I find that during a building project, good communication is essential for a good outcome.  This does not always mean you have to be the primary communicator. If you do not like conflict and run far away from it, you need someone who is not afraid to stand up and ask important questions.  Grab your dad, cousin, or best friend and have them help you make the process smooth and clear for everyone.  

Many times people hire designers like me to be the boots on the ground, ears to the floor, translator, mediator, or just general bad guy.  We are able to readily translate builder speak to layman’s terms and explain the processes that the builder just assumes is common knowledge.  You will need someone to help you understand what is going on during the process since building is probably not your knowledge base. If you are a scientist, you would never expect everyone you come into contact with to understand your sciency terms (and yes, I am making up words. I would never win at scrabble.)  You are not Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory.   

A few hints and tips that I have found clients use to help with better communication and lessons the chance of misunderstandings are:

  1. Discuss in advance with the builder how you prefer communications to be handled.  This includes communication preference (ex. Text, phone, email, in person.) Keep a communication log with date, who, type, what was discussed and decisions made. This also includes all onsite discussions.
  2. Send an email after every communication that summarizes your understanding of what was communicated to you.  This should include all onsite discussions too.
  3. Respect “working hours”.  The contractor has a personal life too. Discuss what are the appropriate times to communicate before the project starts.

I have created an info graphic (see below) to show two examples of  the communication “chain of command” on any project. The first example includes a complete design team approach, whereas the second example is a client and builder only.

In my line of work, I have the privilege to work with and alongside many talented builders and subcontractors.  I have so much respect for great contractors and work very hard to simplify and make the process easier for them too. Even when I am “mean” or “scolding”, I am always nice.  This tends to earn respect from contractors and ensure projects continue moving along. I have had contractors thank me for scolding them and being so understanding as they fix what needs to be fixed. 

My job, as a designer, is working for and on behalf of my clients with their best interest at heart.  This includes building a wonderful home or designing a wonderful space with minimal conflict and stress.  I wish I could say stress free, but that would be a fib. Designers have the privilege of getting to know who our clients are. They become our people and our friends.  Our ultimate goal is your happiness and for you to enjoy your dream home for years and years to come.

If you want an easy way to start your hiring process for your perfect contractor, check out my Contractor Questionnaire


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