finished by Thanksgiving, as scheduled. I learned from the contractor that the homeowner had shut the house down for a week while on a Hawaii vacation.


The delay caused a one-month extension of the project because subcontractors had to be rescheduled. Fortunately, the project was completed by Christmas.

Q: I am thinking of tearing out a wall in my house. How can I tell whether it is load bearing or non-load bearing?

A: A wall is usually non-load bearing when the joist and the wall run in the same direction. If unsure, get the opinion of a licensed contractor. If the wall is load bearing, a new support will have to be provided for the ceiling. This is a job that should be undertaken only by a professional.

Q: Is it legal for me to paint my mailbox?


A: It is legal if you own the mailbox, but not if it belongs to the federal government.

One of the greatest eyesores in front of too many homes is an old, shabby mailbox. A coat of paint can spruce it up and add to the attractiveness of the exterior of the home.

Fontaine is president of the Western Regional Master Builders Assn. and a director of the American Building Contractors Assn. He will answer questions concerning home improvements. Phone 213/653-4084 or write him at 6404 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 850, Los Angeles 90048-5510.