Have you been upset about shoddy work on your home improvement project? Or that the project was not done on time? You are not alone.

Home improvement/construction is tied for the number three spot in the top 10 most common gripes reported by Austen Sherman at www.marketwatch.com. (It tied with retail sales.)

What proactive steps can you take to help prevent home improvement/construction projects problems?

•Start by checking with the Better Business Bureau. Pick at least three companies that have a good business review.
•Solicit bids from these companies. Make sure you have the company’s full name, address, telephone number and professional license number.
•Before they give you a bid, walk through the project area with the company explaining exactly what you want done. At the time of the bid, ask them to give you a start and finish date. Discuss in detail what kind of materials you want. If wood is involved, discuss the type of finish.
•Before signing the contract, read it carefully. Did they include the start and finish date? Does it state what materials and/or brands will be used? Do you have drawings of the project? Are they complete? Is the total cost, with a breakdown of labor and material charges included? Are you asked to pay money upfront? If so, it should be 10 to 30 percent. No more. Make sure warranties and guarantees are included. Finally, how will debris and materials be removed once the job is finished? MAKE SURE YOU GET COPIES OF ALL THE CONTRACTS AND CHANGE ORDERS.
•Has the company pulled a permit, if it is necessary for the job? Ask for proof of permit and liability insurance.
•As the project proceeds and there are changes in the work order, make sure all changes are in writing with the cost of the change included.
•Do not make final payment until all work is done and approved. An inspector from the Regional Building Department should have inspected and signed off on the work, if a permit was needed.
•When the business does a good job, let the company know and let others know through social media.