If you’re going to be working with a contractor, good communication between the both of you is crucial every step of the way. Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you begin planning your project so you can keep the lines of communication open, avoid surprises and stay involved from the start.
Be clear in the beginning about your budget
When you’re planning your project, be clear from the get-go about what you can afford. Occasionally, homeowners shy away from sharing their budget, thinking it will increase the overall cost of a project. In fact, knowing your budget lets a contractor know where you stand in regards to your overall plans and will work within the cost constraints.
It’s also a good idea to avoid allowances (a line item in a bid for items that haven’t been determined yet). If your contractor knows your budget, they will plan out a project accordingly so you won’t be unpleasantly surprised when all is said and done. Also, don’t shy away from detail — in fact, the more detail you give your contractor, the better, as they can work with your budget to design the project to your specifications.
Establish how you’ll communicate
Before the project begins, ask your contractor for his or her preferred method of communication, and share what you’d prefer as well. You’ll likely want to speak with your contractor on a daily basis, so establish what time works best for you both, and determine if you want to meet on-site every day. Also, make sure your contractor is available for phone calls or texts so you can check in as needed throughout the day.
Keep a journal
Consider keeping a project journal. Whether you keep notes on your phone or handwrite into an actual notebook, it’s a good place to keep track of the project timeline, delivery dates and the daily (or weekly) progress. It’s also the perfect place to jot down questions that inevitably crop up at random points during the day, which means you’ll have a handy reference for the next time you connect.
What to ask
You’ll want to communicate to your contractor throughout the duration of the project. It’s fine to ask general questions like “How’s it going?” But you might find you’ll get better details by asking more direct questions.
Since you’ll want to speak with your contractor on a daily basis, ask specific questions like “What work was completed yesterday?” and “What will you be working on today, and the next few days?” Your daily meetings are also good times to bring up any questions or concerns you may have (remember your journal!).
If you keep these points in mind, you and your contractor will be on the same page as your project goes from the drawing board to reality. Communication is key to clear expectations and smooth projects — and a happy contractor and customer.