11 essential questions to ask your bathroom remodeling contractor

Will your contractor show up on time, stick to your budget, and do high-quality work? Here’s how to find out upfront.

“The biggest mistake a client can make when working with a bathroom remodel contractor is not asking enough questions and being part of the process,” says Michael Big of Big Brothers Development. “The last thing a contractor wants to deal with is a client who isn’t happy with the final product.”

Based on interviews and data from real Thumbtack bathroom remodeling projects, we created a list of essential questions to ask before you hire a contractor.

1. Can I see examples of your past bathroom remodeling work?

Read your contractor’s reviews. Comb for details on their punctuality, communication skills, work environment cleanliness, and work quality. But if you see negative reviews, don’t dismiss the pro right away. Look at how they respond: if they show strong communication and conflict-resolution skills, they may still be a good fit.

Make sure you look at a portfolio of past work, especially if you have a specialty project in mind. On Thumbtack, you can look at photos of previous work for bathroom remodeling contractors before you hire them.

2. Do you take on bathroom remodeling projects of my scope?

Some contractors specialize in certain kinds of projects. For example, one contractor may do bathroom additions, while another focuses specifically on small bathroom remodels. Asking this question upfront will save everyone the time and effort of a site visit. Also, if you need bathroom design services, make sure to ask if your contractor has design training. If not, consider hiring an architect or designer.

3. How many projects do you run at the same time?

You want a company that has time for you and has long-term relationships with its subcontractors. Make sure you and your contractor have the same expectations about how often they will be onsite once the project kicks off. The contractor should be open with you about how long each stage of the project will take, and they should show a good understanding of what factors could potentially push that timeline out.

“A great contractor will go above and beyond to make sure a client’s questions are answered.” says Michael of Big Brothers Development. “A contractor that communicates is not afraid of accountability, and will always be ready to answer any questions that arise or keep the client abreast for where a project stands.”

4. Who will be working in my home?

Many general contractors serve as the business head and hire foremen to run projects. Ask to meet the project manager and make sure it’s someone you want at your house every day. Depending on the elements of your bathroom remodeling project, your contractor will probably bring in more specialists.

This is a good thing in most cases — you want a specialist for things like drywall, painting, and tiling. But make sure you ask exactly what will be subcontracted out and get background information on those subcontractors.

5. Are you bonded, licensed, and insured?

Any contractor or subcontractor who works on your house should be bonded, licensed, and insured properly according to state and local standards. Insurance can help protect you if your home gets damaged during construction or workers are hurt on site, while hiring a bonded contractor can help protect you if the contractor fails to pay workers, doesn’t pay for permits, or doesn’t finish the work. Here’s more on how to do your research.

6. What permits does my project need and will you get them?

If a contractor isn’t willing to get the permits, it may be a sign they’re not licensed. You may need permits to make sure the work is up to code and that your homeowners insurance will cover it once it’s done. Make sure to ask whether permits are required and, if yes, ask to see the permits before the project starts.

7. How do you work?

What time does the work day start and end? Do workers clean up at the end of every day? Will they haul off garbage and debris?

If pros are working inside, ask how they’ll protect your hardwood floors from damage. It’s best to talk about all of this upfront and get it in writing. And don’t just take their word for it — make sure to read their previous reviews carefully to see what other homeowners have said about their working style.

Related: The top 5 ways bathroom remodels get off-track

8. What’s your expected payment schedule?

It’s normal to put down a deposit of roughly 10 percent to get started, but anything more may be a red flag. No one should ask you for cash up front. Ask how much money is due and when, and get it all in writing.

9. Will you itemize the bid?

Ask about the range of costs for the specific components of your project, like toilet installation, plumbing, and electrical work. This lets you decide if what you’re being charged is fair. It also helps you make adjustments to your budget if needed. You can get free upfront cost estimates on Thumbtack based on real pricing information provided by local professionals on projects like yours.

10. How have you resolved differences of opinion in the past?

Miscommunications often have to do with both parties, so if your contractor responds to this question by blaming the client entirely, you probably won’t have a good experience. If a contractor obviously has a willingness to make things right with customers, you’re on the right track.

11. Does the contract cover everything?

Review the contract carefully and make sure you understand it. If you don’t understand it, don’t be shy about asking the contractor to explain it to you. Make sure the contract has a clear start and end date in writing. Remodels are always prone to change, but putting as much of the plan into structured writing means everyone has clear expectations about what will happen when.

It’s also wise to ask the contractor what’s not included. This should help avoid conflicts during the project. For example, the discussions may have covered built-ins. So, are they included or an extra? If included, are they paint or stain grade? If paint grade, are they finished similar to quality you expect in furniture? A sample always helps.