How To Talk Contractor

Real Estate

Your bathroom renovation has begun and the noise, disruption and cost are producing stress. Then your contractor tells you that the outlets and fixtures cannot be installed until the rough-in has been approved, and that your change orders will up the price of the project.

Your eyes glaze over, your head swims, and all you hear is that things will take longer and cost more. You don’t know the meaning of “rough in” or “change order,” but your contractor uses the terms casually, as if they were in common usage. 

For a contractor, they are. And for the homeowner working with the contractor, they are terms worth learning because, when you are spending money and suffering inconvenience, it is good to know why. 

More importantly, communication is the basis for any good working relationship. 

“Communication is a key aspect of a successful renovation,” says Carl Delacato, head of contractor growth at Block Renovation. The home renovation platform launched in 2018 simplifies the often-hellish process. Block simplifies the chaos and costs of construction by bringing design, sourcing, and vetted contractors all under one roof. Homeowners pick a bathroom (or a kitchen) out of a catalog of options designed by interior designers, receive an instant quote, and have that exact room installed within three weeks. The company’s renovation will cost about 25% less than if you worked with a contractor yourself, and the work will be done up to commercial grade standard. The homeowner can manage the renovation via a company-developed digital platform.

Delacato urges renovators to ask contractors to define unfamiliar terms. Rough-in, for example, refers to the behind the walls preparation and installation of framing, electrical wiring and components, and plumbing pipes and systems that support the intended finish design. Often, the rough-in will be inspected as part of the permit process. A change order is work that is added to or deleted from the original scope of work of a contract. A punch list documents work not conforming to contract specifications that the general contractor must complete prior to final payment. The punch list is prepared near the completion of the project but it is not an opportunity to add to or change the scope of work. Other terms: sub-contractor, scope of work, permit, raw materials, procurement, waterproofing, protection and dust control.

Understanding these terms gives the homeowner the knowledge needed to feel confident and in control. 

“Renovations are complex, and there will likely be elements of the project you will need a few attempts to understand,” Carl Delacato says. “That said, a good contractor should want to and be able to communicate with you in terms you will both understand. They should take the time to explain it before doing the work or charging you additional for an unforeseen condition.” 

Perhaps most important is the attitude you bring to the project. If you see your contractor as an adversary, you will certainly experience more stress, communicate less effectively and the experience will not be fun or joyous.

“You should be thinking about the project as a partnership and that the two of you are working to achieve the same goal,” Delacato says. “We at Block work to select a partner carefully, establishing a relationship that benefits both parties, and remains fair throughout the process.”

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