The thing about working with a general contractor is that you actually have to work. It’s not as simple as handing over a check and the keys to your house. There’s a continuous need for discussion, collaboration and — sometimes — supervision. Here are three tips for improving communication between you and your contractor:
1. A Picture’s Worth 1,000 Words
The best way to articulate your vision to a contractor is through pictures. Provide photos or drawings to help communicate precisely what you’re looking for.
Get in the habit of scouring websites (hint, hint), magazines and brochures for products and materials that demonstrate your personal taste. Better yet, you can find a drawing — or sketch one yourself — that allows your contractor to envision the entire scope of your dream remodel. For example, if you’re planning an outdoor project, then Fetch-a-Sketch offers dozens of inspirational sketches that you can purchase for $20 each and share with your contractor.
2. Regular Meetings
One of the frustrating parts about a home improvement project is that you can’t always see the day-to-day progress. Some major features, such as electrical wiring and plumbing, are concealed behind walls or under cabinets, so you can’t assess the project with just a quick peek into the room.
Keep yourself in the loop by scheduling a daily or weekly meeting with your general contractor. Make the most of this time by asking for detailed explanations of what’s been accomplished and what’s next on the agenda. And ask for a weekly update on the work schedule and the budget to make sure the project is on track. Also, be sure the contractor has your contact numbers so you can be reached if a situation arises on the job site while you’re away that needs an immediate decision.
3. Visitation Rights
Whenever you have strangers working in your home it can be difficult to balance supervising their work with letting them complete their job in peace. Contractors and subcontractors can get skittish when they feel like you’re constantly looking over their shoulders. To address this, it’s a good idea to set rules and boundaries — both for the workers and for yourself — to keep everyone at ease.
For starters, you can tell your workmen and workwomen that you will leave for work (or for shopping or for breakfast or for whatever it is that you do) as soon as someone arrives at your home for work. This lets them know that you won’t be in their hair all day long and it sets the expectation that workers should be at your house early because you’re expecting them.
It’s also critical that you communicate to your general contractor (or directly to the other workers) that when you’re poking around the job site, you are trying to understand their work. You are paying for it, so you have every right to ask questions, but you don’t have to come off as being accusatory. If you engage in a dialogue with all the contractors, then they can explain what they are working on and you won’t come across as Big Brother.
Communicating effectively with your contractor start by asking the right questions. Learn what questions to ask from our list of “10 Questions to Ask Your Contractor.”