What Questions Should I Ask My Contractor During the First Meeting?

As one of the design consultants with Mayflower Construction, I’m usually the first person a new client meets. I show up at their house, view the bathroom or kitchen in question, talk through their ideas, and give my presentation on what it’s like to work with my team. I’m always surprised by how few questions people ask me. To help you on your quest to find the perfect contractor, I’ve thought of basic and thought-provoking questions you should ask your contractor during your first meeting:

Basic Questions:

Q: Are you licensed?  What is your class?
A: If you work with a contractor without a license, you have absolutely no protection if your job is completed incorrectly.  If you do work with a licensed contractor, a Class A license is preferred – especially for complex jobs.

Q: Do you have active liability insurance and workmen’s compensation?  Will you provide me a copy prior to my job beginning?
A: Construction is a field with a high risk of injury.  You need to make sure every member of your field team is fully protected and that you will carry no liability if someone gets injured in your home.  There’s also always a risk that surrounding areas to your renovation are damaged during the process.  You need to make sure your contractor’s insurance policy limits are enough to cover your home should you have to file a claim. Make sure you follow through and get a copy of your contractor’s policies – you’d be surprised how many contractors have expired policies.

Q: Are you a dealer? Do you provide all finishing materials?
A: Are you interviewing a contractor who’s going to buy your materials wherever they can find them, or is your contractor working directly with manufacturer?  Do you need to go out and hunt on your own, or will your contractor place all your orders and deliver to your home? 

Q: Do you have reviews, testimonials or references I can read?
A: The best way to know get to know your contractor is to hear from other clients.  A well-done kitchen or bathroom renovation is such an overwhelmingly positive experience, our clients are always willing to speak with potential customers and leave written and video feedback.  Likewise, a terribly done renovation is such a nightmare, word will get around.  Your contractor’s reviews should be plentiful and should be very detailed.

Q: Do you have a website with a gallery of completed jobs?
A: You want your contractor to make enough revenue to be able to invest in having a professional online presence.  They should have a nice website featuring a gallery of their past jobs to give you an idea of what to expect.  They should also be active on several social media profiles on the most popular contractor websites.  

Deeper Questions:

Q: What does your planning process consist of?
A: Thorough planning is the key to a successful project.  If you’re considering spending tens of thousands of dollars, beware of the “I’ll start tomorrow – sign here” contractor.  You need to know exactly what you’re getting into so ensure you have no regrets.    

Q: How do you manage construction to make sure your jobs are completed on time?
A: This question will stump a lot of the smaller contractors as they will have no idea.  They start when they start and finish when they finish squeezing you in between other jobs.  If you don’t want a project that’s going to drag on forever, you want a contractor who has carefully planned their field schedule and thought through all the potential worst-case scenarios. 

Q: What level of customer service can I expect during planning?
A: This question is something you may not have thought of but should!  Are you going to be able to call and get advice about hardware?  Your grout colors? The color temperature of your recessed lighting? Will someone go with you to visit showrooms?  Will someone deliver samples to your home to view under your lighting? Can you send a visual of a backsplash you really love and have someone go shopping for you?  If you’d like a more luxury experience, you’ll need to make sure your contractor has the design team to accommodate your needs.

Q: What will be my role in the planning process?
A: Will you have a design presented to you or will you need to tell your contractor where everything goes? Will your design have a well thought out workflow suited to your individual needs or is it just a stock layout?  Will you have a designer picking all materials for you or do you need to hunt for them yourself? 

Q: What will be my role during construction?
A: Hopefully, the answer is you will have no role in construction.  But, if you do, it’s nice to know in advance.  Do you need to hire your own plumber or electrician?  Do you need to make sure all materials are onsite and ready?  Do you need to open permits and schedule and attend inspections? Do you need to do quality control site visits to make sure everything is going in the right spot?

Q: What level of customer service can I expect during construction?
A: How much communication can you expect during the project?  Will you have a construction calendar that’s updated according to current job progress?  Will you know projected payment dates in advance?  Will you be able to reach someone if you have questions?  How accessible will your project managers be? How are delays or unexpected events handled?

Q: How do you ensure the estimate you give me will be the actual cost at the end of my project?
A: This is, perhaps, the most important question to ask your contractor.  If you get a quick quote a couple of days after a contractor just looks around and takes a couple of measurements, be prepared for change orders. Your contractor should have a jobsite discovery and planning process so their quotes account for actual work conditions, your specific design, and your specific materials.  Any item “TBD” should have a reasonable budget allotted into your estimate, so you are completely confident in your quote’s accuracy.

Q: What is your follow up process like after you finish my job? What do I do if I have any issues?
A: Your contractor should have a routine check in with their customers during their warranty period and should have “warranty repair days” built into their field schedules that are reserved for previous clients.  You should have full confidence that your contractor will take care of you long after your final day of construction.  

At the end of the day, you want to work with an honest company who knows exactly what your experience will look like from your very first meeting to the final day of your warranty.  You’re not always going to be looking for a top-of-the-line design team, but you should be looking for a company who is able to manage and set your expectations according to their own company process even if they don’t have a huge staff.  If you’re planning a major renovation and you’d like to see how we answer these questions, book your first appointment and learn more about the Mayflower Renovation Experience!


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