Hire a Contractor Who Measures Up

Insist on a license or you forfeit your legal and insurance protections.

Looking for someone to do a home-improvement project? An ad on Craigslist or a flier left at your door might promise low-cost labor with a quick turnaround. But it's no deal if the contractor isn't licensed, bonded and insured.

When a contractor is licensed, you have legal and insurance protections that you wouldn't otherwise -- and you have some assurance that you're not hiring an outfit that thrives on quick, shoddy work and then disappears. An unlicensed contractor also isn't likely to get the permits and line up the inspections necessary to make sure the job meets local building codes (failing to do so could cause headaches when you want to sell your home).

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Patricia Mertz Esswein
Contributing Writer, Kiplinger's Personal Finance
Esswein joined Kiplinger in May 1984 as director of special publications and managing editor of Kiplinger Books. In 2004, she began covering real estate for Kiplinger's Personal Finance, writing about the housing market, buying and selling a home, getting a mortgage, and home improvement. Prior to joining Kiplinger, Esswein wrote and edited for Empire Sports, a monthly magazine covering sports and recreation in upstate New York. She holds a BA degree from Gustavus Adolphus College, in St. Peter, Minn., and an MA in magazine journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School at Syracuse University.