When Contractors Are Working in a Home

Whenever a contractor is working in a home, clear communication beforehand between the contractor and homeowner can help avoid a lot of the misunderstandings and inconveniences that might arise.

Price, timeframe, and guarantee are often foremost in the homeowner’s mind, but there are many aspects to consider when a contractor is hired to work in a home. Depending upon the nature of the project, some or all of these may apply.

License – Does the contractor (and all subcontractors) possess a current contractor’s license for the work to be performed? Homeowners, you can ask for the license number(s) and check them with your state contractor licensing agency. Each state handles its own contractor licensing, so search the Internet for yours. Terms such as contractor license (your state) should find what you need.

Insurance/Bond – Ensure that all contractors are currently insured, per your state’s requirements. If they’re required to be bonded, as well (in most states, this is a requirement), you should be able to see their bond status on your state licensing board’s website.

Start Date/Completion Date – Homeowners, ask when the work will start and when it will be completed. Contractors, clearly identify any conditions that may change this. Inclement weather, homeowner selection of materials, inspector visits, and other conditions outside of the contractor’s control will typically prolong a project.

Working Hours – Identify the time that work will begin and end each day, as well as the standard meal/break times to be expected. Be sure the start time isn’t so early as to annoy the neighbors or violate the Homeowner’s Association Rules, if any.

Parking – Identify how many vehicles and of what type will be present during working hours and ensure that adequate parking is available, without disturbing or blocking the neighbors or traffic.

Access – Material deliveries should be considered as well, particularly if large bulk deliveries such as lumber or gravel will be received. For heavy vehicles, such as cement trucks or dump trucks, be certain that roadways and the driveway are able to handle the load.

Security – Secure overnight parking for tractors, gang-boxes, or trucks may be necessary, so work this out with the homeowner before the contract is signed.

Contact information – Homeowners, provide your contractor with your contact information, such as home, work, and cellular number in case an emergency arises. Contractors, do the same for the homeowner and provide them with as much contact information as you have available. Ideally provide more than one contact  in case you can’t be reached at the moment due to not hearing your phone.

Trash Disposal – There should be a refuse bin, such as a dumpster, provided by the contractor for disposal of any demolished work or waste materials generated by workers. This will typically have to be placed on the homeowner’s property (although in some cases, you can get short-term permission to place one curbside). Depending upon the size of the container, it may need to be located where free access by a heavy truck is possible for delivery and pickup.

Cleanup – You should reach an understanding, both the homeowner and contractor, about the expectations regarding cleanup. All refuse and scrap should be disposed of before the end of each day. If allowed to accumulate, the chances of a thorough cleaning at the end of the job are greatly reduced. Garbage from lunches and snacks should be removed from the premises daily, to prevent attracting flies and vermin.

Noise Pollution – Some noise is unavoidable. Saws, jackhammers, and nail-guns can’t be helped, if they’re needed for the work at hand. Homeowners, you can’t expect the contractor to work without his tools, so just grin and bear it… think about the finished product. However, loud music, profanity, and unnecessary throwing around of materials and debris can be helped. Discuss the expectations beforehand.

Dust/Dirt – When demolishing a wall or breaking concrete, there’s going to be some dust and dirt stirred up. Plastic sheeting can be used to partition off work areas to minimize infiltration into the rest of the home and when cleaning up at the end of the day, a shop vacuum will generate much less dust than a broom. Sweeping outside, a light spray of water beforehand will help minimize the airborne dust as well.

Chemicals – Solvents, paints, fuel, and other chemicals and flammable liquids should be stored in properly certified fire safety storage containers, according to Fire Department standards, or they shouldn’t be kept on the property at all. Homeowners, failure to enforce this could possibly jeopardize your homeowner’s insurance, as well as leave you vulnerable to a fine or loss of your building permit. This is a serious safety concern. Contractors, don’t put the homeowner in a dangerous situation.

The above are some of the most common issues that should be considered, but there may be others, depending upon the nature of the work being performed and the property dynamics. Most reputable contractors will already have considered solutions for these situations before the homeowner even asks.

Clear communication of expectations and discussion of solutions will avoid disagreements and possible delays or cost increases, so be sure to discuss all of the above issues before closing the deal. Homeowners, your contractor wants you to be happy, not just with his work, but with how it was performed, as he wants you to be willing to recommend him to your friends and neighbors. Contractors, be up front with the homeowner and discuss all expectations before signing the contract or starting the project. You’ll be more likely to gain the homeowner’s trust and have them give you the space you need to work in peace and provide them with your best finished results. It’s really a win-win situation for all involved.

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