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This is very important, since an estimate is just that. Many contractors will submit a "paper estimate", meaning they've written the estimate down on paper. The bill is the true amount owed and will almost always say "Invoice" or "Bill" at the top of the page. The bill should also list the date it was issued, the due date of payment, and a list of services rendered.
Many jobs in South Carolina will require municipal permits in order to be approved by the town's inspector. It's always good to ask who will be responsible for pulling those permits, and if you'll be expected to do it. You'll almost never be told to pull your own, but knowing that Charleston Painting permits are required makes you appear to be a well informed customer.
Though a standard question, it's important to ask. Most contractors will tell you how long they expect the job to take without you asking. If they don't volunteer that information, be sure to ask. It's also helpful to ask if that's a hard finish date, meaning that it's the definite finish date. If it's a soft finish date, it may be extended for any number of reasons.
Always ask for references, and always check them. Keep in mind though that the only references you'll get are people who the contractor is certain will give him a good review. You'd also be well advised to check online review sources in Charleston as well, which will give you a broader view of customer satisfaction for a given company.
Some companies may require a 10% deposit, some may not require any. For larger projects, you'll almost always need to give a deposit, and it's good to ask how much the deposit will be before going forward with a project. The Charleston contractor will know how much they need for a deposit when they've given you the estimate, so ask early.