Although it may seem a fair assumption that construction professionals would leave a property in a livable condition when they have completed a project, contractors can in fact vary wildly in what they believe their responsibilities are as far as cleaning up after themselves is concerned.
This can leave you in a very messy situation should a contractor shirk responsibility for cleaning up after their project is (in their heads, at least) complete.
So what can you, as a homeowner, do if construction contractors leave behind a mess in your home?
1. Check the entirety of the renovation work to ensure that other corners have not been cut
It’s worth casting a fine toothed comb over the work of a construction professional who refuses to clean up properly after themselves for a couple of reasons. These are:
- Cleaning up a site is an essential part of checking your work. A contractor who does not clean up after themselves is akin to a writer who does not proofread what they have written.
- Failure to clean up properly suggests that a contractor is rushing their project. What other parts of the project might they be rushing?
Before you air your reservations about the way that a contractor has failed to clean up after themselves, look closely at the work that they have done. Where possible, put their work through a “stress test” (actually use what they have created in the way that it will be used in the future).
If the work being completed is not satisfactory, then the easiest time to get it rectified is while you are still engaged with a contractor. You should therefore take this opportunity to flag up any other deficiencies of the work done along with the lack of cleaning up afterwards.
2. Consult your contract to see who is responsible for cleaning up debris
There are no laws in the State of California that categorically assign responsibility to a contractor for post-construction cleanup.
Government guidelines therefore state that a construction contract should always state who is responsible for clearing away debris when a project is completed.
Your first plan of action if you are not happy with the state that construction workers have left your home in should be to consult the contract that you and the contractor should have drawn up before the work began.
It is almost unheard of that a construction contract will explicitly state that the client is responsible for cleaning up a site. This means that a contract will either:
- Assign the responsibility of post-construction cleanup to the contractor
- Fail to address this issue at all.
If the former is the case then you are within your right to either withhold payment until the site is cleaned up, or take legal action against the contractor if they have been paid in advance. So long as you have sufficient evidence that the contractor neglected to clean your home post-construction (take photos of this), the law should be on your side.
If it is not clear in the contract who is responsible for post-construction cleanup, then you should bear in mind that you are not legally “in the right” if you choose to withhold payment. A safer solution would therefore be to threaten the contractor with a negative online review if they refuse to clean up the site.
This will not only likely convince the contractor to clean up your home, but if they refuse to do so then it will help stop this issue from arising with future homeowners.
Online reviews, particularly Google reviews, are becoming a huge factor in people’s buying decisions around residential renovations, so threatening a contractor with a negative review should be enough to see them clean up the mess that they have created and make their contracts more clear going forward.
3. Ascertain if the debris left behind is harmful, and if so then file an official complaint against the contractor
Even if a construction contract does not explicitly state that the contractor is responsible for cleaning up a site when their project is finished, they should still be held responsible for ensuring that your home is at least safe for habitation when their work is completed.
You should be particularly wary if your renovation project has involved the breaking down of concrete, brick or drywall. Any project that involves knocking down walls will definitely fall into this category. These three materials break down into dust that creates respirable crystalline silica. This can be harmful when breathed in. Although even a larger home renovation project will not create enough crystalline silica to do you serious long-term damage, it can still irritate your lungs in the short-term.
If this type of work has been undertaken, and the contractor has not thoroughly dusted the area (and the adjacent area) that the work has taken place, then you are well within your rights to make an official complaint about them for unsafe working practices.
Similarly, if the contractor has failed to clean any small, sharp objects such as nails, drills or broken glass, from their site then you also should file an official complaint about them for unsafe working practices.
4. If you do end up having to do clean up yourself, then get the right tools and PPE for the job
If you do find yourself having to do post-construction clean-up yourself, then you are going to struggle without the right tools and PPE for the job.
Since the dust and debris left after this type of work tends to be heavier, more stubborn, and (potentially) sharper than with typical cleaning you’ll need the right cleaning supplies to do the job safely and properly.
You can find a detailed breakdown of the types of supplies you will need for post-construction cleaning here, but at the very least you will need:
- A HEPA-equipped vacuum cleaner
- A dust mask
- Several durable microfibre cloths
- Paint thinner if there are any oil-based paint spills
A good vacuum cleaner is absolutely essential here. Using a knackered one will lead to a world of frustration (and a dusty house).
Bring in professionals if you lack the equipment
Getting a vacuum cleaner that is up to the job of a post-renovation cleanup does not make sense if this is just a one off (unfortunate) situation.
It therefore might be better to reach out for a quote on a post-renovation clean rather than tackle the project yourself.
This article was written by Volodymyr Barabakh.
Volodymyr is the Owner and Project Director of homebuilding company Fortress Home.
For more information, please visit: https://fortresshome.com/