Banning Smoking for Contractors

robandkathleenJune 12, 2014

A friend came up with what I thought was a brilliant idea - to set a no smoking rule on her property while her house is being built. She does not want the smell in her walls. She does not want an accidental fire started. And, she does not want to anger her neighbors with cigarette butts in the front yard. Is this done often? I'm looking for support to set this rule with our building people.

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In the house, obviously; but it would only be fair to provide a smoking area for those workers who have the habit, otherwise they may go smokeless and spit in every corner of the house.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2014 at 7:16PM
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It wasn't an issue for my GC when I asked about it. No smoking was his policy, and what he required of his workers on the job... Did we find cig butts by the sidewalk? With one sub, yes. But, the house was never smoked in/around.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2014 at 7:58PM
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Sophie Wheeler

You better set up smoking area, under shade/ weather protection. With 5 gallon buckets of sand for the butts. If you don't respect your contractor's needs, don't expect to attract the top subs, or to have the ones you do get respect you either.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2014 at 9:22PM
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My GC put a sign up on the door that said 'no smoking inside'.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2014 at 11:14PM
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I suspect reactions will also be regional. My state is already pretty smoke free... My SILs state, not so much.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2014 at 11:20PM
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It was never an "official" rule but if I caught/saw a sub smoking I asked them to not smoke in the house. They always were willing to comply. I didn't mind them smoking outside but definitely did NOT want that smell in the house at all.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2014 at 12:12AM
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I'm not a smoker and abhor the smell.

That said, happy contractors do better work than grumpy ones. It's human nature. For that reason, I wouldn't mind them smoking inside during framing, and would have a spot for them throughout the build. After framing, outside is a fair request and cigarette butts are probably the least of the trash you'll see on the ground at a job site.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2014 at 7:52AM
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I'm right there with shiltsy. I see no reason to not let them smoke while framing. I've seen some of those guys with a cigarette dangling from their mouth the whole time they work. Do you really want them to stop work every 5 minutes to walk across the street for a smoke?

    Bookmark   June 13, 2014 at 10:33AM
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I had to ask my GC to instruct the subs not to smoke in the house, after encountering two of the meathead insulation installers puffing merrily away as they batted my walls...and their previous butts on my Advantech subfloors. Yuck. I was NOT happy.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2014 at 11:15AM
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This will be an issue for us on our build and I was planning on estbalishing a "no smoking inside once the house is framed in" policy from the start. But the reality is, it will probably still happen.

Has anyone stipulated this policy, and placed responsibility for enforcement on the GC, in their contracts?

    Bookmark   June 13, 2014 at 1:11PM
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You have to make allowances for smoking to happen on your site, whether or not you agree with it. The easier you make it for your trades to do what you want them to do, the less you have to worry about them not complying with your wishes. You can't be all stick and no carrot.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2014 at 1:19PM
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I didn't mind them smoking until paint. The VOCs from the paint, stain, and floor sealer far overwhelm the smoke smell. I'm also firmly in the camp with shiltsy that happy subs want to do good work. All subs doing finish work now have complied with the "please no smoking inside" signs that we have up now.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2014 at 5:53PM
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Not a big deal to state your own requirements regarding smoking.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2014 at 6:06PM
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The more important issue is fire. Builders Risk insurance policies usually require a written no-smoking policy from the GC. It would then be the GC's responsibility to prevent smoking in the building and arrange for smoking areas outside.

You as the owner should avoid usurping the GC's job site authority in this regard. If the workers continue to smoke you should notify the GC in writing.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2014 at 6:24AM
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Sophie Wheeler

A no smoking policy for contractors on the whole site would be akin to having a no cell phone policy, or no portapotty on the property. Their habits may not be your particular addiction, but trying to do social engineering to force them into behavior models that you approve of will only lead to unhappy workers and a lot of extra down time as they travel off site to do what they need to do. And yeah, nicotine addiction replinishment is just as key to keeping good work going as is the ability to eliminate bodily wastes. It's perfectly reasonable for the house itself to be off limits, but that means setting up a comfortable approved location for them that isn't too far from te main work taking place. Place it too far, and you make it too onerous to comply with your policy.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2014 at 10:13AM
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We had a no smoking inside policy when we built an addition, including during framing. Many smokers don't smoke inside their own homes either, and I think it's pretty common for them to be asked to take it outside if they're going to smoke.

It slays me what you hear about what some subs will do, like use the bathtub as a toilet. (Seriously?!) So unfortunately I think some things that we would consider common courtesy have to be spelled out with the GC.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2014 at 3:09PM
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I haven't used many subs, but they've been good about not smoking in the house- except one. The guys insulating the attic seemed quite surprised that I didn't want them smoking in the house, despite that the inside is already partially finished. Not only that, but they wanted to smoke in the attic! That just sounds dangerous with all of the cellulose flying around.

The drywall guys smoked a lot, but outside. They did all the sanding without dusk masks, as well. I can't imagine those guys live very long. Despite all of their smoking, there wasn't a single cigarette butt, anywhere.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2014 at 7:46PM
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Holly, we have a no smoking (in public, inside, and at the zoo, etc) in our entire state. Social engineering or not, very few people are actually seen smoking. It can be done. It is wasn't a problem for us to ask. It was already on most of their minds (probably because of Reno's comment--smoking-related fire insurance/liability).

