How often do you feed your contractors

beschenbachJanuary 4, 2010

Hi all,

Just a basic etiquette question here....

How often/what do you feed/offer to the workers in your house?

I make sure to have a full fresh pot of coffee every morning with cream and sugar out for the workers every day. I even try to always make sure to have my GC's favorite creamer.

I have often (probably 3/5 days out of the week) have set out either pastries, donuts, or something else to just nibble on.

For lunch, I have often either made little sandwiches, a big sub cut up, have fed them sloppy joes once, ravioli, etc. I didn't think it was really necessary, but I notice they don't really take lunch breaks so felt kind of guilty. But now it's kind of seeming to become expected and is kind of stressing me out. OMG, I don't even have a sink, oven, dishwasher and my fridge is currently in my living room. Not to mention that we are a family of 6 (4 little kids) and I have a hard time keeping food in the house for us since I don't even have pantry space yet so can't really "stock up" too much. I really do like my contractor, but today he said "oh, did I miss lunch", and I kind of just brushed him off. I work from home so if I weren't around this probably woulnd't be an issue.

Went to Costco today to stock up on food for the workers. It is kind of my nature, but I'm kind of thinking my niceness is possibly being taken advantage of? I truly do value the work they are doing, but being in week 6 my patience is starting to dwindle, kwim?

Just curious as to what others have done/are doing???


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We're supposed to feed the workers?
It never even occurred to me. But I've never lived in the house during a build or remodel either. Is this normal practice?

    Bookmark   January 4, 2010 at 11:18PM
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I didn't feed the contractors at all. I wasn't home during the day but even if I had been I don't think I would have felt compelled to feed them. I was having a hard time feeding myself at home let alone the workers. I think you've set the expectation that you are providing food and beverages so they're taking you up on what you're giving them. I wouldn't exactly consider it taking advantage of you.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2010 at 11:21PM
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Um, they aren't houseguests. I offered beer once in a while, but they rarely took me up on it.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2010 at 11:24PM
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I always feed them. Coffee in morning with some type of treats, then lunch, and snacks in the afternoon. Always have drinks around.

If they were here for over five days, I think I'd just do drinks and maybe some cookies or bars but not lunch everyday. Maybe the last day. I did that when they built an extra building for us. I said "tomorrow I'm going to make lunch for all of you.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2010 at 11:27PM
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I think the coffeepot is a nice idea, and inexpensive. If it were summer I might have cokes in the fridge instead. We are within walking distance to at least 6 places to eat, so I will definately not be providing lunch everyday!

OTH, it doesn't hurt to help them want to be there....

    Bookmark   January 4, 2010 at 11:29PM
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Our carpenter and helper would accept offers of coffee as did the sheet rock taper. The plumber and electrician always declined. NO ONE EVER ASKED TO USE THE BATHROOM, which I found odd but I also liked that they didn't use it, however, I always let them know they were welcome to.

I offered home made cookies a couple of times and they were glad for the treat, but didn't expect it. I definitely didn't feed them lunch. They all left the job for lunch/bathroom break each day, and came back ready to go.

IMHO they were earning enough money on the job, I didn't feel like it was my place to feed them too. I think a better way to make them WANT to be on your job site is to pay them on time : )

    Bookmark   January 4, 2010 at 11:41PM
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I got them a microwave (free on freecycle) and a small frige. I leave out a bowl of candy (Halloween size bars, etc.) They keep complaining I'm getting them fat. I fill up the bowl once or twice a week. Every other week I make brownies or cookies (toll house from the ref. section of the grocery store). It's easy. We have 3 pizza places, Dunkin Donuts, 2 Chinese, Thai, vegetarian, Italian, Sushi, BBQ plus a few other restaurants and pubs that serve food within 4 blocks of my house. I think there are plenty of places to eat. I may bring in lunch for them the last day we're all here. This is a big house renovation. Today we had 4 different crews here (main contractor, plumbing, electrical and home automation) and about 17 workers (plus I had 2 kids home with the flu, no water for a few hours and a house that can only get up to the low 60's because the walls haven't been insulated and closed up).

    Bookmark   January 4, 2010 at 11:48PM
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Paying on time doesn't always do it either. We did that plus some 4 years ago with our basemnet bath/family room remodel, and it was like pulling teeth to get them to come out and get it done. It took forever, and in the end I kicked THEM out. Turns out, 3 years later almost to the day, we had to sue them because they didn't vent anything... (and consequently regut the bathroom).

I should have known when the main guy kept asking me to warm up his Dunkin Donuts coffee...

    Bookmark   January 4, 2010 at 11:49PM
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I HAVE FED ONE TIME a contractor. I honestly dont even see how I would have ever done it more than that. As I have seen it, they just want to do their work, have their own special foods and special music and YOU outta their hair. I just dont bother them if at all possible. Plus, like some have said, many arent even home when they are working. And of course, with a kitchen remodel, you may not even have use of cooking appliances and a sink. Who ever you are out there: stop feeding them! lol It wrecks it for the rest of us!! OK, I am half kidding. Seriously, though, usually remodeling is a messy job and it just seems like the homeowners usually need to stay out of the way?
Seriously though I have made pots of coffee and offered sodas and waters, but honestly do think anything more than that is a bit excessive.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2010 at 11:51PM
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Just keep putting the coffee and Mountain Dew (caffiene) to me, and I'm like the Eveready Rabbit! I just keep tiling, and tiling, and tiling...


