Finding and hiring a contractor takes more thought and consideration than you might think. A contractor will spend ample amounts of time in and around your house, sometimes when you are not home. A sloppy hiring process can yield negative results, but you can find the right man  (or woman) for the job with a little planning and investigation. Here are some tips for finding and hiring a safe contractor:

Have a plan
Before you even start the search for a contractor, plan your project in great detail. Know exactly what you want so you know what to look for in a contractor. Contractor is the general term for someone who is in charge of a specific construction-related activity; a general contractor will manage and oversee the entire project. A specialty contractor, like a plumber or electrician, is needed for a specific task. You want an architect if you are looking to add an addition to your home. Look for someone who has a particular expertise and has experience doing the task at hand.

Ask around
See if your friends or family members have a contractor they can recommend. Once you have found a contractor, ask him for references so you can find out what kinds of experiences people have had with him and his work. Ask if they are happy with the results of the completed project and if they were kept up to speed on the project status. See if they would recommend the contractor.

Conduct your own background check
See if the contractor is the real deal by inspecting his credentials yourself. The Internet makes this easy. Use the Better Business Bureau to find any complaints against the contractor or business. The contractor should also be registered or have the proper certificate for your state. Also check the validity of the insurance and Workers’ Compensation coverage. Do not hire a contractor who is not insured. Do your research to see if the financing offered through your contractor is really your best option.

Watch out for red flags
According to HandyAmerican.com, do not hire someone who will only accept cash, gives you a P.O. Box number instead of a physical address or requests the full payment upfront. Other red flags include door-to-door soliciting, requests for a large down payment to purchase materials and promises of a discount if you find the contractor other customers. Be leery of a contractor who asks you to get the building permit instead of getting it himself. Be smart and go with your gut. If you do not feel comfortable talking to the contractor, do not hire him. See if your state limits the amount of money that a contractor can request as a down payment before any money changes hands.

Know the ins and outs of the contract
Never hire a contractor without a detailed contract outlining exactly what you agreed on. It should include all of the information about the project and a payment schedule. Avoid the word “estimate” since that leaves room for a significant price increase. Get a quote instead. Make sure you agree that payments will be contingent with the progress of the work. Know who is responsible for what and keep open and constant communication. This will help the project run smoothly and will provide protection if anything where to go wrong.