The author of the following post is Derek Whitney. Derek is contributing on behalf of K&S Construction Group, a New Jersey contracting company that provides residential and commercial construction.

A changing family structure can mean looking at ways to remodel a house in order to accommodate extra relatives, new family members, or simply update a home.

Unfortunately, there are millions of remodeling horror stories, scaring many people from hiring a contractor. Fortunately, there are ways to avoid finding yourself in a bad situation and here are five ways to do just that. 

Make sure your contract protects you

Too many people sign agreements with contractors that do a lot to protect the contractor but do nothing to protect their family and property. Avoid this by asking a lot of questions, and make sure that there are provisions in the contract that allow you to back out of work if the contractor is late or over-budget.

Get multiple quotes

Hiring the first person who offers to do the work for you is rarely a good idea for any project, much less a major home remodel. Make sure to talk to at least three different companies and get written quotes from all of them. When reviewing the quotes, don’t simply accept the lowest one.

Scam artists and unlicensed contractors will often give extremely low quotes in order to convince a homeowner to pay everything upfront. Closely scrutinise very high quotes. In some cases, paying more might make a lot of sense if the contractor is offering a lot of extra services, but make sure you know what you are paying for.

Pay attention to how the contractor presents him or herself

At your initial meeting with the company representative, pay attention to details. If the contractor shows up late without calling to let you know first, or if he or she speaks disrespectfully to you, odds are this company and you are not going to work well together.

Ask the important questions

Find out how much experience the company has had with the type of project you’re proposing. Also find out how many projects the company typically handles at one time, and how many they’re handling right now.

It’s not uncommon for newer contractors to overextend themselves in their quest to find new business, but you don’t want to be your contractors last priority. It’s also a good idea to ask how many and what type of subcontractors will be used on a project. It’s not uncommon for smaller contractors to use other electricians or plumbers, but you do need to know who is coming and going at your house.

Agree on a budget and a timeline

Never pay everything up front. Ideally, look for a contractor that wants money in 10 or 20 per cent increments. Paying one of these increments before work begins for materials is fine, but be leery of any contractor who insists on more.

Many well-established companies have agreements with their suppliers that allow them to take materials and pay after work is completed. In the contract, make sure to specify what work must be completed in order to release the next sum of money.

A home remodel can be a stressful but it doesn’t have to turn into a nightmare. Take time to interview contractors and agree on a budget and schedule.