Question: I just bought a fixer-upper that I plan to work on and move my family into it when it's finished. I can do most of the work myself, such as putting up dry wall, painting and some cabinetwork. What I can't do is the plumbing. I plan to get a couple of estimates from companies that have shops near the house. Naturally I'm hoping that the lowest bid will provide the same quality of work, but just at a cheaper price. Can you tell me some of the pitfalls in hiring a plumbing contractor?
Answer: Last fall, the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) published a brochure that will probably answer most of your questions. It's titled "A Consumer Guide to Contracting With a Licensed Plumber."
A communication from the board's Leticia M. Rico said the brochure was published to help consumers protect themselves against ripoffs. It's available free by sending a self-addressed mailing label to the attention of Services Unit, Contractors State License Board, P.O. Box 26000, Sacramento, Calif. 95826.
The leaflet suggests that you request a contractor's license number and telephone the CSLB to verify that the license is in good standing; ask the contractor for a list of former customers and contact them and/or see the work and request a certificate of the contractor's liability and workers' compensation insurance.
There's a lot more in the 8 1/2x17 1/2-inch, single sheet brochure, including such information as posting of a license bond does NOT ensure that your job will be completed. It recommends that your contractor provide you with a "payment and performance" bond (that covers the full price of the job) to protect you from mechanic's liens against your property if the contractor fails to pay for materials or subcontractors.
Marvin L. Harris, regional manager for Sprayfoam Southwest Inc., suggested that the Big Bear resident who was reroofing a flat-roof cabin might want to consider a polyurethane foam roof.
" . . . this system has its best use on flat roofs, because it may be applied in any thickness to facilitate drainage," Harris said.
Polyurethane is pumped onto the roof in liquid form that becomes foam in a matter of seconds. It dries to the touch in about a minute and then drainage channels are ground into it.
A major consideration in installation, according to Harris, is the coating that must be applied over the polyurethane to protect it from the ultraviolet rays of the sun and other weather factors. Coatings are either acrylic (the least expensive), urethane (more durable) and silicone (longest lasting in its resistance to weathering). Prices for the full application were quoted by Harris as ranging from $1.75 to $2.25 per square foot.
A major consideration for homes in extreme weather, either hot or cold, is the insulation value of the roofing. Harris says: "A one-inch application of the polyurethane has an R-7 insulation value, which would be equivalent to about six inches of fiberglass insulation."
Dale Baldwin will answer remodeling questions of general interest on this page. Send your questions to Home Improvement, Real Estate Department, Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053. Baldwin cannot answer questions individually. Snapshots of successful do-it-yourself projects may be submitted but cannot be returned.