Q: I had a contractor give me a quote of $2,850 to remove an old oil tank. When they were done, they had ruined my back yard, and their bill was more than $11,000. I feel victimized, but don’t know where to turn. Thanks. -Roger A., via e-mail.

A: Without knowing the specifics of your agreement with the contractor, it’s difficult to imagine how they went from $2,800 to $11,000. However, generically here are my suggestions:

If you are disputing your bill, you should pay only those parts of it that you’re certain are legitimate, and ask the contractor for a full accounting of all charges. Do not pay for anything you are not certain that you owe.

If the charges are incorrect and the contractor cannot or will not provide you with a breakdown, contact the Construction Contractor’s board and file a complaint. They will assist you with arbitration and negotiating some type of resolution. The same holds true if you feel the charges are valid but the contractor damaged your property and won’t reimburse you. The Department of Environmental Quality licenses tank removal companies, so you can also contact them for assistance with your complaints against this contractor.

Assuming you had a written contract with this contractor – you certainly should have, and you’re in a much tougher position if you didn’t – and the contractor is in clear and fraudulent violation of it, you probably have valid grounds for a lawsuit. If the above attempts at reaching an agreement don’t work, contact your attorney as soon as possible.

Q: I read that proper attic ventilation should be one square foot of ventilation area for every 300 square feet of ceiling area, and that it should be along the eaves and along the ridge. Does that mean a total of both high and low vents, or one square foot at the eaves and one square foot at the ridge? -Ruud G., via e-mail.

A: The ratio of one square foot of ventilation for every 300 square feet of attic is for the combination of both high and low vents. For example, if you have an attic that is 1,200 square feet, you would need approximately four square feet of total vent area, split so that approximately two square feet is at the eaves and two square feet is at the ridge or in the gable ends.

This ratio is a general rule of thumb. In very wet climates, you may need to increase your ventilation to handle the higher moisture levels. Your best bet is to check with your local building department to see what the building codes in your area require.

Q: I want to break four electrical circuits into six or seven so that they don’t overload. How do I add new breakers?  -Vinny L., via e-mail.

A: The task you’ve chosen is a pretty difficult one, and unfortunately it involves much more involved than simply adding new breakers.

An electrical circuit originates at the electrical panel, and from there it can travel to a single location or it can loop through several outlets, switches, light fixtures or other electrical devices. To separate one circuit into two basically requires that the wiring for the entire run be located, and that a new wire be extended from a new circuit breaker to intercept the original circuit somewhere along its run. The circuit would then have to be cut and spliced in an approved junction box so that the original circuit breaker feeds part of the circuit, and the new circuit breaker feeds the remainder of it. 

If this is even feasible depends on the size of the original wiring used, the method in which the circuit was looped from box to box, the size of the electrical panel, the accessibility of the wiring inside the walls, and several other factors. So, while I’m generally in favor of do-it-yourself work on your own home, this is definitely one time where you need to call in the pros.

I would strongly suggest that you locate a licensed electrician who is experienced in remodeling and repair work. Have the electrician make a site visit to your home, do a thorough inspection of your electrical panel and circuits, and then make some specific recommendations as to why your circuits are overloading and what can be done about it.

Remodeling and repair questions? E-mail Paul at paul2887@direcway.com.

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