Contractor Language

How did this get so complicated? All we wanted was a contractor to run a gas line to our kitchen, so we could replace the electric range with a gas range. But I suspect that’s how many home remodels begin.

A home remodel is like cancer. It starts out tiny, just one little thing, then spreads to every nook and corner of your humble abode. Now we’ve remodeled the kitchen, the den, the hallway, and a bathroom, and it’s starting to metastasize into another bathroom, the bedrooms, and our living room.

Maybe I could have stopped this if only I knew from the start, how to understand contractor language. I’m learning though. The more I deal with this class of business person, the more I find myself picking up their patois.

I wrote this post to protect you from what has happened to me. I want you to learn their language, too, so that you can effectively deal with the next unintelligible contractor who shows up at your door.

What follows are ten common phrases spoken in contractor language, followed by a translation in layman’s language. If you let this be your Rosetta Stone, you could save a truckload of money:

Contractor: I don’t like written contracts.
Translation: I prefer to argue over who has the best memory.

Contractor: I thought that’s what we agreed on.
Translation: You should have insisted on a written contract.

Contractor: I’ve been doing this for many years now.
Translation: But I can’t say the same for those I hire.

Contractor: As long as you’re doing this much, you may as well spend a little extra and do that, too.
Translation: As long as I’m making a little money on this, I may as well be making a lot more on that.

Contractor: It won’t cost much more if you do it like this.
Translation: Just multiply by 2 or 3.

Contractor: This is a rough estimate.
Translation: Expect to pay no less than this.

Contractor: I have some bad news.
Translation: I have great news for my wallet!

Contractor: You don’t have to pay me now.
Translation: We’ll put your house back together some other day.

Contractor: We should be finished by next week.
Translation: We won’t be, though.

Contractor: This should last forever.
Translation: I’m pretty sure in a year or two you’ll be sick of it, and asking for another remodel.

And now for a slide show. Here’s some of what my unintelligible contractor has been up to . . .

Our den before the remodel. Perfectly nice den, right?

According to my contractor, this den is much better.

We thought the only major thing wrong with this kitchen was the electric cooktop and tiny oven.

Somehow our contractor convinced us that our kitchen needed to look like this. Do you agree, or have we needlessly enriched this bastard, with his hammer and saw?

Categories: Humor

24 replies »

  1. Remodels are “amusing.” Thanks for the primer on “contractor speak.”

    If/when you decide to sell your home . . . I’m betting that the renovations will “pay off” in a faster sale and more $’s. That said, we have yet to descend the slippery slope of updating our villa other than minor fixes ~ new handles on the kitchen cabinets and bathroom vanities, fresh paint in all the rooms, etc.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is indeed, a slippery slope. Congratulations on avoiding the temptation to slide into the abyss. Fresh paint, etc, was once about all we did also. This remodeling stuff is new to us. And very expensive.


  2. I love the new kitchen. And I agree with nrhatch — it will pay off.

    Us, we live in our house until we are ready to sell it, then do all the repairs and updates that should have been taken care of already. That’s what we’re doing now, repairing, weeding through decades of crap. Ahhhhhh.

    Liked by 2 people

    • So you’re planning on selling, huh? Good luck, and I hope you get a ton of money. The only problem with repairs and updates right before a sale, is that you don’t get much time to enjoy them. You’ll be left envying the new owners.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I know. But it’s stuff we needed to do after Jacob left. Painting and carpet, etc. I would rather just stay here, but it’s not an option. But it does feel like we are erasing ourselves from the place!

        Liked by 2 people

  3. As you know, I’ve remodeled two houses in that last few years, the one I sold and the one I live in now (which is still very much a work-in-progress). I feel your pain. Fortunately, my contractors never played those games – they asked what I wanted, and that’s what I got. We had written contracts in place for everything. But then again, I might have paid a little more for such professionalism – a no-contract contractor might have been able to do the work more cheaply. Or maybe not – that’s a chance you take if there’s no contract.

    Of course, having done the renovations. we then had to get rid of the yard-sale furniture and replace it with furniture that could be shown when we sold the first house. At least, I still have the new furniture, and it fits very nicely into the new house.

    BTW, I like your remodels, especially the kitchen. That new kitchen is awesome!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks. We think we got good quality work from this contractor. But it sure cost us a lot more than we initially expected to spend before all the little “extras” came along. That’s our fault, though, for agreeing to the extras. But I do believe our contractor is very skilled at the art of the upsale. He’s especially good at convincing my wife.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Maybe this is why my husband’s face starts to twitch whenever I bring up the fact that our bathroom needs a facelift. I say ‘facelift’ but I really mean gut-and-rebuild … wives too have a parlance that’s not quite the same as the male half of the partnership 😉

    In fact, I could say the same thing about our kitchen because they are the same vintage, but I try to drop only one bomb at a time.

    Love your new kitchen. Want to trade?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks. I doubt I could trade. You’d have to pry our new kitchen from my wife’s cold dead fingers.

      They say the two most expensive remodels are the kitchen and the bathroom, so I understand why your husband’s face starts to twitch. And I’ll bet his hand reaches back instinctively to cover his wallet.


  5. I hate to say it but the contractor was right with the new looks. Just one more thing. You need some colour in that den. I so have decorator in me.
    As you know we are working on our bathroom. We did it ourselves no contractor actually for any of the work we’ve done over the last year. It still ends up more costly. We expected what we were doing with our bathroom to cost about $300. We are now up to over $1000 and still not quite done. This doesn’t include a new counter top or any accessories like new taps or mirror. We have so much more to fix up in the house too and it’s going on the market in two months. Hubby barley has time, so I don’t know how we’re going to pull it off.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I have heard every phrase on the contractor-speak list, thanks for the clarification on the meanings. I could have used this years ago. As for which is better, the new spaces look a bit more polished, but probably cost a mint. We remodeled a bathroom a few years ago. Originally, our intention was to replace four cracked tiles in the bathtub surround (around the faucets). Well, there was no drywall behind them (it had rotted away), the tub was old and unsightly, the plumbing underneath was leaky, etc. We couldn’t find tile to match the old white-with-gold-flecks, so we had to redo the whole surround. The bathroom is small. In order to get the tub out the door, we had to take out the toilet and vanity sink. If you’re paying for labor to de-install and re-install them, says the contractor, why not put in a water saver toilet and update the vanity? The best time to re-tile the floor is while the fixtures are already out. Not to mention re-painting the walls, if you’re going to do that. While we’re at it, how about a spiffy new medicine cabinet, better lighting, and an overhead heater? All told, those 4 tiles became a $4000 overhaul. I hear you, Tippy. Enjoy your new and improved living space. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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