    Bookmark   January 5, 2010 at 12:03AM
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Starbuck's is offered to every laborer that comes to the house in the morning. Subway sandwiches are brought to whomever wants one at lunch (of course, on a lengthy remodel, this would simply get too expensive--as a DIY kinda guy, I have tradespeople in rather infrequently). But, at least in my experience, it pays to spread hospitality to your tradespeople. I don't care who you are, if you're in my house, you get treated as a guest. If you ever visit someone's home on professional business (i.e., you were paid to be there for some reason), and they DON'T offer you a drink (even if you're not thirsty), believe me, it would make you feel like a second-class citizen.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2010 at 12:21AM
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Sorry, I get kinda worked up on that, "not offering a drink thing," sometimes. It's certainly at every homeowner's discretion. I certainly don't think it's expected. Especially complete meals. Coffee and a few baked goods in the morning is more than enough hospitality for any crew. Set the tone the first week, and they'll expect nothing more.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2010 at 12:27AM
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Interesting responses! Sounds like most people really aren't doing much more than coffee - especially when you're not around.
Studio460 - that's where I think I feel - they are working in my house, but at the same time they kind of are guests. I've been seeing the same people day in day out for over a month so we've kind of bonded in a way, so that's why I've been probably overduing it, and they have possibly become a bit comfortable to the point where they will just ask. Today I just felt really bad when he asked (half jokingly) and I honestly had nothing to offer, had 4 kids to feed and do homework with. Ergo the trip to Costco tonight (with those same 4 cranky-reno-kids!)

oopsie913 - your response cracked me up :)

    Bookmark   January 5, 2010 at 12:36AM
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I always offer our contractors something to eat or drink but have never been taken up on it. Our electrician says around Christmastime he can't stand anymore cookies! Anyway, I would say perhaps make soda and crackers or something available but a full meal surely is unnecessary.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2010 at 12:37AM
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I guess if I weren't home during the day, I might feel differently, but I don't mind feeding ours at all. They always leave for lunch, but I've been able to get our GC to take me up on breakfast and goodies several times. I plan to have them over for a party when it's all done. :o)

    Bookmark   January 5, 2010 at 12:42AM
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Every five minutes, Lol. My contractor, is my husband. All he, does is take breaks, and eats. sharaz

    Bookmark   January 5, 2010 at 12:46AM
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I don't feed my contractors much but I don't live at the house either. On occasion I have brought over leftover plates of fruit and croissants from a brunch party I had, brought over fresh baked cinnamon bread from our neighborhood bakery, gave each person a gift card for Christmas for $50, and try my best to greet everyone by name and with a smile each day to show my thankfulness. I would LOVE to make lunch for them each Friday as a treat but haven't the time or money to do that.

If I lived at my house while remodeling I would probably do what you did and try over-extending mom does the same thing--she practically feeds the neighborhood! I love extending a warm, hospitality that hopefully encourages good work, good will and a good home-building environment. I truly am thankful for their time and talent and hope they feel that without all the goodies! Near the end of the project I plan on doing a number of lunches and again another gift card.

To be honest my contractor feeds me! Every week when we have our weekly meeting, he brings me Starbuck's coffee with nonfat milk, just the way I like it, while we walk the house :) I am spoiled and I have the BEST contractor ever! how much work do you get out of your contractor LOL?

    Bookmark   January 5, 2010 at 12:59AM
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Wow. I agree with oopsie, the best thing I can do is get out of their way and let them work in peace. They always brought their lunches, or seemed to want to leave during a lunch break. Kind of like I did when I had a job and went to work ... my employer certainly didn't feed me meals.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2010 at 1:23AM
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I wonder if it's regional? Or case by case? I was figuring on at least doing coffee and. I kept a coffee maker and cups out of the packed up just for that. My GC said no. I did lay in individual water bottles and handed cold ones out when it was hot. Those were appreciated.

OTOH, the GC himself overschedules his time and I've been known to see he hasn't eaten and make him a sandwich.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2010 at 1:40AM
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Oh, my! Our remodel started in August and is finally finishing this week. I cannot imagine if I had tried to feed all these subs who have been in and out every day since then. I KNOW they don't expect it--they always bring their own lunchboxes, or go out. I don't know where I would have put a coffee machine--only one outlet was hooked up and they were constantly blowing that fuse with the powerful saws. I DID put things out the days before Christmas--cookies a few days, doughnuts another. Now I'm wondering of other clients of theirs do this for months on end?! I was feeling kinda proud of myself for making cookies in a toaster oven....

I suppose if our project had only been for a few weeks I might have been more "hostessy"--it would seem that it depends on the situation.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2010 at 2:05AM
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Never. They're big boys, they bring their lunch or go out and have worked on plenty of construction sites with no homeowner there to feed them. They manage just fine on their own. The most I did was offer beers on occasion, like if they showed up on a Saturday to finish up a small job or something.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2010 at 4:02AM
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When we were building, I would bring breakfast tacos out to them a couple of times a week and they really seemed to appreciate it. They were hard workers and I appreciated them. I always had water in a little fridge for them. They always brought their lunches with them because we were about 1/2 hour out in the country.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2010 at 5:01AM
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My house is DIY so we didn't have contractors. But I feel like a contractor is your employee. They are used to going to jobs where there is no lunch served so they know how to pack a cooler with lunch in it. I'd probably provide bottled water, but that's it.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2010 at 6:33AM
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I didn't read to the very end, but I agree with what Gibby3000 said. I offered coffee to my guys, but they always come with their own. They got their own porta potty, too, even though I have a bathroom in the garage. They didn't want to worry about it, and I really didn't want to clean it! so I was glad. Just tell them that your intentions were genuine, but it's becoming too much, especially without a kitchen!

    Bookmark   January 5, 2010 at 7:13AM
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I offered mine treats once in awhile, but without a kitchen I was limited and I'm sure they didn't expect anything at all. Since my reno was over the holidays, I did make them each a big batch of my microwave pecan brittle--the only Christmas sweet I knew how to make without a functioning kitchen.

The electrician on my GC's regular crew told me once that the GC takes his whole crew (5 guys) to lunch every single day. And, it's not McDonald's, either. He finds a few decent places near each job site and lets them choose each day. The electrician said when he first started working for him and was told this was standard, he assumed the lunch bill would be taken from his check or something. Nope. The GC just sees it as a small investment that breeds a heck of a lot of loyalty in his crew. It makes them want to stick around and do a good job.

