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Licensed to drill: How to check your contractor's certification (and why you want to)

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Choosing a contractor is an essential—if headache-inducing—part of any renovation that's not a DIY job. And one of the first steps to hiring said contractor is making sure they’re licensed, as the home improvement site Sweeten recently pointed outSure, it’s not the most, ahem, groundbreaking piece of advice. In fact, anyone who does a job in New York City that costs $200 or more must get a home improvement contractor (HIC) license. But there are a few really good reasons to look into whether a contractor is certified. (You can search for their license numbers on this city database.)

The certification ensures three things, as Sweeten notes: the contractor has undergone a criminal history check, passed an exam on the relevant laws, and contributed $200 to a kind of city insurance fund that goes toward homeowners who’ve been stiffed by their reno professionals. “This actually seems like a pretty decent deal for homeowners,” Sweeten notes. “To be sure, the license itself is not a seal of competence or quality, but it does seem like a logical (and free) protection for homeowners.”

Sweeten has more info on what happens to unlicensed contractors, as well as some great before-and-after shots of NYC renos. And for more tips on choosing a contractor, read up on how to put out a bid.

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