Does “anal-retentive” have a hyphen? ~Alison Bechdel
Recently, on the John Bridge tile forum, someone wrote a post titled “After enough time, do all pros become this sloppy?” in which they describe their (not-so-great) experience with a tile contractor that they had hired. Among their complaints was the fact that the contractor didn’t wash down and completely clean out his thinset bucket completely before mixing another batch and the fact that his installation process was messy.
If your someone that could care less about this, CONGRATULATIONS!! You’re normal! But there is a small percentage of people that care about the manner that a contractor goes about his or her business. If this describes you I hope this post will be of benefit to you.
What should you expect when you hire a contractor?
The author of the above post describes their project as a disaster. However this would hardly be considered a disaster to the homeowner that has had their bathroom completely ruined by an incompetent or unscrupulous contractor. So this begs the question: What is reasonable to expect when you hire a contractor?
I think we can agree that the quality and level of service is going to be different between a 1 star hotel and a 5 star hotel. If you hire a contractor that was low-bid then you have to expect 1 star service. Back when I had roommates I know that the cleanest roommate was always at a disadvantage. It wasn’t fair, but that’s the way it was. If your a perfectionist that wants to hire a contractor then, to protect your own sanity, then the odds are that you will spend more than your neighbors on your remodeling work.
But spending more guarantees nothing.
Don’t assume- instead communicate!
Expectations are best dealt with up-front. If you are a perfectionist some, or all, of these things will matter to you:
- How will your house be protected?
- Will drop cloths be used?
- What’s the plan to contain dust?
- Where will the cutting be done?
- Where will materials be stored?
They need to be talked about. How annoying is it when you arrive home and your parking space in the garage has all of a sudden been deemed the “staging area?” But if it was agreed to ahead of time, it’s not annoying at all. I can’t stress this enough- ask questions.
It’s not all about you
OK. So you’ve figured out everything that would annoy you and you’ve made your list of
demands questions to ask before you hire a contractor. It’s important to realize that this is a negotiation. There will be some give-and-take. I know that you have pet peeves but it’s unreasonable to expect the contractor to work around every one of them. In fact, the solution to some of them may be expensive. If you’re a diva-type, I see three options for your future: you’ll spend a fortune to get what you want, you’ll be driven insane, or you’ll be suing your contractor. (There’s also a less likely option of all three happening.)
No matter what, there will be things that happen that are impossible to anticipate. For instance, I recently talked to a homeowner that had a contractor that was listening to vulgar music while on the job. If your initial negotiations are in the spirit of working things out together then you’ll be able to continue that as the project goes along. If all you do is nitpick the way your contractor does everything then there probably won’t be a lot of flexibility.
Don’t take it personally
You may find that, by asking a lot of questions about procedures and expectations up-front, that your contractor may all-of-a-sudden become really busy or may not have time to do your project anymore. Usually this means that you’ve raised too many red flags for him or her. Don’t take it personally, just interview the next one on the list. There’s neurotic contractors out there that are sensitive to the plight of neurotic homeowners. You just have to find the one for you.