Written contract key to successfully employing contractors!

With the nice weather, long days and perhaps more time on your hands, now is a great time to get work done on your home.

We know that not everyone is a do-it-yourselfer, and even those who are usually hire out some of the work they need done.

So, today we’re going to talk about something that we try to talk about every year or so — How to successfully do business with a contractor.

For starters, remember to have a solid written contract when working with someone who is working on your house. (They are called “contractors” for a reason.)

Also there are some day-to-day considerations to think about as you interact with someone working on — or in — your house.

Have you ever felt a little awkward, not sure what exactly is expected of you?

Do you wonder how much conversation is expected, if the contractor would want to use your bathroom, or worry that he might wake your napping baby or track mud on your freshly washed floor?

So how should you act when someone you’ve hired is in your house? And, how can you expect them to act?

We’ve each spent years as contractors and as people who’ve fixed up our own houses. We also help manage other people’s home-improvement projects. So, we hope what follows will be helpful to both the homeowner and the contractor.


We’ve mentioned this many times over the years — make sure you have a good, solid written contract. It is critical to the success of the relationship between homeowner and contractor. (And can certainly save you time, energy, money and headaches later on!)

If you need examples of a good contract, give us a call.

The business world spends much time, energy and even money hiring just the right person for the job. It’s known that most employee problems are most efficiently addressed by simply hiring the right person to begin with, instead of hiring the wrong person and dealing with poor morale, mismatched work skills or character issues, later. The same is true when hiring someone to come into your home to do work. The key question to ask a prospective contractor is “Are you licensed, bonded, insured and do you have recommendations by people who you’ve done work for?” And then, ask them for a copy of their documentation. If they balk or refuse, then find someone else.


Just the fact that the doorbell rings at 8 a.m. is a great sign. Nothing is worse — especially in these days of two-career families — than waiting around for hours to let in a repairman or contractor.

Yet, it’s critical for homeowners to be somewhat flexible. It’s not always possible to estimate to the minute how long the last job will take. But, contractors should try to be as thoughtful as possible to the homeowner’s schedule, too, and if they are going to be substantially late, to call.


When that doorbell rings and you answer the door, you may find that Tom, whom you hired, has two other fellows with him. As a matter of courtesy, it’s nice if he can at least introduce the other workers by their first names. It makes it less awkward for the homeowner to address them if he or she needs to ask them to move their van, or when the power will be back on. Avoid questions or concerns about the job though, save them for the Boss, in this case, Tom.


Imagine how you’d feel if you arrived at your work and found a dresser in the middle of your cubicle or a dog wandering around in your workspace or even worse, a small child packing off your tools! While most contractors are well aware that your home is, well, your home, we more often see that homeowners forget that their home has become the contractor’s workplace.


Because this will be where they will spend each workday, anything that can be done to create a clean, safe, accessible work environment will greatly help the job to not only begin properly but also to progress and conclude as planned.

So, before the work begins, you should discuss what you and the contractor will need to do to make this happen smoothly.

For example, wherever you can, provide direct access to the work area and have the work area as empty as possible. If you have a garage area that will safely contain the contractor’s tools and allow a dry cutting area, this will aid the contractor in reducing the daily setup time required, the daily and final cleanup time, reduction in possible damage to your personal effects and increase the safety of the workers.

Depending on how long the job is expected to last, sometimes a portable toilet just outside the garage door is well worth the small expense. (Or at least indicate which bathroom the workers can use.) .

You will want to remove pictures, knick-knacks and put your own protective covers over any furniture that must remain in the room. Let the contractor know what is underneath the covers though. Remove all things breakable or antique to another area of the house.

Next, children and pets do not belong anywhere near dust, noise and dangerous tools. Arrange to have them cared for or looked after somewhere away from the workplace if at all possible.

About that muddy floor ­— you can request that a protective cover be placed on the floors in the work areas as well as the traffic areas to the outside. Talk it out first, then fulfill your obligations toward creating the best possible workspace for your contractor, right down to who is cleaning up, bathroom rights, where there might be possible changes or additions to the work, building permits, payment schedules, time and material cost basis and so on.

This conversation usually starts the job on the right foot giving everyone involved the best chance to have a successful project.

Dave Murnen and Pat Beaty are construction specialists at NeighborWorks of Grays Harbor County, where Murnen is the executive director. This is a non-profit organization committed to creating safe and affordable housing opportunities for all residents of Grays Harbor County. Do you have questions about home repair, remodeling or becoming a homeowner? Call us at 533-7828, or 1-866-533-7828, or visit us at 710 E. Market St. in Aberdeen.


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