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If you have your home renovated, you obviously want it to look better at the end of the project than it did at the start. Unfortunately, some homeowners are surprised to find their contractors have left a mess behind.

How to Avoid Problems
Before you hire a contractor, ask about the company’s cleanup policy. Some contractors clean up as they work, some clean up at the end of the day, and others clean up at the end of the project or subcontract with a separate cleanup company. Some contractors charge separate cleanup fees, while others include cleanup in the overall labor cost. Make sure the company’s policy is spelled out in the contract.

Check references. Talk to recent customers and ask whether they were satisfied with the quality and frequency of the cleanup.

Ask the contractor if there’s anything you can do to reduce the amount of mess and the effect on your home and quality of life. For example, if your old roof is being removed, covering bushes can protect them when workers toss roofing materials to the ground. If work will be done inside the house, you can lay down carpet runners for the workers to walk on so they won’t get dirt and mud on your regular carpet.

What to Do If You’re Left With a Mess
Even if contractors are diligent about cleanup, there may still be lingering dirt and dust throughout the house. If you don’t want to clean it up yourself, you can hire a company specializing in post-construction cleaning services.

Sometimes contractors leave construction waste in trash cans at the curb, but some municipalities require contractors to dispose of those materials themselves. If your contractor left waste that your local trash collectors won’t take, check the law and notify the contractor if the company is required to dispose of construction waste.

If workers leave a huge mess that affects your health or ability to use your home, talk to the project leader or owner of the company. Show the mess in person or with photos and explain what you’d like the contractor to do to address the situation. Refer to the contract if you believe the workers didn’t live up to their obligations. Be sure to document any attempts to resolve the situation. If you send the contractor a letter, mail it certified and request return receipt.

If the company refuses to deal with the issue and the contract clearly says the contractor is required to, you can withhold payment and/or file complaints with the Better Business Bureau and state licensing board. You can consider filing a lawsuit, either in small claims court or with the help of an attorney if the damage is expensive.

Don’t Get Stuck With a Mess
Many problems can be avoided by asking the right questions when interviewing contractors, checking references and getting important details in writing. Be diligent when looking for a contractor, understand your rights, and seek professional or legal help if necessary.