Keep in mind that good builders are very busy.  They have many components to deal with on a daily basis, and what you might consider as ‘not timely’ may be the industry standard of a  ‘timely‘ response.

1. Before you even sign a contract with your builder, collect your questions and set up an in person meeting with him or her.


Think of all the questions you have about the building process. Think about all the things that could go wrong. Ask the builder how he will deal with these scenarios.  This will give you the opportunity to see if your builder is the right one for you. If you don’t feel like he answers your questions satisfactorily, then he probably isn’t the one for you.

2. Once you have chosen your builder, the next thing to do is to establish communication guidelines in writing that are reasonable to both parties from the start.

For example: No phone calls before ______ time in the morning or after _____ time in the evening, unless it’s an emergency.

3. Determine which mode of communication to use for the various kinds of situations.

For instance: Use emails for items that need to be thought through, but don’t need an immediate answer such as setting up an appointment for the following week. Use texting for quick answers or short updates. In addition to your main contract use written contracts that are signed by both parties for all in depth issues such as material choices or change orders.

4. When selecting your materials for each stage of the building process, put in writing the name and model # of the product.

List when this item will be installed. Have guidelines in place upfront that establish when it is the latest you can make a decision for a particular product. Also, establish when the cutoff date is for making a change for a decision that was already made and agreed upon.  All parties should sign the agreement so that everyone is clear about what is specifically expected.

For example: You pick cabinet “A”, but then decide you actually want cabinet “B”. If the “A” cabinets have already been ordered, then those cabinets are “Yours” even if you still want the “B” cabinets.  So, stay ahead of schedule by monitoring what is next. Make sure that what you agreed upon is still what you want.

5. If change orders occur (and they will), make sure a change order form is filled out and signed by both parties involved.

Minimal information on the form should be the following:

  • a) Scope of work to be done in as detailed a description as possible.
  • b) List new materials needed for the change order if applicable.
  • c) estimated hours needed to complete the change order.
  • d) number of people doing the work.  List subcontractors.
  • e) List the set price or an estimated range of price if the change order is complicated.
  • f) Have a way of keeping track of the change order progress
  • g) Determine when payment for change order is due: prior to work commencing; in installments (best option); or at end of change order (not recommended).

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