How to have a good relationship with your contractor

It’s been said before that the contractor-homeowner relationship is a bit like a marriage: you’re sharing a house, are often asking each other difficult financial questions, and sometimes you just wish the other would go away!

Over the years, I’ve worked on countless renovation projects, large and small. And, for the most part, the relationship has gone smoothly. But every now and then, things have gone south. You may even recall seeing a couple of the bad ones on TV!

From a contractor’s perspective, there are a few steps a homeowner can take to ensure a healthy working relationship.

Clear the Way

Start by prepping the work area. If you’re renovating your kitchen, clear out the pantry before the workers show up to start the demolition. If you know they’ll be working in a room with valuable or fragile heirlooms, pack them away somewhere safe.

Parking can be a major hassle for contractors, particularly. Forcing them to haul their tools and materials from half-a-block away adds delays and frustration. If you can’t offer a spot in the driveway (or with a neighbour), let them know so they can look into getting a parking permit. If not, any parking tickets they get will get rolled into the final bill.

Good Hosting Practices

Once they’ve arrived on-site, offering a cup of coffee or glass of water is a small gesture that goes a long way towards making the crew feel respected. And more often than not, they’ll tell you they had one on the way to the job anyway.

Flexible and Fair

Be realistic about timelines. Delays happen. Materials can get stuck in transit, or the wrong item can arrive and need to be sent back, or a heavy storm can shut down the entire site for a few days. I’m sure you like having weekends off with your family. So do contractors. Don’t assume they’ll work through the weekend to catch up.

Finally, resist the urge to micro-manage. If you have a desk job, how would you feel if a supervisor decided to pull up a chair and spend the day watching you work? You’d be pretty frustrated and probably wouldn’t get much done that day. Contractors feel the same way. It’s not unheard of for homeowners to literally pull up a lawn chair to “supervise” a crew while they work, then pepper the contractor with distracting questions all day long (“What’s that you’re using?” or “Why are you doing it that way?”).

When there are decisions to be made on a material choice, or different options for completing a specific task, a good contractor will happily solicit your opinion. No one should leave a jobsite until the client is happy, with all expectations met. But in the meantime, give them some space to get the job done.


By Jim Caruk, Renovation Editor | Produced by Reno & Decor

Launched in 1990, RENO & DECOR is Canada’s Home Idea Book, inspiring readers with the latest in tips and trends for their decorating and renovating.

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