Hiring a contractor? Do your homework, before he does your home work!
You should be prepared. Make a list of what you want done. Each contractor should be bidding on the same list. Always get three bids. All bids should be free. All bids should be in writing.
Check out references. I had some driveway work done on my house. The contractor never followed through with my complaint six months later. He has my name on his list of references. When someone calls, I tell them “No, I’m not satisfied and do not recommend him:” Be sure to ask: how was the workmanship? Cleanliness? Were they satisfied? If possible, see the jobs. Check Yelp, Google and any other social means.
As for the contract itself, the contract should include job specifications i.e.:
Detailed description of work to be done.
Materials to be used.
Cost of the job upon completion.
Permits needed and who is responsible for them.
Change order clause (any changes must be in writing).
Statement of insurance.
License number of the contractor.
Guaranty or warranty.
Method of debris removal and who will be responsible.
Start and completion dates.
Any contract signed at your house can be canceled within three days. Also get a release of liens at the time of paying the final payment. If you pay your contractor and he fails to pay any of or all of his “subs”, they in turn can sue you and put a lien on your house, forcing you to pay twice. Get the release of liens.
Finally, trust your instincts!! Your instinct has probably never failed you.