To find a reliable contractor, start by asking friends for recommendations.Check with local departments of consumer affairs. Keep in mind that these watchdog organizations can give only the number of complaints filed; they cannot tell you what percent of those claims were valid. Remember too, that a large-volume operation is logically going to have more registered complaints against it than will an independent contractor. You can also check the status of a contractor’s license in the State of Washington at the following site: https://fortress.wa.gov/lni/bbip/
Interview each of the potential candidates and ask each contractor for references. Even though no contractor will give you the name of a dissatisfied customer, ask about follow-through. Was the building site cleaned up or did the owner have to dispose of refuse? Ask about the organization of business. Did the paperwork go smoothly, or was there a delay in hooking up the sewer because of a failure to apply for a permit?
Also ask about warranties. Most will give you a one year warranty on the parts and labor but some offer as much as a ten-year warranty.
Give the top two or three candidates each copies of the plans and your specifications for materials. If they are not each working from the same guidelines, the competitive bids will be of little value. Give each the same deadline for turning in a bid. Make an appointment with each of them and review the bid and your questions at that time.
If one bid is remarkably low, the contractor may have made an honest error in the estimate. A low bid does not necessarily mean that you will get the best quality with economy.
If the bids are relatively close, the most important consideration may not be money at all. A bid from a contractor who is easy to talk to and inspires confidence may be the best choice. Any sign of a personality conflict between you and a contractor should be weighed when making a decision.
Protect yourself from disreputable companies.
The Department of Labor & Industries offers this checklist for consumers:http://www.lni.wa.gov/IPUB/625-084-000.pdf