The Internet contains loads of good information on hiring contractors and subcontractors. My process starts with asking friends and neighbors and local real estate agents and architects. I then cross reference these names with Angies’ List and Diamond Certified. Angies’ List costs a little money, but in the context of a construction project the cost is minimal.
Here is a tip that comes from personal experience; always call all of the references. Pay particular attention to references who just completed their project. If the contractor does not provide a reference for a client that just finished their project it is not a good sign. We hired a contractor from our town who’s kids swam with our kids. He had a great reputation in the community, but he was slowly (and then quickly) falling behind financially. Had we talked with recent customers we might have heard that things were deteriorating. Instead he took a large kitchen cabinet deposit and went bankrupt the next day.