For design/build remodelers committed to professionalism, the pre-construction meeting is standard issue. It gathers company personnel together with homeowners to go over details such as staging, the start date, and how pets, debris disposal, and cleanup will be handled. The job would be a substantial one—five or six figures—and the meeting will likely take place shortly before construction begins.
By contrast, most companies that specialize in short-cycle jobs don’t see the need for such a meeting. On a roofing, siding, or window job there are comparatively few products—10 to 12 for shingle re-roofing—and crews are in and out in a day or two.
Going against the grain are a handful of roofing, siding, and window companies that make the pre-construction meeting part of their process. Even on jobs of less than $10,000, it proves to be well worth the extra time and scheduling. “You eliminate problems,” says Mitch Kersch, owner of Major Homes, a home improvement contractor in Queens, N.Y. For Kersch’s company, a pre-construction meeting on a window replacement job might take 15 minutes; a kitchen or bath job meeting takes about an hour.
All in the Timing
One difference, though, is timing. At replacement companies, where the time between contract signing and final check collection may be six weeks, a meeting with homeowners right before works starts makes less sense.
Unique Home Solutions, in Indianapolis—where last year jobs averaged $8,885—has someone from production call customers 48 to 72 hours after contract signing to schedule what the company calls a “verification” meeting. “We call to set a time to walk the homeowner through the job, verify the materials, and to answer any questions,” president Bob Dillon says. “That meeting makes [the homeowner] feel like they’re in the driver’s seat,” he adds. It also ensures that there are no misunderstandings about what Dillon’s company is going to deliver and what the homeowner expects to happen. And it verifies that the job was correctly estimated. Unique Home Solutions’ tech occasionally discovers that, for instance, the roofing job estimated at 20 squares ought to have been 28 squares, and he revises the materials list accordingly. “That doesn’t happen too often,” Dillon says, “but it does happen.”
At Major Homes, a production manager calls within 48 hours of contract signing to set up a meeting that includes himself, the crew leader, and the customer, at the customer’s convenience, Kersch says. The earlier the meeting takes place, the better, he says. That way the company will know, before ordering the materials, if the customer wants a different shingle color or has changed her mind about clear versus frosted glass in the bathroom window. “You don’t want to find that out after the job’s done,” Kersch says—or just before, which would postpone the job start date.
What home improvement companies that do hold a pre-construction meeting find is that by the time the meeting takes place, homeowners are open to suggestions about the expanding scope of work. At Unique Home Solutions, where pre-construction meetings have been a practice for 15 years, Dillon estimates that resulting change orders increased his company’s 2013 sales by at least $1 million. “It streamlines the process,” he says. “And it leaves the customer thinking we’re very professional.”