Hiring a bathroom renovation contractor - Top Ten Questions to ask!

Discussion in 'Shower & Bathtub Forum & Blog' started by johnfrwhipple, Mar 17, 2013.

  1. johnfrwhipple

    johnfrwhipple Bathroom Design & Build - North Vancouver, B.C.

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    I have been getting a lot of requests on my topic of bathroom renovations (tub to shower conversion) over on Houzz.com about what the best questions are to ask when looking for a new contractor. It's funny this subject comes up because just last week my last client said it was what they learned from my posts online that in the end lead them to me.

    What are the top ten questions you should ask your potential tile crew or bathroom renovator? What are you favourite questions?

    I have a list going here.


    Hiring a bathroom contractor or tile setter can be a scary process. Do you have the right person? Do they have the skills and the training to do the job right? Often you are at the mercy of the person you hire and many times the same contractor can produce different levels of finished product. What are the best questions to ask when looking for a new contractor?

    I have some good questions here that can open the doors to many renovation realities. Dust, Testing, Product Approvals and the like are all subjects that need to be raised. Often getting a better tradesperson is in asking better questions. What is key is understanding how their job should be done before asking the questions. Here is a few questions to get you headed in a better direction.

    There are many simple steps you can take to get a better contractor or better tile installation company on your job. Here is a few questions you might ask when interviewing a new tradesperson.

    "How long have you been incorporated or doing business under your current company name?"

    Look for business that have been operating under the same business name for long period of time. A 40-50 year business owner doing business for twenty years ideally has not changed the company name often - if ever. A brand new business would raise alarm bells with me. If it is a new company your dealing with or interviewing ask what the last business name was and check out any consumer reviews for both of these company names. A shower renovation could easily cost $28,000-$90,000 - you would not buy a luxury car without a test drive and extensive research. The person you hire will be responsible for it's outcome - CHECK THEM OUT.

    Do they have insurance. WCB. Better Business Bureau. Are they members of the NKBA (National Kitchen and Bath Assoiciation)? The NTCA or TTMAC. Perhaps one of the Marble Associations. Look for people active in their industry, chances are they have more training and more support at their disposal.


    "How long will you flood test the new shower?"


    Every shower needs to be flood tested to ensure it holds water and that it drain properly. Shower's need the waterproofing material to comply with ANSI 118.10 standards. There are so many options a just a few of them include "Hot Mop", "Rubber Liner", "Kerdi", "Hydro Ban","Wedi", "Noble Seal", "Noble Deck".....and on and on.

    As long as they meet this ANSI 118.10 standard and the showers are flood tested your good to go. Typically "Hot Mop's" are only found in the state of California and most times it's the plumber who installs a rubber type shower liner with a clamping drain. If a topicall membrane like Kerdi or Noble are used it is the tile installer or membrane installer who would need to preform this flood test.

    Flood tests are ideally 72 hours. In much of the United States a flood test duration of 15 minutes is all that is required but a more measured and controlled 72 hour test is far more accurate test of your new shower's waterproofing measures.



    "Who's job is it to protect the finished floors and counters?"

    It appears to be nobody's responsibility on most job sites. Demand better. Protecting the new and old work from harm should be first on every tradesperson list. If it's not included in a quote take the job on yourself. If the job site is neat and tidy you get neat tidy work. If the job site is a "Gong Show" - you can guess the care many take. Keep it tidy. Protect the floors. Check out this product. Ram Board

    "How do you contain the dust on the renovation?"

    If your only renovating a bathroom the entire home should not suffer. Us tradespeople need space. If your ensuite is the project move out of the bedroom and let your crew use the space. This is nice treat for us blue collar workers and makes for a neater and safer job site.



    "Where does the messy work and mixing take place?"


    Tile setting materials contain cement. It's corrosive and the dust mask should be worn by the person mixing it. The dust should not be flying around the home. Settle on a place to mix these dusty materials and what measures will be put in place to prevent dust or flying cement from harming other areas of the home or yard.

    "Are all your products cUPC certified?"

    They need to be. Often there is a sticker or approval letter in the package. Save these for final inspection. Make a file to have ready if requested by the plumbing or general inspector on a job.

    "What is the name of your plumber, drywalled, tile setter and electrician?"

    You want to have the right sub contractors. One general contractor might work with several tile setting crews. Who is the best? Find out. Plan your job around that crews schedule for best results. Don't hire a general contractor and then let it go to quote. The tile contractor and tile setter should have a history of projects together - ask for pictures.


    "Who does the pressure test on the new plumbing work?"

    An often overlooked test that is so crazy to skip.

    "Are permits needed for this renovation?"

    Most times not. But Why Not? Get the city involved - the more "Eyes" on a job the better chance of catching something built wrong.

    "What kind of warranty is offered by the individual materials? Do you extend them?"


    Not all warranties and products are created equal. If your paying one set price for the new shower - what is the base standard? What quality is the finishes? The grout?
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2014
  2. johnfrwhipple

    johnfrwhipple Bathroom Design & Build - North Vancouver, B.C.

