REMODELING: To get information about Portland's building codes, call the Office of Development & Planning at 823-7310.

For code and permit information on plumbing, electrical, heating & ventilating, sign, and sewer, call 823-7363.

HIRING A WORKMAN: Before signing up with any company offering services like plumbing, electrical, landscaping, tiling, etc., check out their reputations and accreditations through the Better Business Bureau. The number for Oregon and western Washington is 226-3981, or go to the web page at

www.thebbb.org.

Another good source for finding reputable companies is the Construction Contracting Board. This is also where you can lodge any complaints against contractors and get them resolved through mediation (in case you ignored our advice in the first place). Call them at 378-4610 or cruise their web page:

www.ccb.state.or.us.

DUMPING: Getting rid of an old sink? Want to throw away paint cans without contaminating Mother Earth? The Metro Recycling hotline (234-3000). They will tell you where to put what, and how to do so responsibly. They'll even give you directions and hours to the appropriate depots and dumps.

LEARN HOW TO BUY A HOME: A virtual gold mine of information is the Portland Housing Center. Fifty dollars will give you access to classes including "The ABCs Of Home Buying," which teaches you how to prepare financially, understand mortgages, shop for loans, lenders, home inspectors, and realtors, and also helps to demystify things like escrow and home insurance. (Offered on the 2nd and 4th Saturday of every month, from 8:30 am to 5 pm, and also offered in Spanish once a month--whew!)

If you have less-than-spotless credit, you can also take advantage of the "Financial Fitness Class," which is once a week for four weeks, and designed to teach you how to develop a budget and resolve any credit issues you may have on your record. They also offer one-on-one credit counseling and pre-closing meetings where you can go over all the terms and fees line by line with a pro, so you're confident about what you're signing. And, if you meet the income and geographical restrictions, you could be eligible for their financial assistance programs.

Once you've bought the house, toss out $10 for their Homeowner's Tool Kit class. They'll have a CPA to talk to you about budgeting as an owner rather than a renter, maximizing tax benefits as a homeowner, what to do if you fall on hard financial times (aka preventative foreclosure education), and refinancing. You'll also learn how to plan maintenance, add value to your home, and deal with contractors. Call them at 282-7744 or visit www.portlandhousingcenter.org.

FREE STUFF: To learn about upcoming home fairs (where you can sometimes score freebies like storm windows), workshops, seminars, and miscellaneous tips to save time and money, visit The Rebuilding Center (3625 N. Mississippi, 331-1877) and look for free brochures like The Tool Kit, Northwest Home Improvement, and The Redirect Guide. While you're there, check out the rock-bottom bargains on toilets.

The African American Alliance for Homeownership is dedicated to supporting and aiding African Americans in buying homes in Portland, and is launching a "Homebuyer Coaching Project." Get in touch by phone (285-5555 ext. 558) or email:

roberts3911@yahoo.com.

WAS MY HOUSE A METH LAB? To find out your new or prospective house's history of alterations and permits, contact the Bureau of Development Services at 823-7660.

CHEAP TOOLS!

Need a screwdriver? Hardhats? Harbor Freight stocks Pittsburgh and other mid-range tool brands. Perhaps not the sturdiest in the toolbox, but they'll last long enough to get you through the job!

Harbor Freight, 1335 N. Mason, 493-2863, Mon-Fri 8 am-6 pm, Sat 8:30-5:30, Sun 10 am - 4 pm

CHEAP LADDERS!

Go where the contractors go! Great prices on ladders. Great prices on work gloves, hammers, crowbars. If the contractors are saving so much, how come they're not passing the savings on to you?

Oregon Roofers Supply, 1810 SE 10th, 234-0528, Mon-Fri, 7:30 am- 4:30 pm

RENTALS!

Want to do your own floors? Rent a sander! Need to remove a boring concrete patio to make way for a snappy new deck? Rent a jackhammer! TIP: Rent on Saturday morning and pay only one-day rates for the whole weekend!

United Rentals, 5413 NE Columbia Blvd, 282-1313, Mon-Fri 7 am-5 pm, Sat 8 am-4 pm