The Bankrate promise
At Bankrate we strive to help you make smarter financial decisions. While we adhere to strict , this post may contain references to products from our partners. Here's an explanation for .
If a professional is performing a home improvement job on your home, a question may cross your mind sooner or later: Do I tip this contractor?
Unlike some service industry workers — think restaurant servers, taxi drivers and hairdressers — client tips aren’t baked into the compensation system for residential construction professionals. 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.
“Contractors usually price their services to cover their costs and provide a profit margin. They typically base their pricing on the value they provide,” says Bryan Clayton, CEO of Nashville-based GreenPal, an online marketplace that connects homeowners and local lawn care professionals. “That said, tips are always appreciated as a gesture of gratitude for excellent service.”
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 an electrician, a plumber, a painter — or whatever contractor is working for you.
- Tipping is not required, legally, morally or otherwise, nor is it expected by home improvement professionals.
- Still, compensating a contractor above and beyond the agreed fee when they surpass your expectations is a kind and generous way to reward their extra efforts.
- In terms of the tip size, 15–20% of the project cost — preferably in cash — is a good rule of thumb.
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 an 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 renovation or repair job.
Marcos Soares, owner of Bicalho Painting & Pro Services in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, doesn’t count on or expect tips on his jobs but has found that it’s not uncommon for homeowners to offer them — especially in recognition of his extra efforts.
“For example, during a project that involved drywall repair, skim coating and interior painting, I went above and beyond to ensure the client’s satisfaction. By exceeding expectations and taking care of additional tasks, I demonstrated my commitment to delivering exceptional service, and that resulted in a tip,” he explains.
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 around 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.
“Tipping for every home contractor varies and is dependent on the job they do for you and how well they do it. It’s best to follow the rule of tipping at 15 percent to 20 percent of the cost,” recommends real estate agent Rinal Patel, of EveryHome Realtors in the greater Philadelphia area.
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, don’t play favorites: 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.
Among the contractors you might want to tip are:
- Floor installers/restorers
- Handy people
- Home cleaners
- Window blind installers
If you do tip, try to do so 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.
Tips are always appreciated as a gesture of gratitude for excellent service.
— Bryan Clayton, CEO of GreenPal
Tips are always appreciated as a gesture of gratitude for excellent service.— Bryan Clayton, CEO of GreenPal
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 cash tips
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 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 non-alcoholic liquid refreshments, sharing snacks and granting unrestricted use of the bathroom — garners more gratitude and shows more appreciation than tipping them after the job’s done.
Other alternatives to cash gratuities include giving gift cards or gift certificates, entertainment event tickets, gift baskets, a plate of home-cooked/baked goods or even a bottle of wine.
And of course: Helping them find more business. “Providing referrals is another good tip alternative for home contractors,” says Patel.
The bottom line on tipping a contractor
Do you tip contractors? The answer will depend on the quality of the job done, your satisfaction level and the type of professional who completes your job. If you’re feeling awkward, you can always simply ask the company or contractor about their tipping policy, before work even starts.
“Ours is not an industry where tipping has been normalized, such as food service, hair care, moving, housekeeping or valets. Often, it is seen as a kind gesture of appreciation, but not something to be expected,” says Craig Ricks, Jr. president of Acadian Windows and Siding based in Destrehan, Louisiana. “ I think it’s fine to tip a contractor or home professional if you feel moved to do so. Some contractors have to supply their own tools, equipment and materials, and if your work requires them to get something specialized, a tip can help cover the extra time or resources spent acquiring those items.”
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.