I know what you are all asking, if there are things my builder needs me to know, why doesn’t he just tell me? It’s not that they don’t want to tell you or it is a big secret, they just don’t know how to tell you. The good builder doesn’t want to cause you undo stress, make you mad, or hurt your feelings. They just want to build an amazing home for you to live in and enjoy with family and friends. That’s right…they just want to build it, nothing more, nothing less. They want to work in their zone of genius which is building a solid, well built home that will last a lifetime for you. 

As a designer with an architecture background, I have been working with builders and clients for over 20 years. Often, I become the mediator trying to iron out conflicts and reduce stress for both parties. These are the important things you need to know:

  1. Your builders strength is expediting the building process and building a well built home for you. They are not a designer and do not want to be involved with the design decision making. All they want to do is build your dream home, and they want you to have what you want, so he does not want to rock the boat by telling you no you can’t afford it, it isn’t in the budget, etc. Think of it this way, would you let your electrician choose all your light fixtures?  Of course not, he/she may not have your same design aesthetic and the choices would not be your style.
  1. He hires subcontractors and employees that are good at their job, not his. They carry no responsibilities for decisions being made on the job site by you. Again, these people just want to please you. So, if you ask them to make a change impromptu don’t be surprised that there will be an unexpected charge to you when the builder is informed of the change.
  1. There is a communication procedure and chain of command in the building process that they would like you to know and respect it. The process goes much smoother and there are less surprises if proper communication procedures are followed.
  1. Your builder does not like to talk about the money. You need to be aware that changes you make to the scope of project or design are not free. All changes need to be handled in a proper legal manor with a written change order and signed by both parties. When you ask a sub contractor to make a change on the site, there is a significant chance that there will be a cost increase to the overall budget that was not accounted for in the original bid. Your builder may also may not know how much you have spent on your allowables at any specific time, and this is something you are responsible to keep up with. He is not with you at the flooring store when you are choosing the floor, he only sees the invoices after the fact.  There is a big difference between 1,000 sf of flooring that costs $5/sf and one that costs $10/sf. When you put pencil to paper, the difference is 5K. That could significantly impact your overall budget.
  1. Your builder does not always have the answer “right now”.  He has a lot of projects on his plate and if you press for information that he may or may not have, don’t expect it to be wholly accurate. Give your builder time to assess the question and respond with an educated answer.

I find that these five seemingly small things can cause the most problems on any construction job, whether it is a simple remodel or new construction, big or small. Do not be afraid to ask what the communication chain of command is and agree to respect it, even when you don’t want to. Take responsibility for understanding your fiscal responsibilities when making design decisions for your home.  Don’t expect your builder to give you design advice (though some will). Let your builder shine by organizing, managing, and expediting the construction of your dream home. Your reward will be a stress free (or at least less stressful) building process.

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