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Do Your ResearchCheck with friends, neighbors, or co-workers who’ve used a contractorIf you can, take a look at the work done and ask about their experience.Look at sites you trust that post ratings and reviewsDo people seem to have similar experiences, good or bad? You also can check out a contractor’s online reputation by searching for the company’s name with words like “scam,” “rip-off,” or “complaint.”Find out how long they’ve been in businessLook for an established company whose record and reputation you can check out.Check for qualifications, like licensingMany states, but not all, require contractors to be licensed and/or bonded. Check with your local building department or consumer protection agency to find out about licensing requirements in your area. Licensing can range from simple registration to a detailed qualification process. If your state or locality has licensing laws, make sure the contractor’s license is current.Before You Hire a ContractorGet EstimatesOnce you’ve narrowed your options, get written estimates from several firms. Don’t automatically choose the lowest bidder. Ask for an explanation to see if there’s a reason for the difference in price.Ask QuestionsHow many projects like mine have you completed in the last year?Ask for a list so you can see how familiar the contractor is with your type of project.Will my project require a permit?Most states and localities require permits for building projects, even for simple jobs like decks. A competent contractor will get all the necessary permits before starting work on your project. You may want to choose a contractor familiar with the permitting process in your county, city, or town.May I have a list of references?A contractor should be able to give you names, addresses, and phone numbers of at least three clients with projects like yours. Ask each client how long ago the project was and whether it was completed on time. Was the client satisfied? Were there any unexpected costs? Did workers show up on time and clean up after finishing the job? You also could tell the contractor that you’d like to visit jobs in progress.What types of insurance do you carry?Contractors should have:

• personal liability

• worker’s compensation

• property damage coverage

Ask for copies of insurance certificates, and make sure they’re current, or you could be held liable for any injuries and damages that occur during the project.Will you be using subcontractors on this project?If so, make sure the subcontractors have current insurance coverage and licenses, too, if required.