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    Top Ten Questions to ask your potential tile contractor or bathroom renovator.

    Each of the above questions can open a good dialogue with your potential builder. How they answer the questions is key.

    Do they understand local code?

    Do they do more than just the most basic?

    Do they have regular sub contractors or do they use who ever?

    All things you should find out before entrusting someone to build your dream bathroom.

    JW
  3. themp

    themp Member

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    Thought I would reverse this, what should a contractor not do to the perspective client? No Negging.

    http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=negging

    Had a bathroom re-model estimate and the tile contractors that Negged my wife were not ever going to get the job. She likes white tile that is the way it is.
    She likes her cabinets and hardware. She likes her light over the mirror. And the mirror is fine. Oh, and if she wanted granite counter tops she would have ask for them.

    And they are not 'Retro'
  4. johnfrwhipple

    johnfrwhipple Bathroom Design & Build - North Vancouver, B.C.

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    Finishing Detail Questions to Ask you Contractor - Tile Edging

    Thanks Themp.

    You could ask your contractor " How do you cut Schluter Profiles or tile edging?" We use a Non-Ferrous blade and get perfect results. Sometimes this is done with Hand Snips or a Hack Saw.

    The polished look of a fine install comes from the little details. Asking detail questions like this will help you get inside your contractors head and figure out how they build and to what standard.

    JW
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2013
  5. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

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    quote; "Who does the pressure test on the new plumbing work?"
    An often overlooked test that is so crazy to skip.

    In a "remodel" which is usually a revision or extension of an existing system, HOW would anyone be able to "skip" this process unless they had ALL the water to the building turned off? But, even if it were, the water would have to be turned on SOMETIME before the walls were installed.
  6. johnfrwhipple

    johnfrwhipple Bathroom Design & Build - North Vancouver, B.C.

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    Questions to ask your renovator: Do you pressure test the new water lines?

    When renovating these bathrooms we work on most times the entire bathroom is being upgraded. It easy to bring in new water lines or at the very least switch out all the old ones. When this is done we use a couple of 1/4 turn shutoffs to isolate all the new work from the home.

    This allows us to pressure test the new water lines without stressing the old system.

    Has to be done if you want your connections and piping tested.

    Maybe an extra $18.00 in fittings. Check the plumbers work.

    GTG - Good to Go.

    JW
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2013
  7. asktom

    asktom Member

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    Location:
    Victor, MT
    Back to the 10 questions...

    (1) Is this guy full of bullshit? [yes is bad]
    (2) Does this guy want me to sign right now? [yes is bad]
    (3) Does this guy have a big ad in the yellow pages? [yes is bad]
    (4) Does this guy have a big cube truck with the company name colorfully plastered all over it and it holds everything? [yes is bad]
    (5) Does this guy smell like sweat and Thunderbird? [yes is bad]
    (6) Does this guy give you options? [yes is good]
    (7) Does this guy give references? [yes is good]
    (8) Does this guy listen to you? [yes is good]
    (9) Do you know what this guy is talking about? [yes is good]
    (10) Is your gut feeling positive? [yes is good]

    (when I say "guy" you could substitute "gal")
  8. johnfrwhipple

    johnfrwhipple Bathroom Design & Build - North Vancouver, B.C.

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    Ten tips from Tom! - Thanks for those ten tips Tom.

    I'm glad I drive a GMC and not that old Thunderbird! LOL
  9. DougB

    DougB Member

  10. johnfrwhipple

    johnfrwhipple Bathroom Design & Build - North Vancouver, B.C.

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    Questions to ask your bathroom renovator: Do you prepare a tile sample board?

    One of my clients in Switzerland yesterday reach out my email in a crisis. She had come to check the grouting of the bathroom floor (on her project) only to find the tile setter used an epoxy grout and used to much. He had filled the pebble stone so much that the client was not happy and they tried removing as much as they could.

    This is a bad idea.

    Not good.

    When I responded by email I asked if the tile setter had done a "Grout Mock Up Board" and I was told they did ask for one but the tile setter forgot.

    Now the job is ruined over the grouting step.

    Always get a tile mock up board and have it grouted.

    This could be another great question for a renovator.

    "Do you prepare a tile sample board with or with out grout?"


    Click here to see how we make a grout sample board.
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2013
  11. johnfrwhipple

    johnfrwhipple Bathroom Design & Build - North Vancouver, B.C.

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    Questions to ask your renovator: Who does the tiling and grouting?

    One of my peers on the Linked'in NKBA group posted that question.

    "Who does the tiling on your jobs?"

    One big warning sign on a job is when the crew shows up with new tools! Stickers on the trowels. Tile saws in a box and that box has never been open.

    You might ask your renovator as well.

    "Does your tile setter use a wet saw or snap cutter most times?"
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2013
  12. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

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    quote; This allows us to pressure test the new water lines without stressing the old system.

