Tips for finding a credible contractor for the job

    SEATTLE -- Remodeling contractor Justin Schuder is encouraged to know his new client, Roseanne Jones, got bids from four other contractors before she hired his company to remodel a two bedroom waterfront condo on Lake Washington.

    Schuder says his company, J & M Remodeling, has had to clean up after shoddy work done by contractors who were either unscrupulous, or just plain unqualified.

    "I've seen plastic bags placed in the ceiling to catch water from a shower pan that's been dripping for years, poor framing jobs, materials not used in the proper way," Schuder said. "You name it, you see some really funny stuff."

    Jones says even though she wants to get the condo updated and on the market as soon as possible, she knew it was worth taking extra time to find a reputable contractor. She found Schuder's company on Angie's list, but she didn't stop there. She did more homework online to verify his information.

    "I checked out his credentials and he was the best one," Jones said. "He wasn't the cheapest one and he wasn't the most expensive one, but I thought he would do the best job for us."

    It took extra time, but taking time eliminates surprises. Local consumer watchdogs see a steady string of complaints from consumers who hired contractors without checking their background. Local homeowners complain of losing tens of thousands to contractors who took the money, and then took off, doing little work, shoddy work, or work that did not meet code.

    "So far, from January 1st all the way to present, we're seeing more than 700 complaints having to with the home service industries," said David Quinlan with the Better Business Bureau. "This is everything from air duct cleaners to landscapers, to roofers -- you name it."

    By late summer, Quinlan says his agency expects contractor complaints to triple.

    To avoid being taken, check the State Department of Labor and Industries for complaints and claims against the contractor.

    Also check for complaints with the State Attorney General and the Better Business Bureau.

    "Look at your contractor, the subs he's gonna use, see that they're licensed, they're bonded, they're insured and all that information's there for everyone to see," Schuder stressed.

    Regarding subs, all sub-contractors and suppliers let you know they are subs because they may have the right to place a lien on your property if the general contractor fails to pay them, even if you've already paid the general contractor.

    For an extra edge, consider a membership-based resource such as Angie's List,, or Seattle Home Owner's Club. They can help avoid contractor disasters for as little as $35 to $60. It's a small investment considering the thousands you'll spend on the project

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