I can see how as a homeowner you would want to breed that same kind of loyalty, but you shouldn't feel bad when you can't do it. A treat now and then is plenty. Whole meals on a regular basis is certainly more than any worker should expect. If you get any more comments from your GC, I'd say half-jokingly something about how "if I don't stop feeding your crew, I may not have enough left over to pay you." That should get the point across! :)

    Bookmark   January 5, 2010 at 8:02AM
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well, the guys have been here for over a year already (we're building a new house in our current back yard; we live in temporary house in front of property). so while i do make an effort to buy donuts and coffee if i pass a dunkin donuts, it's not all that frequently. i will go to panera and bring lunch for them one day this week though. i have a giant water cooler for them that i set up outside during the warmer weather.

the kind of thing you're talking about isn't "my" norm nor is it common for anyone i've known who has had workers in or around their homes. i think you definitely set a precedence for the guys and i wouldn't really consider them to be taking advantage of you. after all, it would be a shame if all that food went to waste!

    Bookmark   January 5, 2010 at 8:29AM
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The most I did was offer beers on occasion, like if they showed up on a Saturday to finish up a small job or something.

I don't expect any kind of food or drink from a home owner. in fact, I usually discourage it for personal reasons. But if ANY of my guys were to take a beer from a homeowner while on the job-- I don't care if they're done for the day or not-- it'd be the last time they were on my job. At the very least, it's unprofessional.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2010 at 9:00AM
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I'm the type - If you are in my house I'm feeding you. But I also love to cook and don't have enough family living close by to satisfy my hobby. Usaully I'd leave out a plate of cookies or a snack with a "help yourself" sign.

But I also rarely hire an outsider to do any work so it does not happen often. Right now feeding my "contractor" is a daily job, but he is home for the winter so more often he is feeding me.

He was grumping this morning because I don't like the location I thought I would want the microwave so it has to be changed - I may have to make him another pie to sweeten him up.


    Bookmark   January 5, 2010 at 10:48AM
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Virtually never.

I live in a small city, near a street with tons of exotic take-out dining options, and I work, so I'm not in the uncomfortable position of walking around the house, eating and drinking in front of working people. That would probably make me want to feed everybody too!

On one or two occasions, as a peace offering, I have given my contractor "lunch money", if I asked him to fix something I didn't like, or he came on a Saturday or something. Whether he actually spent it on food or took his girlfriend to the movies is up to him, which is the way I intended it.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2010 at 11:02AM
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i have never fed any contractors, but always make sure there is plenty of gatorade and other drinks available. We were reno-ing our bathroom and kitchen, so there was no water service in the house. The last thing I wanted was someone falling over from dehydration. During the demo, those guys are working hard and it gets hot.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2010 at 11:31AM
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All the contractors I've had have shown up with Dunkin donuts coffee in their hands and left the job site for lunch. I did offer fresh baked cookies once but never fed them any other time. They did use the bathroom however.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2010 at 11:38AM
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How often do you feed your doctor, lawyer or auto mechanic? These are professionals, not guests. The time you're taking to feed them is taking them away from their work. I treat my contractors like professionals, I offer them coffee in the morning and make available sodas in their preference and water to help themselves when they wish, most rarely did, normally when the arrived to work they went to work, not on a coffee break. My contractor only accepted when he and I were having a meeting (which we normally did in the am).

When we passed inspections I provided a pizza lunch the next day to all involved but other than that...well it's kind of silly.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2010 at 12:03PM
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I offered coffee, but they made it clear they brought their own and didn't want me to bother. I did however show them where the microwave was, so they could heat up what they'd brought for lunch, and always, always showed them where the bathroom was. They always treated it with respect.

My one food exception was on a really hot day, when the painters were here. I came home from the store with a plate of watermelon, which they happily shared with me.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2010 at 12:43PM
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Boy, I couldn't live up to some of this service!

For people whose work by its very nature is always in someone's home or office, the "guest" analogy doesn't resonate with me, in terms of providing food and drink. They're not dinner guests. You're not hosting a party.They're not wayfarers coming to the door for food.
Of course, courtesy, respect, politeness, safety should be offered. I'd prefer not to clean a bathroom daily but at least it seems like the most potentially needed thing, especially with idea that sometimes you might just hafta go(in that Porta Pot may not be feasible for crews on small jobs).

I'm looking at in terms of expectations and what I've considered to be the employer, or homeowner, relationship with all sorts of workmen and craftsmen such as roofers, carpenters. I didn't feel to obliged to offer a lot but tended to focus on drinks (especially thinking of very hot weather) and also made available things like paper towels and soap, etc for cleaning up, not thinking of the end-of day but in between different parts of jobs, lunch.

Lagniappe is another thing--something you do for fun or when you can. A spur-of-the-moment treat. Also, if it's just your personality and bent to provide lots of comestibles, it's a free country- anybody can feed anybody they want to! So some folks will indeed take the "guest" analogy further than others.

Maybe going into a near-rant--I wish at some point there'd be a resurgence of the respectability of making and bringing a less expensive lunch from home, or less of a fascination with fast food, Starbucks. (Kids today!). I recall bringing my sandwich to work when others in my peer group bought stuff in the lunch line and I still do a lot of that. I'm thinking maybe a whole group of kids has grown up thinking that you buy most of your food out and then wonder how to make ends meet. A construction worker is entitled to buy whatever he wants for lunch, but hey, if it's $7 a pop, every day, then man, power to him if that's considered acceptable daily expenses. OTOH, that may be considered the best option--everybody's entitled to pick his own favorite ways to economize or set priorities. I put this in mostly because of the several posters who bought Subs or other takeout--that would get quite expensive for groups of people on a regular basis. Would it be considered as hospitable if you made a plate of sandwiches much more cheaply? Then you get into choices, who eats what, and again, it's not a cafeteria.

So, my hope is that most workers don't expect a lot of food supply, but maybe have some fun when they get lucky--as in, man, do you remember the job where the guy grilled ribeyes for us? That was the best!

