1. Determine when to take action - Often times we see things around the house that need attention, but sometimes they get forgotten about until something major happens. For example, when it rains the water comes down that broken gutter, it floods out around the front porch and puddles every time. Well, the porch now has a void under it from erosion and the front step/sidewalk concrete area has just separated. The step is now inconsistent from the others, creating a major trip hazard. At this point, someone in your family has tripped a few times and maybe it's not a big deal yet, but a neighbor could fall and this sunken concrete is now a liability to you as the homeowner.
3. Know who you are hiring - They say that you can tell a lot about a person in the first few minutes. Some contractors don't ever answer their phones, some don't call back and some don't even show up after they've been hired. It is important that you get a feel for who you are hiring, even though it may seem like a small job. There are things you can do or questions to ask: take a look at their references, do they have a website, have you met them in person, get a professional estimate, what other projects have they done, etc.
Hiring a contractor to help out with home improvements doesn't have to be a "nightmare experience" that some people talk about. It's really a two way street and important for both parties to educate themselves on what they are getting into. Don't forget, if your contractor did a great job, let them know or give them a good review somewhere. It really does help!