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There is just something about spring that makes homeowners want to clean, paint and change their homes. Maybe it's the warm weather or maybe we are tired of looking at the same walls all winter. Whatever the case, spring is the time for remodeling.

You may have a lot of questions. Should you use a contractor? Where would you find one? Where are your dollars best spent?

The key to successful remodeling projects is the same key to a successful home purchase, vehicle purchase or loan application -- knowledge. If you understand how contractors work and what a project entails, you can make wise decisions for your home.

First, you should decide whether or not you need a contractor. You are the only one who can make this decision. One of the most important factors is how much time you can dedicate to the project. Many homeowners have half-finished projects around their homes which suck the value out of the property. Make sure that you are able to finish what you start.

The second part of your contractor vs. do-it-yourself decision is what your strengths are. If you have an eye for detail, are handy with tools and always measure twice and cut once, then you might have some of the strengths needed to successfully do a remodel. Look at the difficulty level of the job. For example, with a little knowledge, most people can tile a bathroom, install a new light fixture or spackle and paint. But if you are looking at a major structural issue or rewiring your entire house, I suggest you either be a professional or hire a professional.

Keep in mind, most professionals will charge more to clean up your mess than they will to start from scratch.

If you decide to choose a contractor, make sure that you check him out. That bears repeating -- check him (or the company) out!!! The contractor is the most important part of a remodel. Check licenses and insurance, references and any subcontractors they work with. Call the Better Business Bureau and your state's attorney general's office for any complaints or investigations on file for both the contractor and his subcontractors.

When you meet with a potential contractor, pay attention to a few things. Does he or she listen to you and make suggestions? Are your questions thoroughly answered? Do you feel comfortable? Are your wants and concerns the contractor's top priority? Remember, this is someone who wants to work for you -- and they should act like it.

Remember the saying: you get what you pay for? It seems nice to just take the lowest bid, but you aren't buying an item, you are buying service. Often, the less you pay, the less service you get. Believe me, service is everything. Just consider how much you like talking to voice mail or answering machines when there is a whole in your wall for a month with no sign of your contractor.

Everyone has a contractor horror story, but through a little knowledge and research, you won't have one. Find yourself a good contractor, and he or she will help you make wise decisions for your home.

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