    Bookmark   January 5, 2010 at 3:21PM
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I offer sodas or coffee but usually that is it. The one time I made sandwiches was when a crew poured a concrete slab and then it started raining. They had to cover it up and wait for a couple of hours until the rain stopped to finish it.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2010 at 4:22PM
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I always offer water, because it's really hot and dry here. But that's all. They are big enough to pack their own lunches!

    Bookmark   January 5, 2010 at 4:50PM
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"The electrician on my GC's regular crew told me once that the GC takes his whole crew (5 guys) to lunch every single day."

Smart man ... it's not only a loyalty-building thing, it makes sure they don't drink their lunch at the closest bar and that they get back in a reasonable time.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2010 at 4:56PM
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My feeling is that when a contractor goes to a job, he should have lunch packed for himself and a snack, not to mention eat breakfast before he comes. I don't mind offering water or juice (we don't drink coffee or soda), but the rest is on him. I wouldn't expect my employer to feed me gratis every day I showed up at the job.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2010 at 5:12PM
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Come to think of it, I think my GC buys lunch for his crews at least sometimes, even if he forgets to eat, himself. :) But we always have lunch trucks that come around and know where work is being done, and the guys bring from home as well. All this time my kitchen has been on hold the Porta Potty has remained. :) It's an added expense, but at least it's here for the odd days that someone has come to do some work. The workers all go in the kitchen door and not through the house. The gardeners and postman have been enjoying the potty. I hope they'll understand when it goes away. (I'm sure the neighbors will be thrilled!!)

    Bookmark   January 5, 2010 at 6:23PM
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I'm another one for not feeding my workers. Drinks when it's hot, yes, and I show them the powder room. And maybe it is a regional thing because all the workers who've been here bring their own coolers, and some leave for lunch to a nearby sandwich shop. My brother-in-law is an installer, and the policy where he works is not to accept food and not to use the bathroom unless it's an emergency.

to the OP - I think you are very kind to take care of your wokers like that, and I'm sure they appreciate it very much and maybe even go out of their way to do an extra good job for you. But if you're starting to feel like your patience is wearing thin, it's time to let them know because they will probably sense that they are a burden and start to feel uncomfortable. Just tell them that you've enjoyed feeding them and wish you could continue but that starting tommorow you won't be able to do it anymore. It will be okay:)

    Bookmark   January 5, 2010 at 6:35PM
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I am the first one to think its strange and weird when people don't offer a guest a morsel of food to eat or something to drink. But I agree that contractors are not guests by any definition. Lunch on a regular basis seems over the top to me, but some people really want their contractors to treat them well and think special touches like this will make an impression. I can understand why someone would assume they will get something to eat if you have set that precedent. I did offer drinks and snacks in the beginning and was refused politely each time - I think the GCs in my area must have strict rules for their crews. I would never give someone working in my house anything alcoholic.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2010 at 6:41PM
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Since the alcohol thing has come up a couple times, let me clarify...I only offered a beer when they were done for the day, and around here that's really not that uncommon. Plus my GC is a family friend, so having a beverage on the porch after he went out of his way for me, well, it would have been rude *not* to offer :)

    Bookmark   January 5, 2010 at 7:05PM
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Yes, about the beer. At 5 on a Friday, *I* want a beer (at least), and if they were still there, I offered, because it seemed rude to drink alone. LOL. It was more of a gesture than anything, really.

I did give a landscape crew a 6-pack after they stayed at my house until after dark, moving flagstone on a Saturday. I would have offered more, but we didn't have a kitchen ... all we had was beer. ;-)

What I did do was sell my old (but nice, stainless) appliances to some of the crew members for next to nothing, which they probably appreciated more than a sandwich.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2010 at 7:23PM
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This is an interesting and different topic. Glad to learn that feeding contractors is not common.

Drinks only here too. But I always offer everyone who comes in a drink. (non-alcoholic) When the kitchen was being done the old refrigerator was still plugged in, just pushed over in another part of the room. I bought cases of water and soda and told them to help themselves.

Might be because I drink water all day long myself and assume everyone else needs drnks too. Plus there was no sink, of course. I also offer bottles of soda or water to appliance and furniture delivery people. Especially if they are installing or assembling something. Everyone walks out with their water bottle, even in winter. :)

    Bookmark   January 5, 2010 at 7:46PM
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From a contractor's point of view: Don't feed me!

this is a family business - just my wife and myself. I used to do a lot of remodeling, but now for the most part it's only cabinet installations that I do on-site. I bring my own lunch, snacks, drinks (coffee, tea, or water) with me. Snacks are very tempting, but they just add to my waistline. Occasionally I will have a cup of coffee with the homeowner to be sociable.

As for beer or wine at the end of the day: I NEVER accept it. By the end of the day I am tired, and alcohol will just make me sleepy for the drive home. Bad idea - I'd like to live to come back and finish the job.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2010 at 8:04PM
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We are DIY'ing a new home, as my husband works in the construction industry. We don't really have anyone coming in and out to work at our new house other than one of our employees on occasion, and every once in a while DH's business partner (who is also his uncle) will come to help. On the days the two of them assist my DH and I, we always buy pizza.

The only time we had a "stranger" on the property was when the well drillers were here, and we offered water and for lunch I ordered pizza. They seemed quite surprised, but accepted and ate.

If I had hired anyone else, I'm sure I would have offered water and something simple to eat, but that is just the way we are.
It's not what my DH expects on the jobsite though, and actually prefers if the homeowner does not buy food. He packs a lunch, takes coffee and ice water. I'm sure he would appreciate extra water on a hot day (he is a mason), but otherwise it is best to just leave him to work in peace. My DH would much rather focus on the task at hand, get it done, and get home to his family. I'm not saying he wouldn't appreciate the hospitality, but he would most likely decline. Our employees, on the other hand, would probably gobble up everything in sight to the dismay of my DH. :)

    Bookmark   January 5, 2010 at 8:32PM
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We aren't living in our house, so can't really feed them on a daily basis, nor would I.