    Bookmark   June 14, 2014 at 11:52PM
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Fewer than one in five smoke in Ontario, so it's almost a non-issue on site. I simply don't allow it in the house at any time. Outside, fine.

no cell phone policy

The only trade I pay by the hour are general labourers. I guess that would make sense for them. I have seen guys pretending to dig a hole with one hand, the other holding a cellphone.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2014 at 11:25AM
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In South Carolina, it's more like one in five that DON'T smoke.....

    Bookmark   June 15, 2014 at 1:17PM
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Which seems to validate my point that this is probably a regional question. OP didn't say where they are.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2014 at 3:36PM
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Pick your battles. Until painting you're not going to notice the difference anyway.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2014 at 12:54AM
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The only thing I can add is to make sure you give them a good way to dispose of the butts.

Everyone on my job either smoked outside, or I just never caught them doing it inside. I never thought about the butt disposal issue though, and honestly never paid too much attention to where they were smoking outside.....until shortly after I moved in and spent close to an hour picking butts up off the ground over a wide area.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 9:04AM
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Thanks for the thought everyone. It was a big help. We're good now.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 9:58AM
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Thank you for posting this question! I hadn't considered that I might need to bring this up.

Our building site is surrounded by woods and wildlands and fire is an ever-present threat, so cigarette butts strewn about outside are as offensive (or more so) than smoking indoors.

Fortunately, we're in Oregon, so even though our community is not quite as politically correct as other areas, limiting smoking to a controlled area with containers for butts should not be anything unusual. To be honest, the idea that any worker would smoke in another person's home at any point in a build is surprising. They can't smoke in an office building, grocery store, or any public space, so why would it be different in our home?

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 4:40PM
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@ sbdesign - when have you known a smoker to give a hoot about anybody else's lungs/nose/eyes/house? Smoking is the ultimate inconsideration, and it is deadly to boot, which is why it is forbidden in so many places. Yet smokers puff defiantly away, as though their right to slowly kill themselves and sicken and offend others is Constitutional.
Ah, but ain't that America!

    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 9:32AM
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Sad but true!

    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 2:57PM
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Start being a hardass about smoking and you'll end up with subs pissing in your wall cavities or worse.

A couple please no smoking inside signs, some areas for smokers outside and suck it up and deal with the rest. you do not want pissed off tradespeople who think you're a control freak, trust me.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 10:49AM
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Do you consider it "being a hardass" when someone respectfully requests that a person--any person--not smoke in or near their home?

And I have to laugh at "suck it up and deal with the rest.". Maybe the smokers ought to suck it up and deal with the fact that the homeowner, who is paying their daily wage, doesn't want their filthy carcinogenic poison in or around his/her home.
God forbid a smoker should be inconvenienced. What a travesty. Poor little victim smoker, always being picked on.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 3:01PM
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If you express that kind of attitude in life you will get spit in your food at restaurants and a pile off cigarette butts and urine in your ductwork. I'm a non smoker and agree with on principle but real world management of construction crews is something different. Highly recommend you never speak those types of phrases around the crew working on your home

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 6:49PM
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Keep 'em happy.

I'd toss a case of beer there way ...

Stop over with a grill and some T-bones for the boys...

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 6:57PM
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Hmm...seems like someone could make a bundle by putting together and marketing a nonsmoking crew and lineup of subs. This might not fly in the south, but they would corner the market on the west coast.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2014 at 12:46AM
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They exist, and don't corner a market, because so many of them are non-smoking... It is normal out this way (the west).

    Bookmark   June 21, 2014 at 1:32AM
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Sophie Wheeler

So, you have a smoke free site, and all of the trades switch to chew or snuff instead when they are on your job. Would you rather have tobacco/saliva stains everywhere instead? That's ''better''?

You are never going to make those people who need their fix give it up by telling them they are wrong and bad for indulging. Or by decreeing that it shouldn't exist. Prohibition proved that.

I don't smoke. Never have. But i'm not going to tell someone that they can't choose their own particular brand of poison. They can even choose vitriolic self righteousness. In the end, it will hurt them more than me. Cutting off their nose to spite their face just has a lot of unexpected costs that they may not be aware of, including the hidden cost of poor worker morale and not attracting the higest quality workers in the first place.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2014 at 11:12AM
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Considering how much it costs to build a house, spend another $500 to buy a really good air purifier, provide the ashtrays, and a designated smoking area. :) And you will LOVE having an air purifier if you don't already have one.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2014 at 7:26PM
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Our GC has a no smoking policy on site, and that is a requirement from his insurance company that he is required to push down to subs and employees. Not a big deal here as smoking is pretty uncommon, even in the trades.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2014 at 9:52AM
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the only people i've seen so far who've actually had/taken time to smoke were the electricians (right after framing)

most of our contractors are working flat out and i've hardly seen anyone take any kind of a break except at lunch time

maybe our gc has asked them not to smoke........and i don't know

    Bookmark   July 7, 2014 at 12:49AM
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