For most homeowners, the hardest component of any home renovation project isn’t the work itself, it’s finding a reliable and competent contractor to carry out the job. Installing kitchen cabinets, tearing down a wall or re-tiling the bathroom is simple as opposed to the struggle of hiring a quality contractor who will perform at a high level from beginning to end.

Everyone has heard stories about horrendous contractors who completely dismantled the kitchen and never returned or projects that cost three times the contractor’s original estimate.

A Suggested Checklist For A Great Contractor Experience

Negotiate work guidelines. Discuss what hours the contractor can operate at your home, what type of notice you’ll get, what bathroom the workers will use and what will be tidied up by the end of every workday.

People in your neighborhood who have done similar projects are your best sources. If you know people in the building trades, ask them, too.

Talk to the contractor frequently. Something that is done wrong will be harder to fix later after your contractor has packed up and moved on to his next job.

General contractors and most subcontractors should be licensed, although the procedure varies by state and municipality. Ask the contractor for a copy of his license and copies of the licenses of the major subcontractors who will work on the job.

Check references. Speak with both subcontractors and clients, who can tell you if the contractor pays them promptly. “See if you can speak to current customers,” Christian says, because those clients have easily the most recent experience dealing with the contractor.

” Those are the nightmare sort of stories I hear frequently,” says Angie Hicks, who started the company in 1995 that would become Angie’s List, which provides reviews of contractors and other professional.

If your contractor doesn’t pay his suppliers or subcontractors, they can put a mechanic’s lien against your house. You want copies of receipts for all the materials, plus lien releases from all the subcontractors and the general contractor before you pay.

Choosing the right contractor can make the difference between a successful home renovation project and a disaster. Even for experienced renovators, finding the right contractor can be a challenge.

Don’t make the final payment until the job is One Hundred Percent complete. Contractors are notorious for finishing much of the job then afterwards going on before they reach the final details. Don’t make the final payment until you are completely satisfied with the work and have all the lien releases and receipts.

Ask what work will be done with contractor’s employees and what work will be done by subcontractors. Christian advises inquiring about an employee list making sure the contractor really has the employees he says he does and won’t be using casual labor hired off the street-corner.

Don’t pay more than 10 percent of the job total before the job starts. You don’t want a contractor to use your money to finish someone else’s job.

No matter how careful you and the contractor are in preparing for the job, there will be surprises that will add to the cost. “They can’t see through walls,” Hicks says of contractors.

” It can be difficult to know and hire contractors what you’re getting,” Hicks says. “You’re spending a great deal of money, and you’re taking care of your home. If they do this wrong, there could be a bunch of heartache.”

Interview at least three contractors. Ask a lot of questions and get a written bid from each one. Get three bids even if you have a contractor you like because you’ll learn something from each interview.

“If you don’t have it documented, it’s your word against theirs,” Hicks says. Any change in the project, whether you change your mind about products or ask for additional projects, should generate a written change order that includes the new work, materials and cost.

Know what you want before you get estimates. You’ll get a more accurate estimate if you can be very specific in what you want done and the materials you would like to use to make it happen.

Many fly-by-night companies, as well as some licensed contractors, will suggest the job be done without permits to save money. Not only does that violate local ordinances and subject you to fines if you’re caught, it means the work will not be inspected by the city or county to make sure it’s up to code. Be wary of contractors who ask you to get the permits– that’s the contractor’s job.

Angie’s List does not allow anonymous reviews, and the site checks to see whether reviewers actually used the contractor. You want to read the reviews carefully to make sure the contractor is the right person for your job and will work well with you.

Expect a contractor to be too busy to start immediately. “The very best folks are the busy ones,” says Cannon Christian, president of Renovation Realty in San Diego, which remodels homes before they’re sold.

Choose the right contractor for the right project. Someone who did a good job tiling your neighbor’s bathroom isn’t necessarily the right person to build an addition to your home.

If you’re doing a big project, you’ll need a general contractor, who may hire subcontractors for specialty work like plumbing and electrical. Homeowners with renovation experience sometimes work as their own general contractors, hiring specific tradespeople for every job. While this may save you money, it may possibly be time-consuming and will mean multiple contractor searches rather than just one, since you’ll need to find a specialist for each and every smaller job.

Despite having a good contractor, renovation may be stressful, expensive and involve unpleasant surprises, including rotted subfloors that are revealed when tile is removed or dangerous electrical wiring or leaking pipes behind walls.

Verify insurance coverage. Know what is covered by your homeowners insurance and what is covered by your contractor’s business insurance. Get a copy of the company’s insurance coverage.