1. Get Recommendations - Start asking friends and family who they might know. You could also ask the local building inspector who routinely meets with contractors for inspections. The National Association of Remodeling Industry has a list of members in your area.
2. Do interviews - Contact each prospect and ask the following questions: Do you take projects of my size? Can you provide financial references from suppliers or banks? Do you have a list of previous clients and their contact information? How many other projects would you be doing at the same time? How long have you worked with your subcontractors? This will tell you a lot about the contractor's availability and reliability.
3. Meet face to face - Pick 3 or 4 contractors to meet for a discussion. The contractor should put you at ease. But be sure to check with your state's Better Business Bureau and Consumer Protection Agency for any history of disputes with clients or subcontractors.
4. Investigate the facts - Call former clients to see how their projects went and ask if you can see the finished product. Visit the contractor's current project and see how the site looks.
5. Make plans and get bids - Have the contractor bid on you blueprints for the project. In order to compare the bids, ask each contractor to breakdown the cost of materials, labor, profit margin and other expenses. Generally materials account for 40 percent of the total cost. The balance of the total is for overhead and typical profit margin which is generally 15 to 20 percent.
6. Set a payment schedule - If a contractor wants ½ up front then it may seem that he might be in financial problems or that you won't pay the rest of the bill. Set the schedule starting with 10 percent at contract signing, three payments of 25 percent evenly spaced over the duration of the project and then a final check for the 15% balance when you feel every item on the punch list is completed.
7. Don't let price alone be your guide - Throw out the lowball bid. This contractor is probably cutting corners or worse he's desperate for the work. You should choose your contractor by how comfortable you feel with them and how they communicate.
8. Put it in writing - Draw up a contract that details every step of the project. The payment schedule, proof of liability insurance and worker's compensation, a start date and projected completion date, materials and products to be used.
Note: Any change orders can effect the duration and price of the project.