This fall is the last chance to get some serious work done on your home, before what promises to be a chilling winter. In this crunch time, homeowners are scrambling to finish off bath remodels and kitchen designs before friends and family flock to their homes for the winter's festivities. This, however, puts homeowners in a vulnerable position if an unscrupulous general contractor attempts to take advantage of their needs. You have your consultation set and your kitchen remodel in mind, how do you make sure the contractor is the right company for the job? The answer will come from a few criteria that the contractor will meet or fall short of during that interview. However, we've compiled a few basic questions to make sure that you know what to ask of a general contractor before anything is signed. Do you have any references or examples of your work? Chances are that you are not the first person that a shady contractor has attempted to cheat. An ethical contractor will take pride in the work that they have completed; oftentimes carrying a scrapbook or similar literature that contains pictures and detailed plans of some of their client's bath and kitchen remodel jobs. Ask a contractor to see such material concerning completed projects, or for phone numbers or references and past clients that can vouch for their work. A contractor that hides this information, or is reluctant to give up the contact information of past clients should raise a caution flag. Don't you want them to perform a home renovation for you that they shouldn't be proud of? Can I see an itemized list or contract of the materials and labor involved? An itemized projection of what the home renovation will cost in terms of supplies and time spent on each task should be one of the first questions asked. Before the in-person consultation, ask to see the contract for a previous, similar job the general contractor has completed. If they wish to see the project and have the consultation first, allow them to, but DO NOT SIGN ANYTHING until you have that itemized contract. You're looking for transparency in how time and money will be spent, also foresight in what the project will require. What certifications do you carry? In most states, commercial remodeling and general contracting can only be performed by certified professionals that have been granted state licenses. Learn your state's laws, and ask to see any certifications that the contractor is required to do business. Also, see if the contractor is registered with reputable business or trade organizations such as the Better Business Bureau. Don't fall prey to empty promises and a good sales pitch. Be respectful, but take a pro-active attitude to your consultation, and you'll be showing off your new kitchen design to friends and family this holiday season.