Referrals are a primary source for finding a good contractor, says Paul DiMeo, designer and co-star of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition." "You want to make sure that, whoever you're using, that you have a personal referral," he says. "That's why it's best to talk to a friend."
Then follow up with your own due diligence, says Holmes. Good referrals alone are "not enough," he says. "Just because a friend liked the contractor, doesn't mean the job was done right. But that's a good starting point."
Another promising sign is when two sources recommend the same pro. When Norm Abram, the master carpenter of "This Old House," needed someone to retrofit a home with air conditioning, he asked one of the show's contractors for a recommendation. The same name was mentioned again by a local pro Abram respected.
"I went ahead and ended up hiring him, and he did a great job," Abram says.
Do your part on the other end of the referral process, too. When you do find someone great, "tell everyone," says Holmes.