How to Not Drive Your Contractors Nuts
Don't Drive Your Contractor Crazy
Almost everyone has heard or shared at least one nightmarish contractor story. There was the guy who showed up late, took four-hour lunches and then left early, extending the project by weeks. Then there was the other guy who tracked paint all over the antique rug. You may not know it, but you may be hard to work for. If you want to get the very best work out of your contractor you need to manage the situation effectively. You may think your constant questions and check-ins are helping the progress, but they aren't. For the best remodel possible, it's imperative that you don't drive your contractor nuts.
We spoke with a couple of contractors, and here's what you should know:
- Do Your Homework
Before you even think about calling a contractor, have an idea about what you want accomplished. This may seem obvious, but too many people call a contractor expecting them to provide them with ideas, having no clue what they really want done to their space. While a good contractor will have suggestions for you, don't use them as an idea machine. Contractors are busy people; respect their time.
Scour magazines and home improvement stores instead to see what styles appeal to you. Collecting samples, pricing materials and otherwise doing research will put you ahead of the game and make you easier to work with.
When you are shopping around, think about what the project will really look like in your home. "A lot of times, the homeowner thinks it will look one way and can't envision what it will look like in the end," says Ben Craigson, a licensed electrician based in El Segundo, California. Craigson gives the example of a colleague who laid a slate tile floor for a client who loved the product on the shelf but hated it on her floor.
- Don't Change Your Mind
Nothing is more annoying than working for someone who is indecisive, and what's more, it is crucial that you stick to the plans you have laid out with your contractor prior to signing the contract. Otherwise, it's going to cost you.
"When the client decides they'd rather have a switch here rather than there, or this instead of that, it leads to lost time, additional dollars and general upheaval of the entire project," says San Francisco-based general contractor Bret Gedryn.
The moral of the story is: If you are feeling fickle, be prepared to cough up more money and extend the length of the project.
- Be Clear
The best way to ensure a healthy working relationship with your contractor is by communicating your needs and wishes up front. Much of this will be taken care of in the contract stage, but being clear about start and finish times, noise and clean up will all help to prevent ill feelings and confrontation. For example, if you can't stand the sound of jack-hammering (and really, who can) ask your contractor to tell you when that will happen and make arrangements to leave. Other stuff to get clear on: work hours, use of the bathroom, planting a sign in front of your house.
Also, when you do speak to your contractor, keep it short. "Clients don't realize every time they engage in conversation with their contractor they are wasting precious labor time," says Craigson.
Craigson suggests keeping a running list of questions and concerns and presenting them to the contractor first thing in the morning. That way, you won't be a constant distraction. Which brings us to...
- Let Your Contractor do the Job
If you've ever worked for a micromanager, you know how awful and belittling it can be. You know the scenario: nothing is ever done right unless it has been meticulously overseen and approved by a higher-up. When having work done to your home, remember not to be this person. While you should keep tabs on the progress of the project, injecting yourself into every detail of it makes you a nuisance.
You should have enough confidence in your contractor to let them do the job without constant interruption. If you are having trouble trusting the person you are working with then you should by all means hire someone else. On your fifth contractor? Maybe you should be doing the work yourself.
Also, when problems do arise (and they will), don't harp on them. "Owners need to realize that when stuff happens they need to move forward, not dwell on the problem," says Gedryn. "There is a solution to every problem," Gedryn says. So, let your contractor find it.
- Get Lost
While you are having work done, adopt an "off-limits7quot; policy for the room undergoing the refurbishment. It may seem impossible to keep out of the kitchen for two weeks, but it will make your contractor's life much easier. Your contractor also doesn't want to keep shooing the dog or your kids away while he or she is trying to work.
"Really, the best policy on our end is get out of the way and stay out of the way," says Craigson.
Also, reduce the chances of any damage being done to your stuff by relocating it temporarily. Remove anything and everything you don't want exposed to paint, dust, dirt, etc. Your contractor will be happier working in a clutter-free environment. Also, hide any valuables, too. It's unlikely that they will be stolen, but why take any chances?
After the contractor has left for the day, feel free to check their work. But don't clean up after them, rearrange their tools or otherwise disrupt the environment.
- Who's the Boss?
Remember, a check-in with your contractor before they start work every day is completely normal—even expected. This is when you should consult your list and present any problems, concerns or praise you have for them.
Managing your remodel effectively requires you to adopt a hands-off policy. Sure, it's difficult to keep your mouth shut and resist hourly assessments of your contractor's work, but let them work in peace and stick to the original plan. It's the most effective way to a job done well, on budget and on time.
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