Blog: Working with Contractors when you are Chemically Sensitive

Blog: Working with Contractors when you are Chemically Sensitive

Blog: Working with Contractors when you are Chemically Sensitive

One of the most important components in successfully completing a remodeling project is to retain the services of a reputable contractor. Universally we can agree that a personal referral from a trusted friend or colleague is the place to begin the interviewing process. But you should also recognize that your personal situation may not and often does not match an experience your informant had with that particular contractor.  Another stepping off point is to use the most popular social media referral sites or websites. Yelp and come to mind. Review as many testimonials as you can filtering the ones most akin to your situation.

Speaking to the health side of the equation each one of us has a personal chemical threshold profile as relates to exposure to building products. What one family can tolerate another can’t. This revelation should be made clear at the beginning of any interview. Your candidates need to seriously acknowledge this right from the get go. If you encounter ignorance, resistance or in the worse case hostility, move on to the next interview. Ideally the contractor of record will be sensitive to your health challenges and make the appropriate accommodations to insure a successful outcome.

My experience has shown me that most contractors are skeptical of using products of which they aren’t familiar. Understandably they have built their business on using a narrow range of products they are comfortable working with, ones easily procured and simple to time estimate for cost analysis.

A key point for you is to diligently research the manufacturers products you believe will serve your best purpose and make that information known to the contractor.

These companies should have a good track record of success with a broad category of clientele. The contractor you want to work with will be open to these “different” products even though they may be outside of his or her comfort zone. In all cases, your product selections will be a proven technology which in the hands of a “craftsmen” should only, if at all, mandate a tiny learning curve.

Here is a must do for your contractor. If you are someone in your family is chemically sensitive. You need the contractor to supply test samples for you to review and approve. Ideally a test will reveal the cured surface offgassing present (there should be none) and give you a good sense of what the finished surface will look like at completion.

Equally vital is proper scheduling. Whatever product or products you choose should be on the jobsite BEFORE the contractor shows up. Many products may need to be shipped to the project location meaning that if not enough time was allotted for

ordering, customization (as for example tinted paint), and transport your contractor could show up and have nothing to do. You can imagine how this could disrupt completion of your project as good contractor’s are on tight schedules. Believe me, you don’t need that stress and neither do they. Another good rule of thumb is to calculate 5-10% more product as it is much better too have a little extra than run short.


Finally, I’d recommend that you add a couple clauses to any construction contract that reads:

  • “All materials used for our project MUST be approved by the homeowner or their healthy home representative prior to their use.  Any unauthorized use may be subject to removal and replacement at the general contractors expense.  All affected areas are included.”
    • This is crucial.
  • “All contractors, subcontractors, suppliers and office personnel that show up on the job site agree to be free of any artificial scents, including but not limited to: perfume, cologne, aftershave, hairspray.”
    • Not a very difficult one to manage.
  • “Smoking of any kind is NOT permitted on site, nor can you bring smoke filled clothing to the job site on your person.”
    • Admittedly this one is extremely hard to manage, but the good contractors WILL respect your wishes.
By | 2018-07-30T11:59:10-05:00 April 16th, 2018|Blog|

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