4. Do a basic business checkup.
Ask the contractor how long they've been in business. Find out about licensing requirements in your area. Ask the contractor to see any required licenses and confirm that all documentation is current. So you won't be liable for injuries and damages on the job, as for copies of the contractor's personal liability, worker's comp, and property damage insurance. If applicable, find out if the contractor is using any subcontractors. If so, meeting them is just as important as meeting with your contractor. Make sure they've been paid on time in the past by this contractor, and check their documentation as well. In addition, get a "lien release" or "lien waiver" from every subcontractor and every supplier working on your project. That way, none of them can place a lien on your home if they are not paid by your contractor, potentially forcing you to sell your house to pay your contractor's bills. Sound bad? It can be. So protect yourself.
5. Ask an annoying amount of questions.
This is not the time to hold back. If you don't understand some of the specialty jargon the contractor's using, ask about it. If you don't understand the process, or if you're confused about why things have to be done a certain way, ask, ask, ask. Don't stop asking questions until your totally clear.
6. Get several bids, and if they're different, find out why.
The BBB recommends getting at least three bids. And don't assume you can't understand the reason two bids for the same project are thousands of dollars apart. Allow the contractor to tell you about the materials and labor. You might end up going with a higher bid once you understand exactly what you're paying for. Often the lowest bid isn't the best, but you'll be able to compare them once you know exactly what materials and labor each bid includes and you can compare apples to apples.