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What should I know before hiring a contractor?

If you’re considering hiring a contractor, ask for references — and check them.
No matter if you are planning a major home improvement project or simply trying to fix things around the house, finding the right contractor is crucial.

Pete Thomas, president of The Home Improvement Network, a contractor referral service, offers these useful tips:

• Get at least three estimates for your project.

• Ask friends and neighbors for referrals, and avoid choosing blindly from directory services that can include fly-by-night companies or those that change names to dodge legal problems.

• Ask for references and check them.

• Request certificates of insurance. A contractor should have three types of coverage: general liability, workman’s compensation and auto insurance.

• Look for an established contractor who’s been in business for years. Chances are he will be there to make good on his warranty.

• Examine the warranty. How long is it in effect and what does it cover specifically?

• Don’t decide solely on price. If one bid is much lower, examine the cost of materials as they could be of inferior quality. You usually get what you pay for.

• Look for designations that indicate a higher degree of professionalism. For example, in the remodeling industry, contractors may earn a CR (Certified Remodeler) or CGR (Certified Graduate Remodelers) designation.

• Follow your instincts. Do you like the contractor? Does he listen well? Does he return phone calls promptly?

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