Working With a Contractor – Tips For Staying in Control

Hands of business people at the meeting about house project in the office

It seems everyone has heard a horror story about someone working with a contractor. Maybe it is the one where the 2 month project ended up taking 2 years to finish. Or perhaps you have heard the story about the contractor who walked off the job in the middle of the project. Throughout my years in the industry I have heard many terrible stories and I want to help people get through their renovation smoothly.

Here are some tips to help you keep a good relationship with your contractor.

Get References And Check Them

This one should be a given, however, many people don’t do this before they sign a contract. Call the references and if possible go and see some work the contractor has done in person. By seeing a finished project you can see if their work is up to your standard.

Make sure you have a written contract and that it covers all the areas the contractor is responsible for. If they aren’t willing to take the time and write it down, they won’t be willing to take the time on your house.

Don’t Micro Manage The Workers

I know you as the home owner are interested in what the workers are doing and some of you want to learn how to do certain things yourselves. However, it is not in your best interest to stand over the workers and watch their every move.

Think about how you would perform your job if someone was standing behind your shoulder all day. Probably not very well. The job will go faster and have fewer mistakes if you let the workers do their job without interrupting them and getting in their way. They will appreciate the space and they will do a better job.

Voice Concerns Quickly

It is not in your best interest to stand over the trades, however, it is a good idea if you can check in on the progress once or twice a day. If you are working while the renovation is going on, try to get home before the workers leave for the day.

Progress can be made very quickly so if you see something that you aren’t happy with, point it out before it is too late. If you miss the workers, leave a note for them so they can see your concerns the next morning. Or better yet, stay home until they get there so you can explain your concerns in person.

Also, if you come home and you are really happy with the progress that was made or with something specific, leave a note and let them know. You would be amazed at how much good will this creates. Don’t forget the trades are people too and they will be respond to positive feedback.

Keep Communication Open With The Project Coordinator

Not only do you want to leave notes for the workers when needed, you want to stay in touch with the project coordinator. They know when the trades are coming and they control the schedule.

It’s a good idea to touch base with them once a day. Don’t call more than that unless there are decisions that have to be made. You don’t want them ignoring your calls because you are hassling them.

It’s Not a Holiday

Although it is nice to offer the trades some water or coffee, some homeowners go too far. I have heard of people making the workers lunch, letting them use the pool, or offering beer at the end of the day. I don’t recommend this level of generosity.

There are a couple of things that can happen when you are too generous with the trades. I have heard of projects that drag on because the workers are having so much fun they don’t want the project to end. This ultimately upsets the home owner and the renovation company.

The other problem is that once you start these types of perks, it is very difficult to stop them. The workers come to expect them and the power shifts from you. I have seen it first hand where trades are helping themselves to the home owner’s fridge and asking when lunch is.

A better idea is plan a small gathering after the project is over for all of the sub trades that have worked on the project. It is an incentive to get the job done, and it allows you to show your appreciation on your terms.

You can have a good relationship with the contractor and the workers if you follow these tips. Remember that they are people and treat them like you would like to be treated. Point out concerns quickly but calmly and maintain a healthy balance between friendly and professional.