If any of your woodworking tools seem to be losing their zip, make sure they aren't suffering from surface drag instead of a dull blade. Rubbing a thin coat of paste wax or paraffin on the top surfaces of tools like tablesaws, planers or jointers, or onto the sole plates of portable tools like circular saws, sabersaws or even hand planes, can make a big difference in how they perform.
Contact your local building inspection department to check for permit and inspection requirements. Be wary if your contractor asks you to get the permit. It could mean the firm is not licensed.