Home owner alert! Construction communication! Number one priority.

Good communication is one thing, but we want great communication! It truly is the back bone of any construction project from bathroom and kitchen remodeling to whole home construction.. From the very start until after completion, your communication is always of vital importance. This is a real problem for most people and their contractors. I have met with so many dissatisfied clients that have informed me about bad communication in the past it is not even funny. I have gained many a new client and project from this simple tool. So lets dive into what I have learned from my past about the importance of good communications.

When I was a young man, how and when I was spoken to became a very regimented affair. My parents (God rest their souls) were of the old school way of thinking when they would exclaim, ” please only speak when you are spoken to.” To keep us from complicating an issue with our thoughts? As if our opinions didn’t matter? Or simply because they did not want to hear it! Whatever the case may be, that is how I was raised.

So as I got older, I was allowed to talk much more.  And elaborate I did, as did  my siblings.  I picked up some bad habits from learning to communicate in this way. I started to learn to speak, without completely listening. I became impatient in my own way. In fact I started to think immediately as I was spoken to. Sometimes to my benefit, but most of the time to my determent.

So what does all of this have to do with construction? A lot! How we speak, communicate and more importantly how we listen is truly what matters. Construction can be a complicated affair. From a small siding repair, to an add a level. Key elements have to be communicated correctly or a whole series of problems will arise. So hopefully I can share some of my insight into how I combat this problem and avoid the issues it creates.

So when I meet for the first time with new clients I bring along a check list of interview questions. I have found this to be the most effective way to keep the conversation on track. It is all to easy to veer off on a subject related to the task and end up miles away. Then once I have my basic facts in check we can move forward.

Now it is the clients turn to speak. We can go over the larger details at this time. There will be plenty of time for the smaller details to be included. A good contractor is going to write down and include in his scope of work as many details as possible. This can seem daunting at first, but it is very important for us that this happens for the outcome to be correct.

As a builder and creator, I have a very visual nature and talent. It is of utmost importance that we are both seeing the same vision, this is where most projects begin to go astray. I have created this list to get you started so when you meet with your contractor you can be sure he or she is being thorough.

Initial contact

  • The overall size and location
  • The use of the project and any special conditions
  • All possible restrictions, including zoning and building
  • What type of construction
  • Feasibility and resale values
  • Budget constraints
  • The time period in which you need to have the work completed

Project details

  • Roofing
  • Siding
  • Windows
  • Stone work, patios and porches
  • Insulation types and values
  • Heating and air conditioning
  • Wall finishes
  • Doors and trim
  • Hardware style and color
  • Cabinet styles
  • Counter tops styles and finishes
  • Fixture styles including plumbing and electrical
  • Wall tiles and back splashes
  • Flooring

Once these items are determined your contractor can begin to complete your scope of work. ( this list is by no means complete, but it will give you a start!) Once this list is completed and approved by the client, then the contractor can proceed to draft the contract. Which segways us to the next section.

Contract documents

This is one of the most important areas where both parties have to be in agreement. And it must have a complete description of what is going to be provided. I usually attach a scope of work document to the contract, as do most contractors. If your contractor has not created a sound scope of work, then trouble can easily follow.

I have met with homeowners and seen some scope of work documents that were provided, and to say the least they were a joke! Items were listed as follows; steel, wood floors, paint, tile, etc. This is where the proper communication needs to emphasized. A proper scope of work will include all details of the item it is describing. Don’t accept one word descriptions, be sure they include all sizes, types, styles, colors and any other descriptive wording. It must be clearly stated what you are going to receive. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to pay utmost attention to these details.

What we all tend to do is get off track and our eyes glaze over from the details. But I assure you, you will be satisfied at the end of your remodeling or addition project if these steps are taken.


All contracts in New Jersey need to have a date time line. Period. They usually have a starting date and a completion date. This is not what I am talking about. A comprehensive project schedule should be included in your construction documents. There are exceptions of course, usually when the project will only last for a week or less. I prefer to use a Gnatt chart for my scheduling. This type of scheduling chart will outline all of the construction phases in a lineal fashion. It will also have mile stone markers to determine progress and sometime these will match progress payments or deliveries and inspections.

I have also created a very simple calendar type schedule sheet that we can leave with the client/homeowner. We give these out at the beginning of each work week so there aren’t any surprises for the client. The scheduling should also indicate times when your progress payments are due so you can take appropriate steps to have payments ready.

Phone calls etc.

In this day and age there aren’t any real reasons for communication to stop. Most of us have cell phones. We also have home phones. We all have email addresses. Set up a comprehensive schedule with your contractor so you can communicate. Some people prefer texts messages. I don’t have any problems with any form of communication. One thing I will not do is interrupt a meeting or a phone call in order to answer an incoming call. I find this very disrespectful to the person I am consulting with at that moment. I realize that your time is as valuable as mine.

So this will conclude today’s blog post. Please come back for more as I love to “talk” construction! If you have any questions, concerns or comments you would like to add, please contact us!

Jim Hawthorne

Hawthorne Building & Design Corporation


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