Pesky Homeowner Peaks Over My Shoulder

Gladys Kravitz

Today was different.  A customer hired us to paint (2) – 10′ x 12′ back bedrooms, and install crown molding.  We advised the homeowners that any loose items should be either removed from the room or if items should stay, could they please move them to the center of the room as much as possible.

We arrived 15 minutes early and sat in the van to collect thoughts.  My partner looked up to the house and the homeowner was peering out the front picture window.  We’d figure she just happened to notice us as we pulled up.  Photo:

I decided to knock on the door while my helper grabbed the paint, tools, and anything else for to complete the project.  Mrs. Homeowner greeted us at the door with anticipation.  “How are you guys doing?.. C’mon in!” she said excitedly.  She lead us to the back bedrooms and asked us did we need anything from her as she quickly scampered out of the area.  We replied the usual “no” and began prep work.

Two minutes went by and Mrs. Homeowner pops back in.  “Would you like any cookies or something to drink?”  We graciously replied, “No thanks”.  Then she goes, “So, is that the way to sand those spots up high? I could have done that!”

This isn’t much of a problem because many clients like to see you get going with your work then they leave.  Sometimes.  She then adds, “Why y’all cost so much to paint? Anybody can paint!”  There was a deadening silence.  “Is there something I can help with?” the lady said.  “Naw, we got it covered” I said.  She paused, for like another 30 seconds watching us get things going.  Then she starts sweeping the floor around us!

Then the questions really started flowing.  Things like, “So, why do you have to do that”, and “Do you think you’ll need much paint?”, and “Can I give you some help painting?”  She even stated that she would have painted the rooms herself — but she needed it done right away and can’t lift the heavy paint buckets..

After 2 hours of in and out of the work area with the questions and comments, the homeowner is starting to get under the skin.  It’s fine to watch us; but the constant conversation about her kids and grand kids is killing me!

I know plenty of guys that go through this day in and day out.  It’s the nature of the beast; working in people’s homes and dealing with different personalities — and they have every right to be there.  I just had to turd this story out because homeowners are funny, really.

Some people are more ‘hands-on’ than others.  This client likes to clean and sweep while we work.  The lady was just a cleaning and throwing stuff away while we were working.  As soon as we made a tiny mess, she was over there to clean it up.  She threw away a little drop cloth and mastic we were still using!  She says, “I was only trying to help!” and got upset with my helper and stormed off..

Here are reasons why the Homeowners should let the Contractor do their job without unnecessary interruptions:

Contractor will make mistakes when distracted. Some contractors will forget steps, procedures, and functions when their attention is drawn elsewhere.  It is soo important to let the tradesman do his job.  Some guys can multitask, but others, they loose focus and give the homeowner less than their best.  I’m not talking about small-talk — which is necessary to be personable and friendly to your clients and set comfort levels at ease.  When they start engaging you to the point where it takes away from job performance, a line must be drawn.

Contractor takes more time to complete their project. I had this client that needed a drop ceiling finished.  It was a DIY job that they couldn’t complete.  They didn’t know how to finish the last cuts and make everything fit.  So I’m in the basement with the client’s husband and he’s just blabbin’ off like no tomorrow.  I have to say that I was too!  It was a time and material

Needless to say I finished their project a day late.  The wifey was not to happy with the final bill..

Contractor’s mindset can easily get thrown off course. Take a contractor’s mind off the day’s project and you can only expect low productivity.  Some contractors like the conversation but for the most part, we would prefer to work in silence and finish the task in a timely manner.

Dangerous work area. The client or their pets can get injured by entering a dangerous work area.

Here’s some solutions that will work to keep you focused.

Caution tape and ‘do not enter’ signage. We’ve implemented these no-distraction techniques with great success.  Most times, we explain that this is dangerous work and we wouldn’t want the homeowner to get injured.  This is true.  We take the interests of our client’s families into full account.  They completely understand.  This is construction and remodeling, for Pete’s sake!


Tell them to not enter the work area during the duration of their remodel during off hours. I know they won’t and you do too, but for the sake of working at their home during business hours with no distractions, you request them to not enter work the work area (taking into consideration the scope of their project).  You can also say you’d like them to wait because you want to surprise them with the “Big Reveal” when you guys are done.

This will play a part in the psychological reasoning of it all: they may look in while you are renovating and make small talk, but they won’t linger.

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3 comments… add one
  • I really had a good time reading your posts. do you think it would be OK to link your site with ours. We have over 3,000 contractor members whom I’m sure would love to read these.


    • The Official Contractor

      Hi Carmen,
      You most certainly can! Thanks for visiting.

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