Should you tip your contractor?
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If you’re having a contractor do a job on your home, a question may cross your mind sooner or later: Should I tip them when the project’s done?
Unlike some service industries — think restaurants and hire-cars — client tips aren’t baked into the compensation system of the residential construction field. Skilled sub-contractors and tradespeople get pretty good hourly wages, and surveys cited by Angi note that just 6 percent of remodeling companies expect a tip, and just 7 percent of handypeople and painters.
But even if tipping isn’t customary, it can still be tempting. So let’s look at some of the whens, whys and, of course, how much to tip a contractor.
When to consider tipping your contractor
Generally, tipping should be considered if a contractor went above and beyond, ran the proverbial extra mile. For example, if they:
- Worked on a holiday or weekend
- Stayed late, came in early or worked through lunch to make that deadline
- Did any extra work outside of the contract agreement
- Finished extra early (with no sloppy shortcuts)
- Did a really extraordinary job
Of course, even if they didn’t do any of these things or you’re less than 100 percent pleased, it still can be a nice gesture to tip a contractor for their efforts — especially if a lot of problems arose during the project. Your contractor will likely appreciate a tip even if there were minor issues because it shows that you recognize the hard work (and possible unforeseen challenges) that can go into a home improvement job.
How much to tip your contractor
Since there are no industry standards for tipping, the delicate choice of how much is up to you.
If you don’t want to be thought stingy, consider a tip somewhere between 10 and 20 percent of the contractor’s original job estimate for their work. If you want to make it a little more substantial, consider bumping it up to 25 percent of the original estimate.
In terms of flat figures, for small jobs, a tip of $20 to $50 per person is appropriate; for larger projects, between $100 and $200. Much depends on the cost of living in your region; ask around if you’re unsure.
Which contractors should you tip?
Everyone who works on your house is worth a tip. If you have several contractors working on your home at one time, make it a habit to tip all of them.
That’s assuming they’re independent tradespeople or sub-contractors. A general contractor who’s supervising or employing others generally doesn’t expect a gratuity: That would be like tipping the owner of a proprietorship or store. Their crews generally don’t expect one either, and giving one of them a tip could cause tension with the boss.
If you do tip, make sure to always do it in cash. Workers tend to prefer it. And a check or electronic transfer could be too easily confused with wages or fees (even if marked as “gratuity”), which could create discrepancies with income statements and cause tax-reporting problems for the employer.
What are the pros and cons of tipping your contractor?
- You reward great service
- You generate good feeling for the next job
- You’re supporting the local labor force
- It can be awkward or uncomfortable for the person you’re tipping
- It could cause workers problems with their employers
- Your state might not allow contractors to accept tips, or make them report it as income
Alternatives to tipping contractors
If tipping seems inappropriate, there are other ways to thank the crew who remodeled your bathroom or the plumber who fixed every leaky faucet in the house.
Give your contractor a positive review online, on their own site or on sites like Yelp, HomeAdvisor, and Angi. A good review can help the contractor attract more clients in the future, and you might get a discount next time you hire the contractor for a big project.
You can always express your gratitude with a handwritten note or reference letter; or you can offer to be a reference for prospective clients to call.
And some might argue that being nice to the workers while they’re on the job — offering coffee, sharing snacks and granting unrestricted use of the bathroom — garners more gratitude and shows more appreciation than tipping them after the job’s done.
The bottom line on tipping a contractor
If you’re feeling awkward, you can always simply ask the company or contractor about their tipping policy, before work even starts.
If you do decide to tip, recognize that you’re doing it as a gesture of goodwill, and not as an obligation. The contractor deserves compensation for their work, of course. But never feel pressured to pay them more than the agreed-upon price.