“Workers are Smoking on the Site of my Remodel or New Home. What do I do?”

Today I was installing a kitchen in a lovely new custom home across town.

At some point I became aware of cigarette smoke coming from the painters. Sure enough, some of them were smoking.

Now, I don't know the homeowners very well, but I feel that I know them well enough to know that they don't smoke. Yet I noticed that, when they visited the house today to check on progress, they didn't say anything about the smoking. Why not? Isn't it a well-established fact that smoke lingers in the porous materials of a house, meaning that the house will have a hint of smoke residual from the month-or-two of construction crew smoking?

My best guess is that most homeowners just aren't sure if they can or should put their foot down on this. After all, isn't this just “what construction types do?” Could there be hard feelings or lowered productivity if you draw this line? Will I open myself to some type of legal risk?

Here's my non-lawyer opinion:

You can. You should.

The very best custom home-builders tend to have very strict rules about what can be done in a new addition or new home. I distinctly remember one GC who picked up a fast-food style drink that someone had left sitting not far from where they were working. He walked to the nearest window, poured out the drink, then threw the cup in a nearby trash can. He had made clear to all his subs that there were to be no drinks in the house. (a spill could mean staining unfinished surfaces or grout lines on tile)

You might have guessed that he also has a strict no-smoking policy.

Like so many other things, this is a culture where some people will try to get away with almost anything and must be held in check proactively.

So, how should you handle the situation of workers who presume to smoke in your (future) home?

Assuming you can't operate through a GC or a supervisor, just tell it straight. Make it non-negotiable.

And remember, many of the other tradesmen will actually (secretly) cheer your decision, as would be the case if you chose to disallow any broadcast of music on the site. (another good idea from the A+ contractors)

The bottom line: it's your house.