L&I Website lets you check out contractors

Plus, tips on how to get the most for your money.

Contractors are busy this year as homeowners take advantage of low interest rates to remodel or add more space to their homes. How to you find a contractor who will give you a good product for your money?

One way is to check out whether your contractor is one of 50,000 contractors registered with the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I). In order to be registered, a contractor must show proof of meeting state insurance and bonding requirements. Contractors who do not register with the state are operating illegally and, and L&I issues about 1,000 infractions annually (with penalties up to $5,000) to contractors doing business in Washington without proper registration.

While there is no way to guarantee that you have a good contractor, L&I suggests steps you can take to protect yourself against unscrupulous or unqualified contractors:

1. Interview several qualified contractors and solicit written bids. Bids that are significantly lower than all others should be questioned.

2. Verify that the contractor is properly registered. Ask them to show identification and their L&I contractor-registration card. Check the contractor’s registration at status at www.LNI.wa.gov/contractors or by calling L&I’s toll-free contractor-registration line (i-800-647-0982) or by calling your local L&I service center, listed in the state government section of the telephone book.

3. Review all aspects of the bid, not just the price. Materials, time frames, cleanup practices, required deposits and references area also important.

4. Ask for references on similar projects, and go look at the finished product.

5. Be wary of contractors who ask you to purchase the building permit. Property owners can purchase a permit for work they personally do on their own property, but only a registered contractor can obtain a permit for work on someone else’s property.

6. Be wary of a contractor who asks for a large deposit or the entire cost upfront. Ten to 15 percent of the bid prices is normally sufficient.

7. Try to anticipate problems and inconveniences such as cost overruns or cleanup, and make sure a written agreement is in place before the work is begun.

8. Protect yourself against liens on your property for a contractor’s unpaid bills. You can make your check payable to both the contractor and the material supply house, pay for the materials yourself, or require a lien release at the time of delivery.

9. Put all change orders in writing and include the additional cost. Ask questions as work progresses. If you don’t like an answer or don’t understand it, stop the work until you do.

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