We did order pizza for them one Friday for lunch (pizza for 7 guys, not a small order) and we'll probably do that once more before the job ends (it is a 3 month job). We also gave them all a $25 gift certificate for the LCBO at Christmas (place where you buy alcohol in Ontario). Them seemed appreciative.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2010 at 8:41PM
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Growing up there wasn't a time that I can remember my mother letting ANYONE out of our house without being "fed and watered". It didn't matter whether they were being paid for a job or just company. It's called manners and hospitality.

Alot of us have forgotten the way people use to treat others when they are in our homes. In a long project I offer them water, juice or pop as well as something for their coffee breaks. Once in a while I cook them lunch or bring something home for them. On a hot day one beer won't hurt them. I've never known a man to get drunk on one beer. It's just refreshing.

I offer and if they don't want anything that's just fine, but it's there if they want it. Just because we are paying them doesn't mean we have to be slave drivers. Manual labour is hard work. Show them a little hospitality. If you can afford a remodel you can afford a few cookies.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2010 at 9:50PM
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I don't. I'd offer a pot of coffee if I had a coffee pot, but I don't even have that these days!

Seriously, these guys have been all business. Most days, they want to get right to work when they get here and don't have any interest in much else. I'm not here midday but I know they go out for lunch usually.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2010 at 10:10PM
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geez, no wonder 60% of Americans are obese. I mean, I'm not trying to be rude, but I'm gobsmacked that people think it's necessary to feed every single person who comes into your house. The plumber? the cable guy? the cleaning lady?

There is a huge gulf, not a fine line, between being hospitable and being a slave driver. I gave our guys whatever they asked for, answered whatever question they asked, and stayed out of their way and let them work in peace. That's what I would want.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2010 at 11:02PM
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I've never been fortunate enough to be able to move out during remodels in past years. I always offered coffee, tea. water and soft drinks. On occasion I offered a treat if I was making cookies or something similar. Once I fed a couple of plumbers but that was part of the deal we struck because they were squeezing me in for several days over their lunch hour and I knew they had to eat. time my GC helped himself to lunch. My GC was at the house one day and I came home unexpectedly from work. He was standing in the kitchen making himself a sandwich using my bread and ham, cheese, and condiments from my fridge. I couldn't believe he helped himself as if he lived there but he did. needless to say it didn't work out. we began to have problems with him soon after that and ended the relationship.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2010 at 3:53AM
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Very interesting discussion. I am enjoying reading all the different responses.

As a family of five, we eat out so rarely, that I don't think of "buying" food. I had to laugh at Segbrown's comments! Most restaurant food is expensive and unhealthy. I have always packed my own lunch and prefer to eat that even if there is a lunch provided at my work. I admit, it's a little funny, but it works for me!

The times I remember feeding contractors, when I have been around, is if I am baking something fresh like cookies or if it's a really hot day and they are working outside, I might offer them a cold soda or water.

Other than that, my DH and I leave for work at 6 am, so no one is home when the contractors arrive. Then I usually get home around the time they are wrapping up and I have my family's dinner to figure out. So, I don't think about providing food very often.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2010 at 6:30AM
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Circus Peanut

I keep a fridge full of water, juice and soda. The few times I brought doughnuts, most of the guys weren't interested. I did give most of them lunch or dinner "tips" on one or two occasions each, to spend on food or as they saw fit.

I'd never provide alcohol for folks working in my home, not to be prudish but just out of principle. It's expensive and not all contractors drink or are even comfortable around alcohol, like some of the 12-steppers.

I suspect that many (esp. male) contractors are discomfited when homeowners breach that line between professional and guest. They don't really want to have to sit down and chat with the homeowner, which is generally part of the whole 'feeding and watering' scenario. They just want to get their work done unhampered by having to switch into "social grace" mode, which I believe many men feel is necessary, especially when the homeowner in question is female. If they're up to their elbows in mortar or insulation foam, the last thing they want is to have to talk to somebody they barely know.

I'm DIY and I know I'm similar when I'm really into my work: I hate having to shoot the breeze with someone who stops by, or even worse discuss the project I'm in the midst of. Just let me get my work done! :-)

    Bookmark   January 6, 2010 at 8:32AM
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As a rule, I don't offer anything except a clean bathroom. My kitchen is out of the work zone (everything except the kitchen is being worked on right now) so it wouldn't be convenient for me to chill beverages for the workers, as they'd have to troop through the relatively mess-free area of the house to get to them.

The only time I've offered anything was in exceptional circumstances. Once, our second painting crew's boss wanted to meet with us on site at 8:30AM and DH is long gone for work by then. We told him we'd provide the coffee if he could make it 7:30 instead. Another time, a member of the same painting crew worked all day on Halloween Saturday due to his boss's scheduling screw-up earlier in the week. By 5PM, DH and I were sitting on the stoop, drinking beer and handing out candy to the kids. After the painter washed up, we offered him a beer and he joined us to watch the trick-or-treaters.

(BTW, we don't live in a trailer park - drinking beer outside while the kids are trick or treating sounds really crude, but it's the norm in my brownstone Brooklyn neighborhood).

    Bookmark   January 6, 2010 at 9:50AM
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Oh my goodness! We are on our 3rd day of our kitchen remodel and it never occurred to me to feed the contractors!!! Mine are getting paid very well so I never even considered it. I didn't get any extra freebees when I was a nurse on a regular basis. True there were patient's families who brought treats but feeding the contractors regularly? Come on. They bring their lunch. I sat with one and the other preferred to eat in the garage alone. Maybe we should consult Miss Manners LOL. I have found this to be very interesting since I have been so busy making decisions with the reno. Thanks. Carol

    Bookmark   January 6, 2010 at 9:58AM
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Contractors are adults and they are being paid to do the work they do. Feeding them is insane. If you're sitting down with them for a meeting, that's a fine time to offer refreshments as you would in any meeting you would have with people you work with. But that's it.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2010 at 4:33PM
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I brought coffee cooler and homemade chocolate chip cookies out twice to the framers on my new house. The framing took them about six weeks. It was a hot out and I figured, Hey I wouldn't mind if I were in their shoes!

