Tips and Tricks

9 things homeowners do to frustrate contractors and how to deal with it

How contractors can handle some of the top frustrating things that homeowners do during the remodeling process.

It's natural to occasionally feel frustrated while working on a remodel. Here are the top things that homeowners frequently do that frustrate contractors, and how contractors can deal with them in a professional way.

1. Homeowners change the project scope

When homeowners change their minds about what they want to address in a remodel, this leads to project delays and additional costs. Contractors should make sure the scope of the project is clear from the beginning and discuss any changes with the client in advance. You can also include a clause in the contract that addresses changes to the scope of work and how they will be handled.

If a client changes the project scope, the contractor needs to address the change as soon as possible to avoid any misunderstandings or delays. Here are some steps the contractor can take:

      • Assess the impact of the change: The contractor should evaluate the impact on the project timeline, budget, and resources. They should communicate the impact so the client understands the consequences of the change.

      • Get the change in writing: The contractor should create a change order outlining the new scope of work, timeline, and cost. The homeowner should review and sign the change order before any work is done.

      • Discuss the cost: If the change in scope will increase the project's cost, the contractor should discuss the cost and agree on a new price before starting the work.

      • Adjust the timeline: If the change in scope will delay the project, the contractor should adjust the timeline and communicate the new completion date.

      • Update the contract: The contractor should update the project contract to reflect the change in scope and any other changes. Both should sign the updated contract.

Contractor taking photo of property


2. Homeowners don't provide clear instructions

Homeowners might assume that contractors know what they want without giving them clear instructions, which can lead to misunderstandings and mistakes. Contractors should ask for specific instructions and confirm they understand. To handle this situation, the contractor can take the following steps:

      • Ask for clarification: If the instructions are unclear, the contractor should ask for clarification. They should ask specific questions to better understand what the client wants.

      • Offer suggestions: If they are unsure of what they want, the contractor can offer suggestions based on their experience and expertise. Provide options and explain the pros and cons of each.

      • Create a detailed plan: Once the instructions are clear, the contractor should create a detailed plan that outlines the scope of work, timeline, and budget. They should review the plan with the client and make sure they agree.

      • Document everything: The contractor should document all instructions and decisions in writing, including any changes made during the project. This will help avoid any misunderstandings or disputes later.

      • Confirm instructions in writing: After discussing the instructions, the contractor should follow up with a written confirmation of what was discussed. This will ensure that both parties clearly understand what was agreed upon.

3. Homeowners who are unavailable during the project

Homeowners might not be available when contractors need to discuss the project or make decisions, which can lead to delays. Contractors should establish a communication schedule. Here are some steps the contractor can take to handle this situation:

      • Establish a communication schedule: The contractor should establish a regular communication schedule, such as a weekly meeting or a daily phone call.

      • Use multiple communication methods: The contractor can use multiple communication methods, such as email, phone, and text. They should also confirm which method of communication the client prefers.

      • Provide regular updates: The contractor should provide regular updates on progress. 

      • Be flexible: The contractor should be flexible with scheduling as much as possible. This may mean working weekends or evenings.

      • Have a backup plan: The contractor should have a backup plan if the client is consistently unavailable. This could mean working with a representative, such as a property manager, or making decisions independently if necessary.

Frustrated contractor


4. Homeowners don't pay on time

Homeowners might not pay on time or dispute the cost of the work, causing financial issues for the contractor. Contractors should include payment terms and communicate the importance of timely payments. Here are some steps the contractor can take to handle this situation:

      • Send reminders: The contractor should send reminders about the payments. These reminders can be in the form of emails, phone calls, or letters.

      • Be polite: The contractor should be polite and professional when communicating about the payment. They should avoid using confrontational or accusatory language.

      • Discuss payment options: The contractor can discuss payment options, such as a payment plan or a credit card payment.

      • Include late fees: The contractor can include late fees in the contract. Before starting the work, the contractor should communicate the late fee policy.

      • Take legal action: The contractor can take legal action. This can include filing a lawsuit or placing a lien on the property.


5. Homeowners ask for discounts

Homeowners might ask for discounts or try to negotiate the price after the contract is signed. Contractors should be clear about their pricing from the beginning and explain the value of their work and experience Here are some steps the contractor can take to handle this situation:

      • Be transparent: The contractor should be transparent about their pricing and explain the value of their work. They should provide a detailed breakdown of the costs and explain how each item contributes to the overall project.

      • Stick to the contract: If the contract has already been signed, the contractor should stick to the agreed-upon price. They should explain that the price was determined based on the work involved and that any discount would impact their ability to do the job correctly.

      • Offer alternatives: If the client cannot afford the total price, the contractor can offer alternatives, such as financing or a payment plan. They can also suggest ways to reduce the project's cost without compromising the work's quality.

      • Consider a referral discount: If they are a repeat customer or refers others to the contractor, the contractor can consider offering a discount on future work.

      • Be willing to negotiate: The contractor can consider a compromise. Offer a discount in exchange for a longer timeline, a change in the scope of work, or other concessions.

