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Won’t Get Fooled Again5 tips to avoid reno trouble.

1. Look under the hood
Consult a variety of the contractor’s past clients beyond the list they provide. Run the company through the Better Business Bureau’s database and check your local land titles office to learn if the firm has outstanding liens.

2. Rest insured
Neither your basic homeowner’s insurance nor the contractor’s liability insurance covers every eventuality. Talk to your broker about “course of construction” insurance.

3. Pay as it goes
In the contract, demand a breakdown of what every step in the reno will cost. Agree to write a cheque only when a benchmark of work has been completed, not a set monthly fee.

4. Know your foreman
Your contractor is the go-to guy for big-picture issues. But the foreman or project manager knows what’s up on a day-to-day basis. Drop by with coffee and muffins to learn how long the job will really take.

5. Save it for the end
Insist on a holdback clause of 10 percent of the estimate. Only pay this final installment 45 days after the work has been completed. At that point it’s too late for subcontractors or suppliers to place liens on your property for unpaid bills.