Do I Need to be Home When My Windows Will Be Cleaned?

Can I Trust a Contractor to Be in My Home Alone?

In this day and age when the whole family is ‘busy busy’ there may well be days during the week when no one is home until evening time, it may be a source of stress to have to schedule some service by a contractor inside your home when nobody is there. Among the services that often require a contractor to be in your house is window cleaning. The potential reasons for uncertainly and trepidation are several. Will they snoop around? Will they lock up? Will they steal anything? Will they take their shoes off or wear shoe covers? No doubt other concerns exist as well. What if there is a genuine accident and injury results? Will you be held liable?

Illustration of lazy contractor eating pizza on the a customer's couch

This chap probably shouldn’t have been allowed to work in your home without supervision. It’s definitely presumptuous for a contractor to make himself ‘at home’ in a customer’s home without prior permission.

Practical Advice for Deciding

It seems clear to me, based on dealing with customers and having a house myself that isn’t maintenance-free, that sometimes an urgent need arises to have something fixed, installed, or upgraded. Emergencies, by definition, are not scheduled events. Even needed services you know are inevitable or upcoming plans to host something special on your property can become a challenge to orchestrate as time goes by and the need isn’t being filled. They say the best contractors are the busiest. There is a good measure of truth to that statement. When that is so, they may be hard to get into the schedule that you are confined to. Residential window cleaning, a subject I know inside and out, is largely seasonal in northeastern Pennsylvania. If you call a well-established company on May 20 and want them at your house on May 22, you may be disappointed.
With all that said, what factors are there to consider when deciding if you have to make sure someone you trust can rearrange his or her schedule to be home subject to a contractor’s schedule? Proven, or strongly perceived (on your end) trustworthiness, may be a point in favor of allowing access to your house. Sure, so many homeowners now have remote controls for unlocking doors, disarming security systems, and viewing legally-allowed areas inside their homes. But, dealing with unethical or just bad conduct on the part of a contractor, can still be a hassle, even if there is proof something was done and security or police can be notified. Is it worth the hassle? Therefore, your certainty that Joe Contractor will behave properly or your level of tolerance for stuff that you’re not happy about will dictate what you decide when your serviceperson has a proven track record of trustworthiness.

Safety concerns could move you to make sure you or someone you trust is home with a contractor. This could be just as much or more for the safety of your serviceperson. Perhaps some difficult areas to access need attention or someone climbing up and down ladders worries you. Warranted concern or not, you would probably feel more at ease if the contractor is not isolated.

Potential complication, ones that you are aware of, may move you to try explaining the situation to the one who will be working in your house. If you feel he comprehends your concern and can navigate such an issue, you can feel a bit more at ease that things will be okay. You might be the type personality that worries about the “what-ifs” more than the average homeowner, though. Honest dialogue with your visitor can bring your concern and his self-confidence into a mutually amenable space.

laid back or trusting personality might help you decide that you’re just not worried that a non-resident in your home who knows certain behavior and decorum is expected is going to make you regret your decision. Or you may reason ‘there is nothing here that I care that much about’. That take may be on the rare side, but some are of that thinking. Hopefully, this easygoing approach will serve you well and not come back to bite you! Granted, how this scenario plays out is almost exclusively dependent on the uprightness of the company you have hired.

Being too rushed or pressured to have much of a choice might push you to just go ahead and let a contractor into your home when he can get there and just hope for the best. That certainly is not an ideal state of mind to have to be in. Often, better planning could help one avoid this stress. But sometimes there truly is not a better option.

My Thoughts and Experiences as a Residential Window Cleaner

I’d like to assure all who read this that I’m speaking solely based on my opinions and personal experiences, and I am not trying to lay down rules. I personally know I am not going to pull any fast ones on a customer if my crew is trusted to be in a house without supervision. In my employee handbook, it is made clear that any legitimate charge of theft will result in immediate termination. However, I don’t feel it is right to expect that every homeowner should trust me unquestioningly, since I know am honest. It’s all perspective. I will say that there have been many times when, after a brief conversation with someone I’ve never met or done business with before, the owner will for whatever reason, trust me enough to tell me how to get in the house. No doubt many other window cleaners can say the same in their case. For sure, it’s a sobering thing to know you are able to instill trust by mere words and tone of conversation. Of course, word of mouth and good reviews don’t hurt. On the other hand, I have some customers who after a decade or more would not even consider allowing me to be in their house without someone else around. This is not a fault or personality deficiency- it’s simply their way of thinking or perhaps a reaction based on a bad experience with someone else they trusted in the past or how they have been brought up. This is not a matter of me feeling “if they can’t trust me, I don’t trust them”. This is their home, a huge investment!

