How To Be a Good Client
Any home remodeling project, no matter how simple or how extensive, requires a team effort. And the team consists of a designer, a builder, and a client. Your role, as the client, is not merely to sign all the checks.
Your part in the entire construction process is actually the most important. It is you who sets the scope and tone of the remodeling or addition. You must select the designer and the builder. And you must make timely decisions all through the process to keep the project on track. Here are some suggestions to help you work with your designer and builder to get the best possible job.
- Set a budget. Figure out how much you can realistically afford to spend on the project. Be sure to allow for any unforeseen problems and all the hidden costs of remodeling or adding on.
- Let your designer know your budget. An experienced architect or residential designer should be able to tell if your dreams will fit within your budget.
- Evaluate your needs. You and your family must examine both your short-term and long-term goals honestly. What are you really trying to get out of the remodeling or addition? How long do you anticipate staying in the house? Will the planned changes fit your lifestyle in five years? Ten years?
- Let the designer know what you like and what you don’t. Changes and revisions are inexpensive in the design stage but very expensive during construction.
- Make yourself available during the design process and the entire project to answer questions and make decisions in a timely manner. This is not the time to take an extended vacation.
- Finalize the design and material choices before putting the project out to bid. Be specific about appliances, fixtures, and finishes to be used so all contractors are bidding on the same job.
- If necessary, include lower cost options on the plans or in the specifications. This will help you evaluate the cost of particular project components or materials and give you some choices if you need to reduce the total cost.
- Carefully select each contractor to bid on the job. Never have someone bid on the project that you wouldn’t feel comfortable hiring.
- Once you decide which bid to accept, have the builder draw up a contract that details the exact work to be done, the materials to be used, the start and completion dates, the payment schedule, and the total price. Everything you want done should be spelled out in writing on the contract. Both you and the builder should sign the contract and keep signed copies. It’s not a bad idea to have an attorney look over the contract before you sign.
- Communicate with your builder before work is scheduled to start to see what you can do to make his job easier. Make sure furnishings are cleared from affected rooms. Don’t expect your builder’s crew to do the moving.
- Designate one family member to be the builder’s contact. This person should be readily available to answer questions and be able to make onthe-spot decisions. This avoids the confusion of one spouse telling the contractor one thing and the other spouse unknowingly telling him something different.
- Schedule a daily meeting with the builder to go over any questions or concerns. Often this will catch small problems before they become major ones. Usually the start or end of the workday is best.
- If other design professionals (interior designer, landscape architect, etc.) are involved in the project, make sure that they coordinate their contact with the contractor through you. Any decisions that they need to make should be done in a timely manner so work isn’t slowed.
- Remember that long lead times are often needed to get materials and fixtures ordered and delivered to the jobsite on time. Cooperate with your builder when he asks you to select colors, finishes, or materials. Don’t hold up progress by being indecisive.
- If you must make any changes during construction, insist on a written change order—signed by both you and the builder—that specifies the change and any additional cost.
- Change orders or other major issues should be addressed directly to the contractor or to his designated representative, not with subcontractors or other workers.
- Realize that weather and other unforeseen problems can cause delays.
- Try to relax. It will be finished eventually.