        Contractor negotiations


6. Homeowners micromanage

Homeowners might try to micromanage or question the contractor's decisions, leading to tension and delays. Contractors should establish a clear chain of command and make it clear who is responsible for making decisions. Here are some steps the contractor can take to handle this situation:

      • Establish clear roles and responsibilities: The contractor should establish clear roles and responsibilities at the beginning of the project. They should clarify who makes decisions and who will provide updates.

      • Communicate regularly: The contractor should communicate regularly, providing frequent updates on the project's progress. This will help reassure that the project is on track and reduce the need for micro-managing.

      • Address concerns promptly: The contractor should address concerns promptly. They should listen and reassure that the project is handled properly.

      • Set boundaries: The contractor should set boundaries and clarify what behavior is acceptable. They should explain that micromanaging can slow the project and increase costs.

      • Offer alternatives: The contractor can offer alternatives to micromanaging, such as providing a detailed project plan or schedule. They can also provide examples of similar projects they have successfully completed.

      • Have the crews work in their underwear: they will leave you alone.


7. Homeowners try to make their improvements before calling a professional

Homeowners often lack the knowledge and skill needed to complete complex home improvements. Without a wealth of experience, mistakes can easily be made, resulting in a much more expensive repair down the road. While it may be tempting to try tackling an issue on their own, it is likely more cost-effective to call in a professional immediately to avoid costly mistakes. Here are some steps the contractor can take to handle this situation:

      • Explain the risks: The contractor should explain the risks of working independently during the project. They should explain the safety risks and potential delays if the work is not done correctly. Make it clear that you are not responsible for the workmanship or how it may impact other trades.

      • Recommend a professional: The contractor can recommend a professional to do the work. They can provide a list of trusted professionals and explain the benefits of hiring someone with experience.

      • Provide guidance: If the client insists on doing the work, the contractor can provide guidance and support. They can explain the correct way to do the work and provide guidance on the necessary tools and materials.

      • Update the project plan: If the client does the work, the contractor should update the project plan to reflect the changes. They should ensure the work is done correctly and up to code.

      • Adjust the budget and timeline: The contractor should adjust the budget and timeline of the project. This will ensure that the work is completed on time and within budget.

Home improvement


8. Homeowners with unrealistic timelines

HGTV has created a phenomenon of providing homeowners with the unrealistic expectation that complex home remodeling projects will be done in an impossibly short timeline. Such expectations are almost always impossible due to factors beyond anyone's control, leaving clients unhappy and subcontractors struggling to keep up. Experienced contractors can usually offer more realistic estimates and help bring expectations back down to earth. Here are some steps the contractor can take to handle this situation:

      • Establish realistic expectations: The contractor should establish realistic expectations for the project timeline. They should explain the time it takes to complete each project phase and how weather, material availability, or other factors may affect the timeline.

      • Communicate clearly: The contractor should communicate clearly and frequently about the project timelines. They should provide regular updates on the project's progress and ensure the homeowner is aware of any delays or changes to the timeline.

      • Provide a detailed plan: The contractor should provide a detailed project plan that outlines the timeline, milestones, and key deliverables. They should review the plan with the homeowner and make sure they understand the timeline and the work involved.

      • Be transparent: If the client has unrealistic expectations, the contractor should be transparent and explain why the timeline cannot be met. They should provide a detailed explanation of the factors affecting the timeline and work with the homeowner to develop a realistic solution.

      • Update the contract: If the project timeline changes, the contractor should update the contract to reflect the new timeline. 

9. Homeowners who are disrespectful

Homeowners might disrespect the contractor or crew, causing tension and stress. Contractors should establish clear boundaries and make it clear what behavior is unacceptable. They can also include a code of conduct in the contract. Sometimes, a customer doesn’t place the same monetary value on the years of experience a contractor has. Be willing to walk away: If the client consistently undervalues the contractor's skills and expertise, the contractor should be willing to walk away from the project. The contractor needs to work with customers who value their skills and expertise. Sadly, we have to teach customers how to treat us. Here are some steps the contractor can take to handle this situation:

      • Remain professional: The contractor should always remain professional, even if disrespected. They should avoid responding in a confrontational or disrespectful manner and remain calm.

      • Address the behavior: If the customer is disrespectful, the contractor should address the behavior. They can explain that the behavior is unacceptable and explain its impact on the project.

      • Establish boundaries: The contractor can establish boundaries and make it clear what behavior is acceptable. They should explain the consequences of any behavior that is not acceptable.

      • Provide options: The contractor can provide options if the customer is consistently disrespectful. They can suggest that they work with another contractor or terminate the contract.

      • Document everything: The contractor should document any disrespectful behavior, including the date, time, and what was said or done. This will help protect the contractor in case of any disputes.

Overall, the key to dealing with these frustrating situations is communication. Contractors should establish clear communication with the homeowner from the beginning and make sure expectations are clear. They should also be professional and maintain a positive attitude, even when faced with difficult situations.

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