It isn’t like you’re getting married … or is it? From the vows (the contract) to the morning greetings (hammers and machinery at 6 am), from the good times (framing) to the bad times (demolition, drywall, and everything after painting), you are in a serious relationship. And this relationship involves that number one relationship killer: money.

Here are some tips for keeping your relationship with your contractor going strong:

  • Set the tone. You are not friends. You can be friendly, but this is business.
  • Respect the profession. Think about your own job. How do you like to be treated? Extend that same courtesy to your contractor.
  • Respect the contractor’s boundaries. Weekends and evenings are for family. If you expect a contractor to meet with you after 5 pm, don’t expect that contractor to show up before 10 am the next day.
  • Have a conflict resolution plan in place, such as a binding arbitration clause in your contract.
  • Keep expectations real. Your house is not perfectly square, and your walls are not plumb. There will be surprises. Unless you’re paying $800 per square foot, don’t expect old-world craftsmanship. Imperfections are beautiful.
  • Don’t micromanage the subcontractors or question the contractor’s ability to do the job—especially in front of a subcontractor. (If you hire a GC, communicate through the GC. Never communicate directly with a subcontractor, unless the GC asks you to.)
  • Say thank you. Leave a plate of cookies, buy the crew lunch, send a card, throw a party when the work is done. Small gestures go a long way.

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