What triggered the policy was the dog under the waterbed.

“I had a job where I knew the dog would hide in an 8-inch-high spot under the waterbed frame,” says Dave Chmura, explaining the origins of his get-to-know-the-family meeting. “I didn't communicate that to my contractors, and one day the electrician couldn't find the dog. [The crew] spent four hours looking for him, until I came and told them where to look.”

Thereafter, Chmura, of Elegant Builders, in Bel Air, Md., began bringing his lead carpenter to the clients' home to meet with every family member. It was more than pets that concerned him: “We might come to the door and the kids would answer and wouldn't know who we were.”

The hour-long meeting is held before the preconstruction meeting. “We explain our process and determine the schedules of parents and kids.” Because most in Chmura's crew are parents, they talk about their own children and their activities to put the client family at ease.

One client, who had used several contractors over the years, told Chmura that she was surprised no one had ever done this, although at first she was slightly suspicious.

“Once we explained, she was impressed and wished others had done the same,” Chmura says.