“At Home with Marni Jameson” Article

Below is an article by Marni Jameson, published in The Oklahoman  and the Times-Picayune that I enjoyed. It seems it could be from  the point of view of many of our clients:

“Morning, Scott,” I say through a sheet of opaque plastic that hangs like a shower curtain between my kitchen and the adjacent eating area, which is under construction.

Home remodelers must take a leap of faith when they open their home to contractors. The alternative is to dramatically slow down progress. Scott Sidler is shown outside a residential project.

“Morning, Marni,” comes his answer from the other side of the flimsy veneer.

“What’s happening today?”


Few people are more comfortable having strange men in their homes and a Dumpster in their driveway than I am. I’m not bragging here, just observing that being a serial home improver has made me oddly blase about making my morning coffee while wearing a robe and wet hair and conversing with practical strangers in my kitchen.

A more prudent woman might worry about strange men having a key to her house, and letting themselves in at will, regardless of whether she is sleeping, showering, dressing, or not at home.

My more cautious mother, for instance, once scheduled painters and stayed home with them the whole time. “Mom,” I told her, “schedule a hair appointment, then go shopping. Don’t stay home with the fumes and covered furniture.”

“Oh, I would never leave strange men in my house unsupervised.”

But a life of home improvement can erode your standards. Caution flies out the window the way modesty flees during childbirth. Seriously, any woman who has delivered a baby in front of a gaggle of medical personnel stops caring who sees her naked.

This past month, as a string of strange men had their way with my house, I wondered when I stopped caring about what most rational people would consider a criminal violation on the order of breaking, entering and vandalism.

It occurred to me that after years of living in homes under construction, I am just darn grateful workers show up at all, whether I’m dressed, or home, or not.

“So, Scott,” I said one recent morning through the plastic curtain, which evoked the feeling of being in confession. “I know it’s a little late to be asking you this, being that we – you and I — are beyond the drywall stage, but just how are homeowners supposed to know whether they can trust a worker with their keys?”

Dumbfounded silence followed, as if the thought of not being trusted had never occurred to him.

“I mean how do homeowners find that sweet spot between being too vulnerable and too paranoid?”

“I don’t see those kinds of problems happen often,” he said.

“Of course, you do your own construction.”

“But there are some sketchy types,” he admitted, then estimated that in his experience about one in 40 jobs had some kind of theft.

“Mostly a worker takes property he thinks no one will notice missing, like a set of old golf clubs in the dusty corner,” he said.

Knowing how much and whom to trust when opening your home to construction is not an exact science, but here’s how Scott Sidler, an Orlando, Fla.-based general contractor and owner of Austin Home Restorations, suggests homeowners divine the line between access and security:

Do your homework. Checking the contractor’s reviews on Yelp or Angie’s list. If you see a pattern of comments that imply dishonesty, carelessness, or anything short of trustworthiness, move on.

Set hours. You can dictate when work can happen on your job and when it can’t. Tell your contractor in writing the hours work can start and must stop.

Control the keys. Depending on your comfort level, you have a few options regarding who holds the key: Give a key to the contractor, who can let workers in and lock up. Put the key in a lockbox, allowing each subcontractor access. Don’t give out any keys, and be in charge of letting workers in. If you give the contractor your key, make clear that under no circumstance should it be copied. Get the key back at the end of the job.

Know the trade offs. Though most contractors will work with clients whatever their comfort level, not giving contractors a key will typically slow progress. Thus, three out of four homeowners either give their contractor the key or put it in a lock box. The rest choose to be home — or make sure someone they know and trust is — when work is going on.

Remove temptation. During the job, lock up your valuables. “No matter how honest workers seem, lead them not into temptation,” Sidler said. “Don’t leave a diamond ring on the table.”

Know who’s coming. Your contractor should tell you what workers to expect. The contractor can usually vouch for his subcontractors, but has less control over those who work for the subcontractors, who are often hired without a background check.

Stay out of the middle. If a worker shows up when he shouldn’t or is otherwise out of bounds, try not to confront him directly, Sidler said. Instead, call your contractor or point person. “Tell him, ‘I need you to handle this.’ That’s why you hired him.”

Change the locks. When the work is over, if you have any concerns for safety, have an independent locksmith change your locks. Likewise, if you have a security system on the home and have handed out the code, change it.


Posted on 24,Jul | Posted by rmayer