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It’s the time of year where we’re all starting to emerge from winter hibernation and head outside to enjoy the sunshine and warmer temps. If you’re looking to add a patio onto your house so you can host summer barbecues or if you were waiting until the snow melted to remodel the kitchen, it’s important to choose a contractor you can trust.

Before you decide which one to hire, it is a good idea to speak with several different companies to help you get an understanding of different prices and experience levels. Here are some other things you should consider when looking for the right team for the job.

1. Check Credentials

You can check with an organization like the Better Business Bureau to verify the contractor is accredited. If you’re considering hiring a contractor based on a recommendation from a friend or neighbor you trust, it doesn’t hurt to still check the companies out. You can also browse review sites like Angie’s List as well to see what others are saying about their experiences.

2. Ask Questions

Ask contractors about previous experience with the type of project you’re doing, as well as for references and if they’ll be using any subcontractors to complete the work. If they are, it is important to gather information about the subcontractors as well.

3. Licenses & Insurance

It’s important you hire a company that has all the required licensing and insurance. Licensing can be everything from being registered to work in the area to a detailed qualification process. Check with your local city or county building department or consumer protection agency to find out what licenses they require. Also, ensure all the contractors’ licenses and insurance are current and haven’t expired. A copy of an insurance card isn’t necessarily enough — the policy could have lapsed.

4. Building Permits & Bonds

Verify that a company has all workers bonded, as this can help protect you from property theft or damage expenses. It’s also important to find out what building permits you’ll need for your construction, as any violations could invalidate insurance or cause problems with the work that gets done.

5. Contracts & Payments

Create a contract that clearly outlines the work that needs to be completed, as well as start and finish dates. You should also include any warranty information, guarantees, costs and times of payment. Once this is finalized and agreed upon, all parties should sign and date the contract. Some contractors ask for a down payment, but a good rule of thumb is to avoid paying a large amount upfront. Instead, consider paying in smaller installments as work is completed. Once the project is finished, you can pay the contractor in full.

Hiring an affordable and reputable contractor is an important step, but so is making sure you have the money to do that job. If you’re considering taking out a home equity loan or line of credit to complete the job, make sure you understand the terms (here’s a quick guide to how home equity lines of credit work). And if you’re planning on relying on other forms of debt like your credit cards, make sure you understand the impact maxing out your cards can have on your credit scores. You can see how your credit card balances are impacting your credit scores for free on Credit.com.

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