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If you’re thinking about remodeling your house, building an addition or making repairs, the most critical decision you’ll make is which contractor to hire. You’ll probably be able to find dozens of contractors in your area, but they’ll vary widely in terms of their experience and business practices. To make the right choice, research and ask questions.

Get Recommendations
Ask people you know, such as neighbors, friends, family members and co-workers, to recommend contractors. Recommendations from people you know and trust who have had personal experiences working with specific contractors should carry a lot of weight. Ask if the contractor did the work as requested, finished on schedule and stayed within budget, and if there were unforeseen problems that were discovered during the renovation process. You’ll also want to ask if the contractor and subcontractors showed up on time, behaved in a respectful manner and cleaned up at the end of every shift.

Interview Several Contractors
Talk to at least three contractors and get detailed written estimates from each of them. Be clear about what you want so that you know you’re getting estimates for the same work and materials from each contractor.

It’s also important to ask the contractors you’re interviewing how much experience they have doing the type of project that you want. Someone who mostly remodels bathrooms may not be the best person to hire to build an addition. When making your decision, go with a contractor who can provide examples of completed projects that are substantially similar to yours.

Before choosing a contractor, ask for references from several people who have recently had work done by the contractors you’re considering. Call them and ask about the quality of the contractor’s work, whether they were satisfied, if any problems arose during the process and how they were handled, whether the contractor behaved in a professional way and if the customers would recommend the company or have any concerns.

Make Sure the Contractor Is Reliable and Ethical
Before you hire a company, check with local government offices and professional organizations to make sure the contractor is licensed and insured. Also, find out if any previous customers have filed complaints, as well as how they were resolved.

While most cities and towns require permits for home renovations, never work with a contractor who suggests not getting permits. Not only is this illegal, but it also means that the work won’t be inspected. This will keep you from knowing if the contractor did a poor job, and your family could be placed in danger.