A man is only as good as his word, right? When you're dealing with a contractor, he's as good as his former clients say he is. Sure, there are plenty of skilled, honest and dependable contractors out there, but you having a better chance of finding one if you check his references. And we're not talking about calling a random name on the list to make sure he's provided you with real numbers. Try calling recent and repeat clients and asking what they think of him. Ask general questions and ones specific to your project. What kind of work did he do? How long did it take? Was he able to come in at (or even under) budget? Would they consider using him again? You'll only need to speak to a few references to nail down the quality of work a contractor provides.