Bluewater Interiors Designs by Roxanne

bluewater interiors blog

Working with a contractor

Things You Just Don’t Know: Part 2

"I searched the world over and decided on you because I thought you were best suited for my project."

Said no client ever to a contractor.

There are things about working with a contractor that they wish you knew. These things – there are 9 of them – would make the entire process go so much more smoothly for you, the contractor and his trades.

Let’s begin, shall we?

Things You Just Don’t Know #1: They Do Not Want to Work With Uncle Frank

The last thing a contractor wants to hear is that a brother/uncle/cousin/friend/friend of a friend will be taking on a part of the project. You don’t hear that internal groan, but it is happening. The contractor really doesn’t want to deal with a “trade” (because are they actually certified? He has no idea!) he doesn’t know or has never worked with in the past.

You need to remember this – a contractor’s most important asset is his network of tradesmen. He has a network of go-to people he trusts and has verified the quality of their work; and he has others in mind as back-ups. Almost as important, the contractor also has a blacklist of problem sub-contractors (is your Uncle Frank on that list? Who knows!).

Just know that you’re doing yourself a disservice by not taking advantage of a group of workers who are pre-screened to get the job done.

Things You Just Don’t Know #2: They Don’t Like Reusing Your Old Stuff 

I’ll tell you right now that I am a fan of reusing old stuff. Did you know that most of the landfills are comprised of renovation materials and old furniture? So yah, I am a fan. But there is a limit to reuse and some things just can not be reused. At. All.

The key problem with old things, and cabinets in particular, is that they may hold up while in place, but fall apart upon removal. Old things have that tendency. Wood floors are not easily removed…if old, they will break apart and splinter.

Often times the design of old things do not fit with the current way. Old cabinet boxes were made quite differently than they are today, rendering them useless in renovations given todays hardware. That’s not to say they cannot be used elsewhere, like the garage or bunkie.

Contactors do not like using old materials because they do not want to be responsible for the quality of the finished product. Homeowners need  to understand the full implication of reusing old and pre-used items. Rather than being a money-saver, it can add more cost than expected.01

Things You Just Don’t Know #3: They Will Support Their People

As a client, you’re valuable to the contractor, not just as a source of immediate revenue but for that all-important thing called word-of-mouth. It’s also true that you’re only a ship in the night compared to their relationships with the trades. 

Generally, you should have little or no issues with the trades if the contractor feels good enough to work with that person. If you don’t, just know that the contractor will side with their people rather than you.

I recently launched an innovative self-guided online design process that helps you create your own Renovation Design Plan with my guidance! It’s called Design Your Renovation and it is at a fraction of the cost of my full design service. Want to learn more? 

Design Your Renovation brand

Things You Just Don’t Know #4: They Can Help With Permits But…

Contractors cannot make the permit office bend the rules. Do not ask the contractor to try to do this.

Because he won’t.

Why? Just like his trades, contractors have a good relationship with the permit office that has often been built up over the years of working with them and the staff. 

Things You Just Don’t Know #5: They Are Not Trying to Make Extra Work 

In a perfect world, contractors would love to have all of the intended work scoped out in the contract. Because this is not a perfect world (COVID, anyone?) —walls are found to be moldy, water leaks are found, etc — change orders exist. Change orders are not to be feared; they are part of normal business when remodeling a house.

The contractor doesn’t like it any more than you do simply because he is on a schedule and has other jobs in the pipeline. He really doesn’t want the extra work. Trust me!

Things You Just Don’t Know #6: They Want You to Shop for Contractors 

Client’s words that are music to a contractor’s ears: “I searched the world over and decided on you because I thought you were best suited for my project.”

No, it’s not a vanity issue for contractors. Instead, the contractor wants to know that you have done your research and confident that he is best guy for your job. Second-guessing once the project has begun won’t help anyone.

Things You Just Don’t Know #7: Their Markup Fee Is Not Negotiable 

Some contractors will mark up materials, just like some designers do. I personally do not do that in my business. If I can get a discount for my client, I will.

There are some things in a contract that can be negotiated, but the contractor’s mark-up is not one of them. So don’t ask.

Just know contractors who operate professionally work in concert with the client, not against. So, with the contractor’s years of experience, he can help identify a places where you can pare down costs. His markup fee helps him stay in business.

Things You Just Don’t Know #8: They Like Perfectionist Clients

The contractor wants to deal with requests during the project, long before the project is finished. 

Do not feel like you’re being a nuisance by being clear about issues around missed tasks, quality of work, etc. Contractors really do not like a long punch list at the end of the project, detailing remaining items to be done.

So don’t save them up, alert them as issues arise. Be polite and professional about it and the contractor will too. Resentments that fester and turn into lawsuits help no one. 

Things You Just Don’t Know #9: They Want You Out of the House

Ok, I get it – it is your house.  And the contractor will not tell you to leave while they do they work. But for big projects, it’s best for everyone if you stay out of the way. It’s a safety issue. It’s a space issue. The farther away you can go, the better.

A Final Word

So there you have it. Do not suggest Uncle Frank do the electrical. Think twice about pissing off his trades.  And get out of their way when they are working. 

Tell me what you think contractors want people to know. Send me an email

Until next time, stay safe…


P.S. If you want help with your renovation check out my Renovation Design Plan service. The best thing about this service is it is tailored to YOUR needs. Set up a 20 minute chat with me to see if it is the right fit for you.

Enter your email & get your free copy now.

The Definitive Guide to Renovations

A solid overview of what you need to consider when when renovating.
PLUS Bonus Content including checklists to help you through your renovation and a Renovation Planner


Hi, I am Roxanne

Interior Decorator + Designer

follow me