    Bookmark   January 6, 2010 at 4:54PM
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The only one I feed is my GC (but he's my son) and he just helps himself. :)

    Bookmark   January 6, 2010 at 5:01PM
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When we did our 7 week kitchen reno, I didn't even think about feeding the crew until a couple of weeks in when my neighbor (also their friend) came over and offered to go get them lunch. I didn't have a kitchen, but on the rare occasion after that when I made something worth sharing, I would offer it to them. Then I noticed that when I did feed them, it meant that they weren't leaving the jobsite for an hour or two to go buy lunch, or it meant that they would quickly eat dinner at the site and keep working, vs signing off for the day. I realized that feeding them meant getting my renovation completed sooner. No, I wouldn't do it every day, but when you have the time and inclination, it can actually benefit you too.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2010 at 1:28AM
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During the build we did not feed the workers but near the end of our 17 months build we had a lunch onsite for the workers and subs. We catered BBQ and all the fixings. Everyone seemed to really appreciate it. They did us an outstanding job building our house and we wanted to thank them.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2010 at 9:40AM
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My contractor was here for about 5 weeks. I always made sure to have bottled water for him and his workers and occasionally offered chips for their lunch. But they came every day with their own packed lunches or they ordered from the local deli. They did use my microwave from time to time. My contractor was the one who kept bringing candy and chocolates from Italy to my house for everyone to share! When they are completely done with my renovation I plan on tipping the workers as they did an awesome job!

    Bookmark   January 7, 2010 at 9:52AM
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As a contractor for 30+ years - I can count on one hand - the number of
times that a customer provided yum-yums - BESIDES coffee and water - and
THOSE were the customers that EVERY TRADE on the job was willing to do

It may seem like a trivial thing to most home owners - to bring in doughnuts
in the morning, and snacks in the afternoon - But I'm here to tell ya -

IF YOU WANT TO INSURE 110% PERFORMANCE from the troops - take care of 'em!

These little things that most people find insignificant - actually go a long
way in "greasing the wheels" so to speak.

I had one client in Wisconsin that brought in soda, beer, chips and pretzels
EVERY DAY of the work week for ALL of the trades that were building their new
home. Guys were going out of their way to do extra nice little things for her
and her husband - that normally would NOT have been done - let alone -

In summary - "a little nice-ness buys a LOT of extra mileage"



    Bookmark   January 7, 2010 at 10:00AM
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Kevin, I won't argue that you're wrong, as I'm in no position to know, but that's a pathetic statement of the professionalism of the industry.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2010 at 12:42PM
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Is it just me, or does it seem like something is wrong if you have to give people extra food to ensure their best performance? Like someone said before, it seems kind of patronizing. As if you're trying to train a dog or reward a child. My guys were professionals and didn't need coddling. This is the first time I've done this, though, so maybe I'll run into the other kind someday. I hope not.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2010 at 12:45PM
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Oops, said the same thing fern4 did; we cross posted.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2010 at 12:46PM
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We had two men installing our cabinets. I had coffee there but they didn't drink any of it. The next day one of them said in a joking way, when were we going to order the pizza. I didn't know if they were serious or not but we went ahead and ordered it and they ate it. When they came back to take out the cupboards and put them back in again, when my husband talked to them on the phone the guy says, have the donuts ready and we'll be there in the morning. I told my husband no way am I feeding those guys donuts after they screwed everything up, so we didn't buy any. Scrooges we are.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2010 at 1:52PM
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Our contractor worked on our house for 4 months and we didn't feed him. We didn't have a kitchen for 3.5 months of the renovation. We did, however, drop by drinks on the hot days in the summer. We also kept water bottles in the house, which was handy when we didn't have running water. Some days there were 10+ people in the house... I couldn't imagine feeding them all.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2010 at 3:09PM
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We didn't feed anyone, though DH did make coffee and tea for the workers when he was at home. Seems crazy to me to be expected to feed people when you are missing they key part - your kitchen!

I grew up in Poland and there it's expected to feed your contractor/workers. My relatives were building a house a few years ago and my grandma was very limited in her summer plans because she had to be on site to cook breakfast, lunch, and make coffee for their breaks each day. That seems just crazy to me!

    Bookmark   January 7, 2010 at 3:17PM
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I think you took what I said the wrong way - Do REAL Pro's Like Me Need
or even Expect what people on this thread have called "Coddling" - Heck NO!

Is it a nice "treat" when somebody does something nice for us - just because they WANT TO??? - you bet! Stuff like doughnuts or beverages brought in by the
homeowner is usually the only "bonus" we ever see....

Remember that most of us trades men that come into your homes DO NOT
get Monthly, Quarterly or a Year End Bonus - or have ton's of other perks from our jobs, etc.
OUR BIGGEST PERK - (if you can call it that) is to MAYBE -

All I am saying is that when somebody like a home owner goes OUT OF THEIR WAY
to do something "nice" for the trades - It (at least as far as I am concerned)
VERY MUCH greatly appreciated and is a reward that we would otherwise - never see - no matter WHAT "it" is.

Please don;t take this the wrong way -
Just Think about that the next time a guy that's working on your house - misses his kid's school function, or works
when he's sick, or doesn't have TIME to stop and eat lunch - beacause
his customer is so GD focused on themselves - and THIER PRECIOUS LITTLE
PINK to use in their grout!!!!

With times the way they are in the middle of these crappy Obama-nomics -
where many really good guys are going out of business - not because they
do crappy work - or people didn't buy them any doghnuts - but because people can't afford quality work -The Guys that are STILL IN the trades
are more concerned with just survival right now.

A simple thank you is a blessing these days - anything over and beyond that
is a gift.

Scrooges??? I wish I had their problems........

