How to Get the Most Out of Your Building Contractor

woman with construction contractor
  • 10 hours
  • Beginner

Major home renovations or construction projects require copious quantities of planning served with a healthy dose of coordination and time management.

One of the best ways to ensure the project goes smoothly is to rely on the expertise of a building contractor.

It’s an essential part of the equation, but having a building contractor oversee all aspects of the job requires some effort from you too.

In order for a contractor to do his or her job, you need to do your part to facilitate effective communication as well as accountability on both sides.

1. Understand the Job of the Building Contractor

Building contractors are the puppeteers of the project.

They ensure supplies are ordered and arrive on time, subcontractors are qualified, work is completed efficiently and in a timely manner, permits are filed, inspections are completed, and the project meets the client’s (that’s you!) goals.

2. Know Your Goals

hand with pen near building plans and computer

Probably the best way to get the most out of your contractor is to have a clear vision of your needs before the project gets underway.

You may not know every single product selection upfront, but you should at least be clear about the basic outline.

While it is your contractor’s job to make sure the project meets regulations and satisfies your budget and timeline, remember a contractor is not an interior designer, architect, or engineer.

If you need help during the planning stages, start with those professionals before you loop in the building contractor.

At the very least, prepare a portfolio of design concept ideas from Pinterest, magazines, books, or the internet so you can share your vision.

This will save a lot of time and frustration.

3. Be Straightforward

Your building contractor will be busy coordinating all the moving parts of the project. He or she will appreciate direct communication.

If you have a concern, bring it up. If you are considering a change, make it a priority to discuss it promptly. Also, make yourself available to answer questions as they arise in order to avoid delays.

Remember there is a crew waiting for your answer so be decisive when your building contractor provides options.

4. Be Respectful

woman talking to contractor outside a house

Having a plan and maintaining effective communication both serve to respect the time of the building contractor.

In addition, respect their expertise. You don’t have to blindly trust everything they say or do, but allow them to guide your decisions based on their experience.

Also let your contractor know how much room they have to make decisions and when you’d prefer to get the call instead, but know that the more decisions they can make, the better the project will flow.

Remember this may be your first custom build or major renovation, but it’s what they do every day so be respectful even if you have questions about the way things are being done.

Your contractor is dealing with myriad other people involved in the project and likely has other projects going too, so don’t expect him or her to be at your beck and call, but do ask how long is a realistic response time.

5. Be Flexible

smiling couple looking at home plans with a contractor

If there is one thing you should know about any building project, it is that there will undoubtedly be unexpected delays.

Manage expectations by asking when the contractor is available to start work and how long he or she expects it to take. Make it easy on yourself by factoring in the possibility of the project taking twice as long as expected.

The building supply chain is struggling to provide materials more than ever since the beginning of the pandemic. Building projects are full of moving parts and a break of one link in the chain can, and will, derail things in the short term.

For example, if the company making the AC unit can’t get a part, there may be a delay in the HVAC installation or the unit might have to arrive a few months after the project is otherwise completed.

You’ll also need to be flexible when the design elements don’t come together as expected or the project goes over budget when deeper issues are discovered after the destruction begins.

Be patient.

6. Discuss Money

Contractors realize you are paying them and are on a budget so don’t shy away from the numbers. From the first meeting, be clear about your budget and discuss if there is any flexibility.

From there, you’ll need to make material and subcontractor decisions based on that budget. Be ready, but know your contractor will work with you to stay within budget.