    We "pressure test" the water lines by turning on the water. I can't remember all the cars I have had since my "Diamond Jubilee" Thunderbird, but it was a nice car. Smelled good too, because it was "non smoking".
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2013
  13. johnfrwhipple

    johnfrwhipple Bathroom Design & Build - North Vancouver, B.C.

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    Hiring a bathroom renovator: Top questions to ask him/her

    After reading my weekend emails this morning it's quite clear to me that it's important to ask about your contractors training.

    "Have you gone to school for your trade?"

    "Are you a member of any trade associations"

    "Are you a member of the NKBA, NTCA, TTMAC etc."


    Questions like this can give you a glimpse into the level of professionalism your contractor might have. In today's internet world it is easy to study a few blog posts, read a couple threads online and sound like you know what your doing.

    Lets say your building a steam shower and want to use Kerdi Membrane. Lets say you live in Vancouver. Did you know that Schluter has a local rep here? Call them. Check out your contractor. Also ask if your contractor has taken any product training classes. This class is better than no class.

    A beware to contractor who arrives with tools still in boxes. Chances are they have never been used and are brand new.

    This contractor bought a new tile saw for this project. My clients thought that was weird at the time but never called the contractor on it.


    He should have saved the money and found a tile setter expeirenced with Kerdi and linear drains. My customers ended up paying for two showers when they only wanted one to start with.
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2014
  14. johnfrwhipple

    johnfrwhipple Bathroom Design & Build - North Vancouver, B.C.

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    Insulation Questions to ask your contractor

    Just thought of a new question to ask your bathroom contractor.

    The subject of insulation and vapour barriers is a complicate one since where you leave dictates what you need in the walls. In Vancouver you need R20 in the walls with a 6mil vapour barrier. Simply asking your contractor this;

    "What R Value is needed for the ceiling and walls in this renovation?" is another good question to see if your contractor knows local code off the top of his head.

    JW
  15. johnfrwhipple

    johnfrwhipple Bathroom Design & Build - North Vancouver, B.C.

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    Questions to ask a contractor - Interviewing a contractor

    I went out two nights back and looked at a great space in Coquitlam. The couple wants to steal the walk in closet from the master bedroom and turn the small bathroom into a large one equipped with a new steam unit. This couple is very organized and very well travelled. They knew the right questions to ask and we had a long 2.5 hout initial meeting.

    I was asked about my WCB (Workers Compensation Board) coverage. Insurance details and contractors license.

    This brings up a good point. I have never pulled a permit in Coquitlam and in order to do so will need to get a contractors license for this city. It might be the only time I need this since most of our work is in the North Shore or Vancouver. So if asked (like I was) I would fail this question. Of course I offered up straight away to get it and did mention that at present I did not. I think this was the right answer - I hope so anyway.

    "Do you have a contractors license for ____________ ?" - Simple question
  16. johnfrwhipple

    johnfrwhipple Bathroom Design & Build - North Vancouver, B.C.

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    Questions to ask a contractor - Interviewing a contractor

    I received an email the other day from a friend in Montreal who tells me that one of my articles I wrote for Houzz.com has been copied and uploaded to a local flooring company here in Vancouver. The post by a competitor of mine here locally brings up a really touchy subject. Is it OK to post other people's work on your web site or blog site? Are there rules for doing this? I'm not sure what I think about the practice and assume there is miles and miles of grey areas on the subject matter.

    The featured articles on Houzz.com are Houzz's articles not mine. I'm sure they will look into this for me and either the company responsible will give credit to Houzz and me or not. I really don't care since the article is a good one and does promote good shower building practices. But - what if I loose out on a job because someone hires a company beliveing my work and the work of my friends is in fact our competitors???

    This lead me to think of a new question to ask your contractors in a renovation.

    "Is the work showcased on your website, your portfolio, your Facebook page and blog your work?" - Seams like a simple question but I think an important question to ask.

    I have notice many Facebook pages using shower pictures I have seen online within the random posts. Two poster in particular I have noticed do this on a regular basis and never let those viewing the pictures know that the work was not done by them but in fact by another crew in another country! Scary.
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2013
  17. johnfrwhipple

    johnfrwhipple Bathroom Design & Build - North Vancouver, B.C.

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    Location:
    North Vancouver, BC
    Bathroom renovation contractor Interviewing Questions - Top Ten Questions to ask!

    A random question you can ask your tile contractor is this.

    "What is the best thin-set to use and how fresh should it be?"

    This is a good question and can lead to many different answers. Most tile pros have a favourite but tile choice will play a factor. Also any tile pro not familiar with checking his product for freshness is a RED FLAG in my book.

    Thin-set is always on the move. Pallets come and pallets go. Not knowing how to check can put some expired setting materials into your shower's build and this one error can result in a failure. I've been there and done that. This little School of hard Knocks training has hit me hard in the wallet when we needed to redo an entire kitchen floor's tile!.
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