A drop cloth, a broom, a vacuum—even your hands to pick something up off the floor. It seems these tools might as well not exist for some contractors. I was always taught growing up that you clean up after yourself. As a business, we try to instill best practices by maintaining a clean worksite, and that includes cleaning up when we finish a project. We also try to respect other trades and work with them on jobs, since we know everyone is just trying to do their job.

So when I walk onto a project ready to apply an oil finish to a staircase we’re working on and see cement residue and water marks all over it, I have to stop and wonder, “Did this contractor have no common sense to cover the staircase while working?” Well, as they say in a court of law, there is no such thing as common sense.

We had previously had the treads and risers wire-brushed, and the general contractor had his finish carpenter install them since we were booked too far out. All the steps were covered with Masonite except at the very edge of the steps by the general contractor. The staircase was capped with a plaster/cement feature along the rail portion.

We were scheduled to apply an oil finish over the Memorial Day weekend while no other trades would be in the home. Now I’m cussing out loud because I just lost an entire day of production and have to very carefully sand out all the stains because I don’t want to remove the wire brushing. So I begin hand sanding.

To avoid sanding too much of the wire brushing, I ended up folding a sanding disc and using the edge to sand and maintain the integrity of the wire brushing; then, I followed it up with a wire brush to blend in my sanding. Six hours later, we were able to get the steps to an acceptable point where we could apply the finish.

It would be great if the trades trained contractors to clean up after themselves and cover areas that shouldn’t get dirty before they taught them the specifics of the trade. How many times do we get to the jobsite only to see sheetrock mud all over the floor, electrical wire clippings or just plain garbage? We did a kitchen remodel about a year ago where I met with the electrician. I told him I had provided a broom and vacuum on-site and when he was finished, to clean up his clippings. His comment was, “I don’t sweep.” I immediately commented back to him with quite a strong inflection in my voice: “On my job, you will.”

I suppose the positive outcome of the stains on the staircase is that I have something to write about on my blog for all of you. Here’s to all of you contractors who maintain a clean work area and respect the other trades!