Here are a few FixIt tips to help get your project completed smoothly:
1. Get at least 3 bids on the project and 3 references from each contractor.
2. Check the references supplied. Most contractors will provide references. Most owners not take time to check them. Ask questions when calling references. Did the job get completed on time? Did it get completed within budget? If possible go and look at a similar project!
3. Check the contractors license number with your state agency. Find out if there are any outstanding complaints.
4. How long has the contractor been in business? or in the business? definitely ask how much experience they have. It is fine to hire someone just starting out in business, it may even have a few advantages and some disadvantages. Be smart about it and consider the options. Does the contractor have an actual address? If they have a PO Box that might be a red flag for me.
5. Is the contractor's written contract understandable? If not, ask questions and make changes in the contract that are understood by both parties.
6. Is the payment schedule reasonable? If the contractor's deposit is more that 40% of the total project I would be a little concerned. Check with your state, some states set max amounts that a contractor can receive upfront for a deposit.
7. Ask for proof of worker's comp and liability insurance. Without proper insurance you could be left responsible for injuries on the job. Check to make sure all sub-contractors are also insured and licensed.
8. Communication! Communication! Communication!! Make sure you are comfortable with whomever you choose for the project. As in any relationship, if you can't ask questions and communicate effectively there is going to be a lot of issues.
9. Make sure all the bids are for the same specifications. A higher bid may reflect better quality materials. Detailed plans are the best method of insuring consistency.
10. Check with the Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org) for complaints or concerns from prior homeowners! and consider checking Angie's List (http://www.angieslist.com/Angieslist/)
Good luck with your project!! ;)