1 Like    Bookmark   January 7, 2010 at 3:27PM
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We are doing a whole house build, not just the kitchen, so for a long time we dont' even have electric to the property, let alone walls, roof, kitchen etc...

I met with my builder (GC) yesterday and asked him what was customary to be brought in for food or drinks. He kind of laughed and said nothing is. They have a trailer on site with drinks, toilets etc... He said it would be ok to bring something like cookies now and again if I wanted, but don't be surprised if they looked at me funny asking why I brought them. He said you never know who will be there (well THEY know, but I won't be keeping track of who to expect onsite) I plan on being onsite several days a week (with my camera) and will probably aim to bring snacks one day a week. Like bars, cookies, or other things that can be eaten without getting messy.

He said NOT to bring them alcohol, if they see any signs of alcohol on site, people are fired. No gray area on that one.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2010 at 4:09PM
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My experience with several different projects over the years led me to play it by ear. I offered drinks on a very hot day or if the worker(s) were there for hours. I have offered and made lunch at times too.
The bathroom was always available.
I had a worker vomit in the bathroom. (I asked him to go home) And I have felt others didn't perform so professional even though I extended hospitality.
Most were middle ground, just like my offerings.
Then on the kitchen remodel, I paid what I thought was a lot for the electrician. He was the most efficient worker, declined any water or lunch, and said that he brought his own....took a lunch break, returned to finish for the day, cleaned up, and left. He was professional. I think he did not expect any thing and I was glad.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2010 at 8:17PM
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Olga, I had Polish workers here all summer,
and the muffins, coffee, and cookies I provided for
them went untouched. I would have been happy
to go to Tim Hortons once or twice
a week and bring them coffee and doughnuts, but
they always turned me down.

In any event, I encouraged them to help
themselves to water, soda and fruit in the fridge
which was in the garage. Only a very, very few
of the trades even took that. They also had use of
my upstairs bathroom.

I made sure to sincerely thank each one of them
by name every single day they were here, and
made sure they knew how much I appreciated all
their hard work and skill and toil, especially
on hot summer days. What else can you do?

    Bookmark   January 7, 2010 at 8:55PM
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ok. i don't know WHAT happened just now but our GC returned a call from my dh and i answered the phone. before i put him on, he says, "can WE still get those oranges i like? you know, the clementines? are they out of season or what?".
ROTFLMAO! some background: GC is a close, personal friend. if this was someone we only knew on professional basis i'd have to give him a lesson on manners!

    Bookmark   January 7, 2010 at 9:58PM
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What interesting answers to this question. IMO I'd be glad to give water or allow the use of the bathroom if asked, but workers are not guests and I'd never, ever feel obligated to offer food or coffee. I used to install telephones for a living and I considered myself a professional. I'd plan my lunches and take them to the job site. In fact, I'd rather people would not try to feed me. It was embarassing. Think of it like this - Would you offer to feed a contracted lawn service?

    Bookmark   February 2, 2010 at 10:08PM
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Most contractors I have worked with flatly refuse Anything to drink or eat (other than water from the tap), probably because that clouds the boundary between a professional relationship and a friendly relationship, and it is harder to navigate if there are problems on the job site.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2010 at 10:43PM
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When we have construction workers at the ranch, which is two hours from the nearest services, we always provide lunch. That far out in the country, it's only the neighborly thing to do. But when workers come to the city home, they're on their own. Either they bring their lunch or they take time off to go to the nearest eatery; not my problem which.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2010 at 11:07PM
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It's been fun reading everyones responses to this topic. We are in month 12 of a whole-house remodel so I've had workers in/on/around my home nearly everyday for over a year.

When we first started, I made cookies a few times and brought them out with no takers. I learned that if you leave the plate, the cookies will disappear. But most refused them if I carried the plate around, asking for takers.

We live in the country and I have free-range hens that keep us all amused. They are very friendly and love to climb in the contractors trucks! Whenever one of the guys has an encounter with a chicken, I will sneak a dozen eggs into his vehicle with a note from his new 'secret-admirer'. Makes for a good laugh.

IF I have some goodies to share, they are offered and at Christmas time I sent the workers all home with fresh eggs and bread.

The one time I provided a worker with a meal was when a single drywall guy was left to tape/mud/sand our project and he was expected to finish in 3 days. The first day, he left at 10 p.m. and I realized that I never saw him take a break all day. The next two days, I brought him meals and beverages, which he humbly accepted. He was one of the hardest workers that I have ever seen and I hated to think of him not eating.

Regarding the offers of beer: we offer cold beer (as well as other beverages) on weekend evenings, if someone has put in a long day. Most don't accept, but I enjoy when they do, as it gives me someone to have a beer with after a long week. : )

We have planned a bbq for May and will invite the contractors who have worked on our project and left on good terms. Some of them I could be friends with. Others I never want in my house again.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2010 at 10:24AM
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I used to tip workers, but I rarely do now. Why? I'll never forget one crew that worked here. I fed them and gave them soda. I tipped them generously when they were done. Then, a day later, I discovered almost all of the antique decorative hose bibs in my yard were swiped. I also found that they had taken significant shortcuts on the project. Boy! I was mad!

More often than not, when I have bought fast food for workers, I have found the wrappings tossed in my hedges. I've even found beer cans on site. Especially on Fridays.

Once, there was a very old, dusty bowl of chocolates in our guest room. The air conditioning men ate those up! I was amused. I refilled the bowl with fresh chocolates once I noticed that. Someone had a sweet tooth! They always finished the chocolates every day they were here. No one ever said thanks, though.

The best crews bring their own food. Some even bring a hibatchi and heat their food up outside with that. One crew helped themselves to my husband's propane powered outside grill. That wasn't a hit with my husband.

The worst crews help themselves to the appliances in the home and don't ask. We have a little second-hand toaster oven that we use to bake Sculpey clay in. I once found a worker at lunchtime in our back bedroom (what's he doing in here??) using the little arts and crafts toaster oven to heat up his food. Huh??

