If you really want to get the scoop on whether or not a contractor is the right fit for your home improvement project, make it a point to contact three recent customers. Ask them what kind of work the contractor did for them? Was the contractor hired to provide a large scale remodeling or improvement project, or a smaller one?
"When speaking with the reference be sure to ask open ended questions," said Angie's List owner Angie Hicks. "Don't ask just yes and no questions because then you are really going to get them talking and you can pick up tidbits about the experience. Because keep in mind the contractor is probably giving you references that had a good experience. You're just really looking for a bigger picture of what it's like to work with the contractor."
Ask the references if the contractor showed up on time? Did they clean up the work site at the end of each day? And what was working with the contractor's crew or subcontractors like? You also want to consider the contractor's resume.
"I think from time to time we are going to come across contractors that we choose to work with that have less experience than others," said Hicks. "We've all started out in our life, but it's important to understand what kind of experience they do have. Maybe they are new in their business, but they worked at another company prior to that so understanding that experience. Also, any formalized training they've had will give your insight to their expertise in the field."
Make sure to also ask if the job came in according to budget. If not, what types of problems or delays affected the overall cost?
No one answer will say more about a contractor's work then the customer's willingness to hire them again. If they aren't willing to hire the contractor again, ask why not?