5 pro tips to keep the peace with your contractor

By Mayra David  | December 30, 2014 - 1:59PM

You’ve vetted their references and reviews, met to discuss your vision for the renovation, and begrudgingly accepted their price quote. But how do you stay on good terms with your contractor, especially when the stress of the project shortens fuses and makes tempers flare? When relationships deteriorate, so does the work. We spoke to several design professionals to get their perspective on keeping things running smoothly:

1. Admit when you're wrong

"Something we are guilty of from time to time is running late to appointments. We have projects priced on an hourly basis. So if the client is upset, we may credit them some time, or give credit off the bid.  That usually smoothes things out and we can move on. That is the part of just being up front and admitting when you are wrong.  In my experience, some clients have a problem admitting when they are wrong.  When they are, it goes a long way with me and probably other contractors if the client owns up to it and works through it with us. It’s just about finding reasonable solutions that are beneficial to both parties." - Sean, a construction manager with NYCityStuff, a handyman and renovation service

2. Skip the sarcasm

"The best way to stay on friendly terms with your contractor is to remember that it's a collaborative process, as opposed to 'us versus them,' and that you are on the same team.  Sending antagonistic, accusatory, ultimatum-laden and, worst of all, sarcastic messages or emails to contractors will backfire, as they will make the contractor less willing to be helpful and are therefore not in the interest of clients.  Of course, this goes both ways and you should expect the same professional approach from your contractor." - Ben Pitt, a renovation consultant with My Home US

Don't let things build up or escalate.  If you have an issue or question, ask it in a calm and respectful manner.  It's a lot like dating or marriage. - Sean

3. Meet in person

"If the project is causing frustration, the best thing to do is arrange an onsite meeting so specific grievances can be pointed out and discussed face-to-face." - Ben Pitt

4. Watch the schedule

 A project schedule provided by the contractor before the start of work should also be requested to track progress.  It's ok to tell a contractor that, 'seeing we are a week behind schedule due to various issues, we'd like to postpone next payment by a week.' A good contractor will be understanding and accommodate the request. - Ben Pitt

5. Plan for the unexpected

"It can be tempting to fixate on the cost of the work when you are choosing your contractor, but you can prevent a lot of mid-renovation angst if you account for other considerations before you decide who to hire. Talk with your candidates about what they might find behind walls and under floors: what scope changes might not be obvious until work begins? How will they keep you updated and help you manage the budget and timeline if something crops up? If you can talk clearly with candidates to understand issues before they arise, and consider each estimate in the context of the range of potential problems, you will find a contractor who is better suited to helping you get past those pain points." - Jean Brownhill Lauer, founder and CEO of Sweeten, an online matchmaking service for homeowners and renovation experts


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