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Choosing a Contractor

Unless it's a relatively simple project, you'll probably end up hiring a contractor to handle the bulk of your home renovation projects. We've all heard contractor horror stories, but there are three simple steps you can take that will help you avoid most contractor problems and ensure a smooth working relationship:

  1. Get and check references. The National Association of the Remodeling Industry (www.nari.org) and the Remodelers Council of the National Association of Home Builders (www.nahb.org) are good resources for finding contractors in your area. Get three to five homeowner references from candidates and ask them about their experiences: Was the contractor timely, professional, neat and friendly, and did the project stay on budget?
  2. Get comprehensive estimates. Comprehensive means that the estimate includes all details related to the project, including the quality and type of material to be used and a timeline for completion. Don't assume anything–if it's not in the estimate, the contractor is not legally obligated to provide it.
  3. Get everything in writing. A formal written contract should be signed with the contractor before work begins that covers the following: scope of work, completion date, payment schedule, licensing and insurance, and other details (e.g., permitting, cleanup, work hours, damage repair, etc.).
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