Spaces for Life

The ReTouch Home Improvement blog



Spaces for Life: Questions to ask your contractor

By Lance McCarthy

So I’m supposed to be writing about the project of the month, but we have been working so hard to get ready for the NARI Remodeled Homes Tour this weekend, that I couldn’t get it off my mind.

If you haven’t ever been out for one, it is fascinating to actually walk through someone’s house that has decided to remodel. You get to learn so much. It’s like a real live Pinterest and Houzz.

After 5 years in this, I have some questions that I don’t hear from visitors in tours very often, but that will help you get to know a contractor quickly.

The Four Types

First one isn’t a question, but an observation.  (Really?  I’m already breaking my own rules?  Yes.  The answer is yes.)  

Look at what the contractor has chosen to display.  Listen to what they choose to talk about.  This will tell you which type of contractor you are dealing with.

There are really only four types of contractors:  

The Craftsman-this is the one that cares about the craft.  The technical aspects.  They are experts in code and wood species and geek out on construction stuff.  

The Artiste-this is the one who loves design.  They will focus on the colors, features, and feel of the place.  These projects will probably have a lot of bling.  

The Lover-This person is in it for the people.  They love serving people and are happy to do whatever a client would like.  You will hear them talk a lot about emotion and the client’s wants and needs.  

Mr. Business-This one is all about the sale.  They will have good technique, good questions, probably be the best dressed, and will have plenty of ways you can schedule an appointment.  

None of these types are inherently bad, in fact every contractor is a mix.  The better you know which mix they are, the better you know if they will be a good match for you.  (I’ll let you try to figure out which mix I am.)

    1. “What are your company’s values?”  This might seem a little cheesy, but the answer tells a lot.  It should be obvious that you want to work with someone that shares your values. Whatever the response, it will tell you something important.  Especially if you are asking an employee instead of the owner.   
    2. What did you like most about the client on this project?  Do they light up when responding?  Is it clear they built a bond with the client during the project?  If the person you are talking to was involved in the project, you will get a good sense of how the project actually went through their answer.
    3. When a project doesn’t go well, what is usually the reason?  The two wrong answers here are “never happens” or “when the client…”  The first answer is simply not true.  I know a lot of the best contractors, and none are immune from challenging projects.  The second answer sounds like they may feel like problems are someone else’s fault.  Neither answer will come from someone you want to work with.
    4. What was the client trying to accomplish here?   A remodeling project is challenging because there are lots of competing interests.  Money, emotion, function…An effective contractor works hard to discover the most important goals of a client, then continues to work towards those with laser focus.  That should make this question a really good one at telling how well this person listens to their client’s needs.


Hope you found that informative.  Whether you come to our houses or someone else’s, hope to see you out this weekend.

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