Being in someone’s home without supervision is something to not be taken lightly. There’s a certain responsibility to be completely respectful of what is not yours and mature enough to not use appliances and personal items without prior permission. Trust me, this is not self-evident to everyone without having it laid out for them! Years ago, a customer who trusted my crew to be in his house unattended, said “I don’t care if you party like a rockstar when you’re there”. As you might guess, we still simply did all the work scheduled, locked up and left. No partying!  Even permission to make yourself at home needs to be tempered with propriety.

Something else I learned many years ago is to not settle for help from people whom you can’t fully trust when it comes to doing work at a residence. One day I had one employee working with me for the day and we were very behind on our schedule. Out of the blue, a former employee who had started his own business asked if I had any work he and his ‘crew’ could help out with. Out of desperation, I jumped at the opportunity. My team and his met at a large house that day and I basically gave them one half of the house and we took the other half. I got a call a day or so later from the homeowner. She was wondering if we had seen some jewelry that was missing. Big surprise, it was in a room that the other crew had taken care of. None of that crew ever fessed up. Fortunately, the homeowner trusted me and I promised I would never go out on a limb like that again, and she continued to have me there for many years to follow. A year earlier, someone for whom I cleaned windows four times a year was robbed shortly after I had been there, and it was on the local news. The police investigated it. I was surprised yet pleased that I was never interviewed. Apparently, I was trusted in this case as well. Those two ‘near-misses’ on my reputation made me more resolute to always be on good behavior and never assume people you don’t know well will act above board because it’s in a work setting. Dot your ‘i’s and cross your ‘t’s when subbing out work and hiring employees.

“Do You Need to Get Inside My House?”

This is a common question I am asked by a new customer when we’re in the process of scheduling a window cleaning appointment. The answer is, that depends! As a rule, if we are going to be cleaning the inside windows at a home, we will need to be inside the house. There are certain windows, mainly casements, that can be opened by the homeowner from the inside and allow outside access the the inside of the glass. This is usually not an optimal choice for the window cleaner for several reasons. Many companies, including mine, include cleaning screens in the pricing for interior and exterior windows. This can’t be done if the screens are still in place and there is no access to the inside of the house. Additionally, it may be very difficult based on terrain or height to safely set up to reach the inside from the outside. Stray water or cleaning solution could get through the adjacent screens an onto floors or other valuable items nearby inside the house.

Another time that getting inside the house is necessary is when screens need to be taken out from the inside to allow cleaning of the glass on the outside. This applies even if only the outsides are being cleaned. It certainly would be great no doubt for the homeowner if we never needed to be inside the house. Unfortunately, that is rarely possible. Many customers, though, only want us to clean outside windows, when there are no screens and no impossible or dangerous climbs required to get to upper decks, we would not need to get inside. That is, provided that a water source is available.

Consider the Big Picture

In conclusion, humans tend to want reasons to trust others. Living becomes far more expensive and stressful when people are dishonest or irresponsible. Think insurance. Think the private security industry. The need and price of these services continues to rise. Theoretically, if everyone trusted one another, these markets would be significantly smaller. We know the world is not heading back to an earlier day in that regard, but yet, a huge number of individuals still go about their day-to-day affairs with a lot of trust. It may be for some that the odds are low that a contractor will steal or destroy tangible assets. For others it is the belief that nobody in his right mind would knowingly endanger his reputation and business by one or two bad acts.

Whatever the case, window cleaners, plumbers, electricians, and others who spend time in private homes are wise to have it together when it comes to being responsible, ethical, and straight-up professional. Respect property, be honest about the work being done and any issues that arise, and be punctual. On the subject of punctuality, why cause even more stress and exasperation on a homeowner who had to shuffle around his or her schedule by not coming through on arrival for service? The saying is “time is money”. What a disappointment when a homeowner ends up making all the sacrifices and still doesn’t get the product or service that was expected. For a certainty, things come up. Good communication when this is the case will almost surely soften the blow of such disappointment. Thankfully, we have mobile phones that allow good communication!

Hopefully, the observations and insights will be helpful to window cleaners and other contractors as well as homeowners.


If you have any questions or want to discuss this subject you can email me at
JOIN OUR EMAIL LIST                  SUBSCRIBE TO OUR YOUTUBE CHANNEL