Before you hire anyone, you need to ask tough questions that will make you a more informed consumer. Make a list, leaving space to write the answers as you interview prospective contractors. Here are some questions to start with. What professional titles do you hold? What professional training have you had? Are you certified or licensed by any group? What other types of projects have you done? How big is your typical project? What's the average cost of one of your projects? What projects have you worked on in this area? Can I talk to some of your clients? Can we visit some of the sites together? Do you have a specific style? How would you describe it? Can this project be done in stages? Can you stay within my budget? What happens if you don't? Do I pay all at once, or in stages as the work is completed? Can I do any of the work myself to reduce costs? Do you have proof of insurance? Are you bonded? What sort of guarantee do you provide on workmanship and materials? Can I get that in writing? When will the project start and when will it end? How soon can you provide the written contract?