Ask acquaintances for recommendations, check qualifications, get a written estimate and ask lots of questions before hiring a contractor. Thorough research and time is key to finding a contractor who performs the job well and finishes the work on time.
Personal recommendations often result in quality references because the person giving the recommendation is trusted and has experience with the contractor. A personal reference may also mean the chance to see the actual work performed by the contractor. References provided by the contractor are not always reliable, because the contractor may choose people who give a good reference even if his work is not top quality.
Interviewing several contractors allows the homeowner to get an idea of the options, pricing and quality of the contractors' work. Getting written bids with a breakdown of all costs allows the homeowner to compare the bids equally. Asking questions about experience, qualifications, timeline of the project and how the work is performed also helps compare the options.
Another check before hiring a contractor is his licensing. Each state regulates licensing of contractors, but any contractor should be able to show a copy of his license. Local court records and the Better Business Bureau are places to check for complaints or lawsuits against the contractor.