There are tons of good contractors out there whose schedules are packed with one home renovation project after another — it’s just tricky to find one who’s not buried under a ton of rubble.

At this is the time of year, many homeowners want to redo a bathroom, the kitchen, or install a patio in the backyard. But when it comes to finding someone reliable to do the job, it can be a little difficult.

Before you even start doing the legwork to find a reputable contractor, you have to decide exactly what you want done first, suggests Margaret Mackay, founder of Renocontractors ( — an online database of contractors created as a result of her own experience in the search for someone to redo her bathroom two years ago.

“Let’s say you’re doing a bathroom,” she says. “If you see a tap you really like (in a paper or magazine) cut it out, the bathtub, the sink whatever. Anything that’s going to go into your bathroom as something that you want, you should have a picture of so you can show the contractor, so you’re both on the same page.”

When it actually comes to contacting contractors, make sure you get in touch with at least three or four, so you can compare prices and what they can do for you. Mackay says it’s also good to take a look at work they’ve done and do a background check by getting in touch with the contractor’s references.

“After that, if you’re going to hire someone, you need to hire someone you feel comfortable with, because they’re going to be in your home for weeks and weeks at a time,” she says. “You just have to be extremely careful when you’re hiring them. There are a lot of great contractors out there, but there are bad ones out there, and there are also scam artists out there too.”

Chris Vanbargen, president of, says people are often afraid that in asking for references the contractor may get offended. But if he/she is as good as they say they are, they should be more than happy to offer up references.

“So ask for references and do a background check,” Vanbargen says. “Ask them questions like, ‘Where are some of your jobs, who do you work for, can I go over there and see some of your work?’”

Communication is the key on both ends. Once you’ve decided who to go with, Vanbargen strongly recommends having a contract that has everything that is expected from both parties written in black and white.

In terms of when to start looking for a contractor, the best time is usually in the fall, when projects are wrapping up, or during their slow season around January, February or March.

“All contractors, I think, are slower around that time right after Christmas ... but any contractor that you really want to get, you have to tell them that you’ll wait until they’re available,” he says. “The good ones are usually the ones who are so booked you have to wait a few months or until the following year.”

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