Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Who should DI when you can't DIY?

Our house was built around 1970, and our kitchen consequently lacks many of the features found in newer kitchens. I certainly don't care about granite countertops, and I don't feel any need for a garbage disposal or a double sink. Even the lack of a dishwasher isn't usually a problem, except on the rare occasions when we have enough company to produce more dishes than our drying rack can accommodate. But the one thing that I really miss is a proper range hood. Our kitchen does have a hood installed over the range, but it's the "recirculating" kind—which, as I learned when researching the topic for ConsumerSearch, is pretty much useless. This type of hood doesn't actually remove smoke and fumes at all; it just blows them around so that they don't concentrate right over the range. Some of them, like ours, have filters in them that are supposed to trap grease and mitigate cooking odors, but we quickly discovered that ours is pretty much useless for this purpose, so we don't use it.

Moreover, since our kitchen has a weird layout with the range only two inches from the nearest wall, grease tends to spatter up onto the wall, where it's hard to get off without vigorous scrubbing (which risks taking off the paint as well). Back in January, I got so frustrated after a half-hour session of fruitless scrubbing that I decided we should bite the bullet and get a proper range hood installed. Brian agreed, but said it wasn't a job he was willing to take on himself. Installing the hood itself wouldn't be a problem, but installing the ductwork would involve climbing around in the attic and cutting a hole in the roof (or in a side wall), and he didn't feel confident enough to tackle that. So we decided that I would get quotes from several contractors and go with the most reasonable one.

Well, two months later, our kitchen still has no range hood. What happened?

The problem, basically, is that I have no idea how to find a contractor to do this job. My first thought was to go through HomeAdvisor.com, a site where you provide details about the job you want done and they round up quotes from several different contractors in your area. I've tried this before with other jobs and received a flood of phone calls and e-mails within a day or two, but in this case I got exactly one response. And while the one guy who did come out seemed competent and honest, I was hoping to get at least a couple of other quotes just to see if his quoted price (around $400) was reasonable.

In the phone book, contractors are grouped under headings like "plumbing" and "electrical," and this job doesn't fit under any of them. I tried contacting a few of those listed under "HVAC" (for "Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning") on the grounds that this is technically a ventilation job, but some never got back to me at all, and those who did all said they didn't do this kind of work. I also tried a general contractor who came highly recommended by one of Brian's coworkers, with the same result. And when I tried submitting another online request through a website that focuses on remodeling jobs, describing my project as a small-scale (very small) kitchen remodel, I got no hits at all.

Google, my usual starting point for any kind of research, has provided no help in this case. When I try searching queries like "get range hood installed," I only get information about how to do this project yourself—which isn't what I want. Even if I change the search to "professional installation of range hood" or "find contractor to install range hood," I get mostly DIY information. I did find a thread devoted to this question on GardenWeb, but most people there said that (a) they did it themselves (not an option), (b) it's an HVAC job (but I've had no luck finding an HVAC professional who will do it), or (c) getting it done is the job of the contractor who handles the rest of the kitchen remodel (not relevant if this is the only part of the kitchen being touched).

At this point, I'm not sure what to try next. Should we just assume that, if it's this hard to find a contractor who handles this kind of job, the one guy we've already talked to is probably the only one we're going to find who knows what he's doing? Or should I just start paging through the Yellow Pages section on "Contractors" and calling up numbers at random?
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