As far as bathrooms, we have a bathroom outside for the workers. We ask them to use it. We provide paper towels, trash can, toilet, sink, running water, toilet paper, weekly cleaning, a plunger, and hand soap. That doesn't stop some of them from exploring the house and using the bathrooms of their choice.

Not surprisingly, the same workers who lack good project skills, ASK for food and beverage, argue, and are otherwise punks have also been the ones who stop up the toilet, steal and make messes.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2010 at 4:45PM
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I have coffee and tea and a kettle and microwave and a brita 4litre container in the fridge & have told them they can use the microwave and I also have some fruit in the fridge which I told them to help themselves to.
I was thinking about getting some cookies or salted snack stuff as well.
i don't think it is being patronising - just offering something to people working hard to help me ( a bity of a small thank you)

i plan to will invite them back in the spring or so when it is easier to be outside to have a meal and see how I enjoy the fruits of their labour.

Since I do shift work I do feel a little awkward when i am in the house while they are working so try to stay out of their way

    Bookmark   February 3, 2010 at 10:30PM
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Big jug of ice water always available in hot weather. With our kitchen project we provide a snack about once a cake, donuts, sliced honeybell oranges. ALWAYS eaten and appreciated. We also address workers by name and compliment them on their fabulous work, as well as let the GC know they have done good work. We are happy and satisfied with with our guys so we want them to be happy.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2010 at 9:25AM
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Lori B

I saw this post a few weeks ago, and it reminded me that I should try and provide a few nice things periodically during our new home construction. On the day of foundation pour, I bought 30 pig-in-a-blankets, and this week during framing, I baked a box of brownies and brought. I think the guys appreciated it. (None thanked me directly or acknowledged though...but that's ok with me) But my job superintendent seemed to politely tell me that I don't need to do that, and that I will spoil them. He says they are not use to those things, and he fears they will not want to leave the job! When, in fact we want them working as quickly as possible. :)

I couldn't tell if he was joking or not.

Now, I'm considering if I take things in the future to try and avoid when the job superintendent is there. Not because I'm hiding it, but because he was the one providing my goodies to the workers. It may be crossing some sort of professional line that he is trying to maintain.

If I continue it, I think I may periodically provide something -- maybe weekly.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2010 at 9:30AM
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I made coffee every morning, had muffins, cream cheese, bagles, cookies crackers. Made sandwiches for them at lunch. One crew did take advantage and was billing by the hour. For the most part, I was happy to feed one person who was on the job every day and one who stayed late, because it expedited the job. Would I do it again? probably.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2010 at 9:31AM
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Hope it's okay to revive this old thread. I understand the impulse to feed contractors, especially if you are eating a meal in front of them. But feeding a crew for 6 weeks? This sounds like a nightmare! I think when it comes down to it they're responsible for their meals. In fact it's common courtesy for them to eat lunch off-premises. If you're like me and you tend to feel bad for people working hard right in front of you it could help to read some industry standards for contractor and homeowner etiquette.

Here is a link that might be useful: Contractor Etiquette Standards

    Bookmark   August 8, 2013 at 11:26AM
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I think they're old enough to feed themselves, lol. You're not their mother (although we are often babysitters it seems). With all the paid breaks, paid travel, padding, etc., I think they can spring for their own breakfast, lunch and snacks. I agree they can get spoiled and it kind of crosses the professional "business" line which can make things more complicated should problems arise.

I am impressed yours did not even stop for lunch!

    Bookmark   August 8, 2013 at 11:37AM
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I feed my workers when they took two months to build an addition. I would have coffee and treats for breakfast and fresh fruit salad for snacks. They brought their lunches, but about once a week I would barbecue or order pizza. I think because they felt so well appreciated, they went above and beyond to do quality work and did little "extras" for me as well. No, I didn't HAVE to do it, but I have appreciated the "extras" that they did to make me happy.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2013 at 11:46AM
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Oh I've always wondered if this issue had been addressed here. I have never offered meals or snacks to workers, just coffee which usually they decline. When my friend recently had work done on her kitchen she went to Subway every day for her guys! She told me this after I had used on of her handymen to do my bathroom remodel and I never offered him lunch one time. I never saw him leave for lunch either. I did ask once if he did lunch on his own and his just said he "brought a candy bar".
Maybe he thought my friend told me about the Subway thing. Oops.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2013 at 1:58PM
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Just fed him (DH). Chicken salad sandwich with melted colby cheese on a kaiser roll. Cheese melted on top in a little, circa 80's GE toast-r-oven from his folks attic. I mention this because since the kitchen is torn out, that toaster oven and an electric skillet is all I have for inside cooking. What a handy little unit this toast-r-oven is turning out to be! I may make room for it on my counter in the new kitchen. So as to keep feeding the contractor so he'll keep doing things for me, hee hee....

    Bookmark   August 8, 2013 at 2:14PM
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DH is a contractor and he does not like his customers to feel obligated to provide lunch for him and his crew. If they provide a lunch unexpectedly, he will graciously accept it. If they do it a second time, he will again graciously accept what is provided, but explain to the customer that lunches are neither expected or necessary and that he and his crew bring their own lunches every day. If a client provides a surprise lunch, that means that everyone has to throw away the lunch they brought with them that day. Also, eating the lunch that is provided by the client often takes more time than the crew normally spends eating lunch. Doing that every day can really throw your schedule off. It is better to do as one poster said and tell your contractor, "I'd like to buy you all lunch tomorrow." That said, a plate of cookies or a pitcher of lemonade is always appreciated by the crew, but making it a habit is not really good for anyone ... the client feels obligated and the crew learns to expect it. DH does not appreciate so much when clients want to provide beer to the crew. They are there to work, not drink. If they want to drink, they can do so on their own time after hours.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2013 at 2:29PM
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I would not want to encourage additional use of the powder room by serving coffee. I don't think the hand towel was ever used.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2013 at 2:30PM
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