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Tips on Working with Your Builder or Contractor

Navigating the world of custom home electronics installation

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Working with a contractor is a new experience for a lot of folks. Below, you'll find some quick tips to help you get the results you want.

If you'd like to hire a contractor to help you design and/or install an A/V system, we recommend that you hire a CEDIA®-certified installer. Members of CEDIA (Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association) have a lot of experience with A/V systems, and can give you a safe installation that also performs well. Visit for referrals to installers in your area.

We can also set you up with a professional A/V installer in your area. If you're interested, check out the range of installation services available, or give us a call at 1-800-555-9407.

  1. Find the right person for your project. Friends, family and coworkers can give you leads on good contractors. Make sure that the contractor you choose is licensed and insured, and don't be afraid to ask for references.
  2. Get it in writing. Make sure the details of your project are in a written contract, and add any changes to the original plan that might happen during the course of the project. You should also ask who will be supervising the job — is it the contractor you're talking to, or another member of their team?
  3. Inspect the job regularly. Check on the progress of the project to make sure that the contractor is following the plan set out in the contract. If you're going to do some or all of the A/V work yourself, you'll want to check the progress regularly so you know when your portions of the project must be done.
  4. Do they offer a warranty? Ask your contractor if they offer a warranty on their work, and if so, what it covers and for how long. A more comprehensive warranty might make a pricier contractor worth the extra cost.

If you're doing part or all of the A/V system design and/or installation yourself in a new home, or a finished home that's being renovated, here are a few additional considerations:

Schedule your work around the builder's tasks (your steps in bold):

  • Foundation
  • Framing and roof
  • Plumbing rough-in
  • Electrical rough-in
  • A/V pre-wiring and rough-in — make sure you use UL-approved wire labeled CL2 or CL3
  • Rough-in inspection
  • Insulation installation
  • Drywall installation
  • In-wall/in-ceiling speaker grilles and frames — install them now if you want them painted
  • Paint
  • Plumbing and electrical trim out
  • A/V trim out — install wall plates, controls, in-wall/in-ceiling speakers
  • Final inspection — all holes, boxes, and brackets must be closed
  • Move-in
  • Install and hookup A/V components
  1. Want to design your A/V system? Have a well-documented wiring plan. Before you hire anyone, you'll need to have a complete A/V wiring plan, including the type of wire needed for each run, the proposed locations of speakers and components, as well as the necessary brackets and wall plates. If you'd like to use your wiring plan, then you'll have to assume responsibility for its correctness.
    If you'd like to design the system, but hire subcontractors to install the wiring, you'll probably have to:
    • Provide copies of your wiring plan to the workers.
    • Walk through the site with the workers and discuss and approve the project before and after work is done.
    • Provide all materials for the job (including J-boxes, brackets, wire, fasteners).
    • Pay the subcontractor an hourly rate for the workers involved (prices will vary by locale).
  2. Want to install the A/V wiring yourself? Talk to your contractor. If you plan to do part or all of the A/V installation yourself, don't assume it'll be OK with your builder for you to work on "your" construction site. He or she might not want to risk potential delays. Also, some contractors may have insurance policies that prohibit unlicensed or uninsured subcontractors from working on sites they supervise.
  3. Know when you'll need to do your part of the project, and be prepared to move quickly. The construction schedule puts your A/V installations in a narrow time frame. And you don't want to put the project behind — your general contractor will likely bill you for the extra time. To make sure you stay on schedule, use the list to the right to plan your work. It's a good idea to install all your A/V wires after the electrician has finished pulling AC wires, to ensure that the he or she doesn't remove any of your cables. Plus, a few folks have reported instances of interference from AC lines, which may generate a low hum in your speakers, so you'll want to keep your A/V wires away from AC lines, to be on the safe side.
  4. Be respectful of other trades on the site. You'll find the subcontractors on the job site much more cooperative if you follow some simple guidelines while you're on their turf. Remember, they're making their living by completing their work on schedule.
    • Try to work in rooms and areas where no other work is going on.
    • Keep your tools, ladders, and extension cords organized and neat.
    • Don't borrow tools from subcontractors.
    • Clean up after yourself. Bring a broom and dustpan to sweep up any wood shavings or debris you create.

Hiring someone to retrofit a system in your finished home? Here are a couple of things to keep in mind:

  1. Protect your property. Ask what kind of retrofitting techniques they use, and what they'll do to protect your carpet, furniture, etc. Also, ask what they'll do to clean up after they're done.
  2. Let them do their job. During the project, try to be out of the house or in a different part of the house for most of the day. While it's important to stay up-to-date on the progress of the project, hovering over your contractor for hours at a time will likely just slow them down.
  3. Choose a licensed and insured contractor or installer. Just as you would with a builder, make sure the person you work with is licensed and insured in your state, and be sure to get all the details of your agreement in writing.

Ask an expert advisor

No pressure, no commission — just lots of good advice from our highly trained staff.