Contractor Selection – A Skill Critical in Home Improvement Projects

Have you had contractors who leave your house looking worse than before they arrived? Have you come home to dust is everywhere – even on/in your computer, all over the kitchen counter and in your HVAC system. Is this preventable? Yes!

Here are tricks from years of residential experience:

#1/ Establish Work Rules

This may seem silly with grown men – but believe you me: it is absolutely necessary.

1) Insist that no cutting of wood and/or any other materials be done inside your house. Nonetheless, be sure to cover EVERYTHING with plastic, especially dust sensitive products like televisions, stereo equipment and computers.

2) Be sure that ALL air-conditioning systems are turned off at all times. The system will suck all the dusty air into it. However, if you are out of the house during contractor work, it’s a fair bet your contractors will run the system to cool down. Once the remodeling and/ or home repairs are finished immediately replace ALL filters.

3) If you manage to put your contractors outside for the cutting of materials footprints from dirty boots can be the next hassle. There is an easy answer: have temporary “booties” for them. They are inexpensive and are now available at big box stores. The booties will do wonders to protect your rugs and floors.

4) No tool belts in the house: so often homeowners discover a line right across their walls, especially hallway walls from – yes indeed toolbelts. Consider toolbelts the enemy of every wall in your house. Disallow them all together. Contractors appear to not have any awareness of the additional space taken up by hammers and the like. As they rush around, the tools mark up your walls every time.

Some contractors may squabble but so what. Others may not want to come and work for you. This separates out the contractors that naturally work neatly from those who know they simply cannot do so. Better to find this out right from the start.

Be sure to position these rules as non-negotiable! Be firm. Believe me contractors understand the saying “it’s my way or the highway…”

Women have an advantage here!!! Most contractors will caulk it off as “having to work for a woman” but importantly they will adhere to the rules!

#2/ Present the Work Rules during the Initial Interview

You might think this is to avoid any confusion. While clarity is always a good thing there is an imbedded hidden and much more important reason:

Contractors reactions to these rules speak volumes – not only about their attitude toward you and your property but also about their work experience and quality of work.

• Contractors who worked on high-end jobs with high-end details and workmanship requirements are familiar with these types of work rules. In high-end projects they are not at all uncommon.

• Contractors who are neat in the way they work typically produce a higher quality of work. They understand that quality work requires an organized workspace. They tend to have a high level of material awareness. Example: They will carefully lay down a wrench or hammer instead of slamming it on your new marble floor to chip or crack it….creating a problem for the next guy to fix.

State all work rules clearly and firmly as part of contractor interviews. Watch their reactions carefully. Look at their body language. Do their bodies look like the are wrestling with the notion? What is their verbal response? It tells you everything you need to know. Follow your instincts. Use it as a gauge or a selection tool.

Not only does it avoid the trashing of your house during home improvement projects but it also provides important insight into contractors’ abilities.

It will sort great contractors – the keepers – from all the rest. If this method seems a bit unconventional you are right. You will likely not find it written in a book. It is derived from years of managing complex residential construction projects.

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