Rules to live by so you don't hate your contractor!
1. Get referrals. Too few people actually do this. Make a point of contacting recent clients.
2. Check out past work. Nothing beats an in-person look-see.
3. Make inquiries. Asking "How do you bill?" and "Who'll be the job foreman?" helps avoid surprises.
4. Speak to subs. Subcontractors -- the people contractors hire to do specific tasks -- can tell you what it's really like to work with them.
5. Heed warning signs. When shopping around, beware the contractor who doesn't return phone calls or says "no" a lot -- or "yes" too often!
6. Be decisive and stay decisive. Changing your mind once a project is under way can be brutally expensive.
7. Expect him to miss his deadline. Most jobs take 50 percent longer than you think they will.
8. Refrain from punishing him when that deadline is missed. You need them motivated, especially in the end.
9. Expect to pay more. Most jobs end up costing 30 percent more than originally planned.
10. Hold back from fixing what's unsalvageable. If there's nothing in the original structure you value, start over.