This is a very important question. Much can be determined about a swimming pool contractor by how he handles the estimating process. By doing your research, you should be able to narrow down your search to 2 or 3 qualified contractors. Each of the contractors, or their representatives, should do the following things:* Come to your home and accurately measure your yard. If a contractor is unwilling to do this, or if he asks you to pay for this basic service, you should move on without further consideration.* Consult with you to determine your needs and desires regarding your use of the pool, your preferences in design (See "How do I choose a design?"), and provide a scale drawing of the pool and backyard. This process might require several revisions until you are completely satisfied with the results. You should not expect the contractor to leave the drawings with you for other, less talented designers to copy. This is the work product for which he is paid, and it is not common to leave it behind. Please note, however, that when a decision is made and a final plan is prepared, you are entitled to a complete copy before the actual construction process begins.* Provide you with a written proposal that defines all of the features included in the project. This document may be many pages long and should define the responsibilities of both the contractor and you as the homeowner. Beware of the contractor who gives you a slip of paper with a price written on it or a “bid” that is not specific. The proposal should include at least the following information:1. Pool and Spa lengths and widths (to match the scale drawing)2. Materials to be used as trim around the pool3. Type and amount of decking4. Utility runs and hook-ups5. Equipment to be installed (Pumps, Filter, Heater, Controller, Etc.)6. Responsibilities of homeowner7. Warranty information8. Contact information (Office and/or Cell phones)Each of the tasks noted above will help give you a clear picture of what the pool project will cost and how to complete the project effectively. If a contractor skips any of these basic requirements, you have good reason to be concerned about the accuracy of the estimate and the true final cost. Remember, a substantially lower bid might indicate a mistake or lack of knowledge or experience. A bid that is “too good to be true” may cost you a lot more in the long run or may never be completed."this info was acquired on the pool genius network but i thought it needed to be more accessible"One should provide at a minimum the above services in order to be successful.