1. Get at least three bids.  Price is not the only consideration, but it’s pretty important….obviously. 🙂
  2. Have a detailed conversation about the job with the contractor. Follow it up with a written description of the agreed upon work.
  3. Set a written payment schedule that is based upon scheduled milestones in the project.  Do not pay in full until the project is finished and has passed inspection. 
  4. Have a detailed written contract.  At a minimum: Include the written description of work, provisions for delays, unexpected pitfalls (especially for renovations) and the payment schedule. It is worth it to spend money up front for an attorney’s advice on a contract with good standard language.  You can also utilize the free legal consultation through your company’s Employee Assistance Program or look for online legal services to save some money.
  5. Check references.  Don’t count on what they tell you – do a google search. My parents are in the middle of a renovation, and have had two contractors that were a complete nightmare.  After they showed their true colors, I searched the internet and found reviews that described the exact same issues on other projects. Had we looked in advance, a lot of money could have been saved and stress avoided.
  6. Follow your gut.  Do not discount your gut feelings.  If something doesn’t feel right, skip them and move on to somebody else.  There are plenty of contractors out there.
  7. Get copies of the contractor’s insurance certificate and proof of bonding.  If either document expires while your project is underway, set a reminder and ask for updated documents.   These can act as “the canary in the coal mine.” If the contractor won’t provide a copy, there could be bigger problems.