Canadian Contractor

I would much rather pay my labourer $13/hour to clean up than pay an electrician or plumber $70/hour

Keeping a clean job site is SO important. But Jon Tucker of Tucker Construction is clear about whose job that is, on his projects - his $13/hour guys, not his skilled trades.


September 5, 2014
By Steve Payne

Jon Tucker of Tucker Construction replies to John Bleasby‘s article about “Keeping a clean site.”

“General contractors exist for many reasons. One of them is maintaining a clean site. Is it frustrating that subcontractors do not clean up after themselves? Yes. Does it seem childish that they do not bother to sweep or pick up? Yes. But that is one of the services you pay for when purchasing a general contractor’s services. ‘Subs’ need attention. They perform one function, that is their given trade. I would much rather pay the labourer I have on-site anyway $13/hr to clean up than pay an electrician or plumber $70/hr.

“It is dollars and sense. As a GC I know that I have to clean up after my ‘subs’ but they know that, too, and they know that I expect their price to reflect the time savings and that if there is a problem with anything; they fix it no questions asked at no extra cost because we look after one another. Quality construction depends on qualified trades and solid relationships. To the guy who says, “Well, look at that that! Another John-Job!” I would tell him that you don’t mind cleaning up after him but you will not tolerate disrespect. If he doesn’t change his tune, boot him off the site. Everyone is replaceable in this world, no one should forget it.

“Look after your trades and they will look after you. But disrespect is unacceptable because it tells you the integrity of the individual you are dealing with.”

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11 Comments » for I would much rather pay my labourer $13/hour to clean up than pay an electrician or plumber $70/hour
  1. Andreas Herrmann says:

    If a general contractor has to clean up a building site, then there is in my opinion a
    leading problem. Our “subs” partner are informed if the workplace is left without cleaning and proper dispose of the waste material no bill we be paid in full, easy as that. This system started a few decades ago in some European countries and has great success since.

  2. dave says:

    In the past 40 years i have found that electricians and plumbers rarely clean up after them selves. when ever i had one price out work for me I would ask them up front before they started, do you clean up when you are finished . They all said they did , so I informed them if any mess was left and I had to clean up the cost would be taken off their contract .Most did actually do a respectable clean up. Some just threw it out on the ground, I guess that was their idea of cleaning up. Needless to say they were pissed when they got a reduced payment.

    • Rob Austin says:

      Lets be sensible.
      Electricians and Plumbers are usually the most expensive sub trades on a construction site, and I can only speak for myself, and so I will.I have been an Electrical contractor for more than 20 years.
      We have many things on our minds when we perform our tasks, not just the technicality of our work, but also, the parts we need, permits, inspections, working safely, how we are going to solve the constant issues that arise as the the plan did not disclose this or that, then requests to make changes to the plan, our minds are full. getting a little off topic.
      Few customers ever mention the mess or who will clean it before the job commences. Few customers ever have a garbage can any where near the work. I find that the people that complain the most are the general contractors, perhaps a little jealousy because they are cleaning our mess.
      It makes no sense to have a plumber come in on monday and drill bunch of holes, then for him to clean and vacuum the chips up , and then on tuesday the Electricians
      come in and do the same thing, then perhaps the gas guys, sheet metal guy’s. The General contractors have labourers for a reason.
      I will gladly clean up after myself if it is an issue, but please let us know that this is what you expect before we arrive on the job site, We can prepare, we can bring a garbage can and or bags, even a vacuum. Heck, I will wash your floor with a toothbrush for $70/hr if you really want. It just makes financial sense to have the labourer do it, even if the labourer happens to be the home owner, who also has not put out garbage facilities near the work.

      • Daniel says:

        You should clean up after your mess no matter how important you THINK you are , spare me the b.s of this “I have more important things on my mind ” the best bosses would have no problem getting their hands dirty …..fool!

  3. Yvette says:

    As both a homeowner and a contractor I believe that ALL trades should leave the home in the state that it was before the renovation/build.
    I have had many contractors in my home that left a huge mess behind and I made them come back to clean or took $$ off my bill to pay for the clean up time and disposal. After all it IS their mess.
    As a Contractor, my crews are told they MUST clean up all job sites once completed and tidy up your tools and area at the end of a multi-day project.
    When we leave we WANT the client to marvel at the project not complain about the mess.

    • Rob Austin says:

      I strongly disagree, it is your house, your drywall and the dust is yours, your lumber that the chips are made of and your boxes that your lights or faucets came in, all yours! I can prove it. Once it is installed in your house, it is legally yours wether you pay the bill or not. So it is your mess!
      This is the norm. You sound like a jealous general contractor, who has had to clean sub trades mess. Don’t get me wrong I will gladly clean up my mess, but it will cost you. Always explain the rules before we start the game.

      • Dean says:

        Rob Austin, I’m guessing you get ZERO repeat business with an attitude like that. Not sure where you are but here in Alberta we have a little too much pride in our work to have an attitude like yours. As of tight now if I saw your name on a business cards I would use it to light my smoke.

    • dave says:

      There is no reason why the other trades cannot remove the empty boxes wire strips etc. plumbers can remove the boxes from their plumbing supplies etc. its just common courtesy. I have always asked both trades if they clean up or not.
      Rob As far as its your house its your job to clean up, or at least say you don’t clean up after. As far as having so much on your mind , maybe being an electrician is to much for you.
      You should become a general on the job as you think we don’t have any worries or pressure on any thing we do .Like permits , organizing trades ,inspections and so on . you do your job and leave the only responsibility you have is electrical . don’t judge what you know little about. If electrical is to much for you , you couldn’t handle being a general contractor.

  4. Marv Schupp says:

    I have been in business for close to 25 years, and seldom have an issue with my subs cleaning up after themselves. I make sure that there are garbage cans on site and I do provide either a bin or a dump trailer for everyone’s use. Call me spoiled, but my guys are quite happy to clean up after themselves. Anyone who left their mess for me to deal with wouldn’t be part of my team for long. Why should I be responsible to sweep up after them?

    Marv Schupp

  5. Don B. says:

    As an Electrical contractor I feel it is my guys job to clean up after themselves as they are going along in the project. After all, when the customer finally moves in and finds a piece of copper on the ground they are not going to blame the General….it will be the sparky.
    I love working for generals who ask up front who is doing the clean up and then back charging if need be. it forces everyone on site to be neat and tidy….big safety bonus!

  6. Gavin says:

    We have been general contractors in our city for forty years. We have a form we give all sub-trades that states what our expectations are in regards to their performance on our job sites.
    As green builders we believe in recycling. Our sites have different bins or garbage cans for paper, metal, wood and just straight garbage. The drywall and insulation contractors looks after their own waste. Our city run dump sites charge different prices each category of waste. Over the years we have cut our garbage costs in half by doing this.
    Each sub-trade is responsible to clean up after themselves. I don’t expect them to sweep up though. We do one thorough sweep before insulation and after drywall.
    If they bring a lunch, pop cans or coffee cups they are expected, and do take them home. We will not clean up food waste or have it our garbage cans.
    We do not have laborers to clean up for anyone and it does not cost us anymore to have our trades do this.
    It has taken time and a bit of coercing to enforce our policies, but now the only ones we have to bring to task are newer workers.
    If every contractor had these policies we wouldn’t have the excuse of “why do we have to do this here, we don’t do this on Harry’s site.”

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