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Every week, join Whitney Quick as she helps you navigate life as a smart consumer. You'll cover everything in avoiding the latest scams, including phishing emails, medical equipment fraud, understanding layaway, hiring a reputable tax preparer, and even digital spring cleaning. Add to your toolbox and flip through your Consumer Handbook Thursdays during NPR’s Morning Edition at 6:42 a.m. and 8:42 a.m., only on KRCU.

Consumer Handbook: Planning Home Improvements


In these early weeks of 2023, you may be looking at your home projects for the coming year. Maybe you want to add a patio or deck, make over your kitchen or renovate a spare bedroom as a home office. While some people may feel comfortable tackling the jobs themselves, many homeowners hire contractors to do most or all of the work. Finding trustworthy contractors can be hard, but Better Business Bureau is here to help.

Before you hire anyone, you need to figure out how much you’re willing to spend and what you want the project to look like. Visiting showrooms or looking at magazines and websites for ideas is a great way to get started. If you have friends or acquaintances who’ve done similar projects, ask to see the work they had done and discuss what they learned, what they liked and what they would avoid.

Deciding on a budget is crucial: Can you afford to pay for the work out of pocket or do you need to borrow money? If you’re financing the project, can you afford the payments in addition to your regular expenses?

Ask friends for recommendations on contractors, but do your homework as well. Interview several contractors before you settle on one. Ask them for a list of references on work they’ve done, and contact those customers. Find out whether the contractor has any required licenses and insurance, and be sure the contractor will get a permit for the work if it’s required.

BBB recommends that you get at least three bids on a project before choosing a contractor. Make sure you get a written contract that specifies materials that will be used, a timeline for completing the work, warranty information and any conditions that are important to you, such as cleaning up debris. Make sure the contractor will provide a lien waiver, a statement that all suppliers and contractors have been paid for materials and labor. Don’t pay for the entire job up front. Instead, consider paying a third to secure the contract, a third when the project is mostly completed and the final third only after the work is completed and you are satisfied.

Cape Girardeau native Whitney Quick is the Regional Director of Better Business Bureau in Cape Girardeau, MO, and is responsible for outreach efforts in Southeast Missouri and Southern Illinois. Quick is a graduate of Cape Girardeau Central High School and Southeast Missouri University where she majored in public relations. Quick enjoys helping educate consumers in the southeast Missouri region by sharing consumer tips with groups and educating them about BBB’s resources.