By Renée Biery

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Add-on’s, renovations, and new construction homes can seem intimidating to take on. How do you even get started? How do you find and manage contractors? What surprises should you anticipate coming up? How long do these things take?

In this podcast, you will learn all that and so much more!

There are lots of ways we can get involved on construction projects, and I want to make clear that depending on your involvement determines what you will be supplying to the contractor.

What do I mean by involvement?

There are lots of designers who get involved in specifications only. Maybe it’s a new development, and the builder is looking for three different options to offer to prospective home buyers as far as a kitchen package or a bathroom package, or something along those lines.

And then there are going to be ones where the designer is asked by a client just to make the selections, and then that’s it for them. The homeowner will take it from there.

It’s not always something you do from a remote setting, so unless it’s specified in your contract, I always recommend you send them a spreadsheet. You can show them enough information to design the space, but it doesn’t include what I would call the kit and kaboodle.

You may or may not include images of these things. I wouldn’t put vendors on there or pricing unless they are expecting it. If they are expecting it put retail because you have no way of knowing who’s purchasing it or what their purchasing power is at specific vendors. I would not include spec sheets. You can always include links to these items. That’s a nice touch. But I wouldn’t go with installation guides and things like that, it’s just not your level of involvement.

And so you’re pricing it appropriately. You’re not managing this project. This can be a fairly simple document that you can email over to a client or contractor.

The next level of involvement that I hear about is a designer may be called periodically throughout the project.

So you’re doing all your specifications, and you may be called in for the contractor meeting in the beginning to make sure that your notes are conveyed to all of the subs. Maybe you’re called back in after the demo, or maybe you’re called back in for rough-ins. But it’s not going to be something that you are going to have day-to-day, week-to-week involvement.

In my personal opinion, I don’t love those scenarios because you’re sort of in, but you’re not in. You’re sort of being asked for an opinion, but not always. So those times in between those meetings, a lot gets decided and changed, and then you’re trying to play catch up every single time you’re called in – even if it’s after two weeks, a whole ton has happened on a job site. 

So I wouldn’t recommend this level of involvement unless you’re sort of building your experience and this is what your contractor or client has requested. And, of course, you would price your fee structure accordingly. But then this specification packet or book, everybody sort of calls it a different thing, would be more substantial. So in this scenario, because you are more involved, you should be parlaying this experience into working with this contractor or a client into doing a project that you’re much more involved with. So this is an opportunity to show your skills, show your knowledge and understand how the process works. So this specification book will be more robust. You’re going to add images. You’re going to print out the spec sheets and put them into the different categories, whether it’s by room or by item. But I still wouldn’t include vendors or pricing unless you are actually doing the purchasing because you have no idea where they’re going to be doing the purchasing. 

And thirdly, what I am always talking about is what I refer to as a project binder. 

A project binder, to me, is my bible. It is something that goes with me to job sites, and it leaves with me on job sites.

A project binder is a whole other level of information. It’s basically your mobile office. This is going to include all of your drawings, your specifications, your installation guides, your contracts, and your notes. It is also going to include all of your contacts and how to best reach them. Your vendors if you need to call them from the sites. If they’re not in your phone, maybe you don’t purchase from them a lot – you need all of that pertinent information in hand, on the job site so that you can be making decisions and changes and calling in questions right there on the spot to save you time and keep the project moving forward.

 With this project binder, you are still providing specifications for the contractor to have of his own. Those are traditionally called schedules on a job site. There is a paint schedule, there are bathroom specification schedules and window treatment schedules. There are all sorts of schedules that a contractor is going to be looking for.

It is sort of my mobile office on the job sites, and that is how you need to envision them. So when you’re trying to figure out what to include – this is where you put everything in. I will take scraps of fabric, and a window blind sample. I will take anything and everything that will keep the job moving and help me resolve any issues on that job site.

So again, if you have no involvement other than just picking out the items, I would make it simple. I would make it straightforward into a spreadsheet with links to the individual items, and I would email it to a contractor.

If it was something you were going to be staying involved with, or it would be an as-need basis or a very limited basis, I would beef it up a little more, put it in a smaller binder, and you can add pictures inside. And that takes lots of time to do that, cutting and pasting, uploading, linking – it all sounds trivial, but it adds to the time and project, and that is what you are charging for.

And then there is the project binder – your mobile office. It has everything in there to allow you to manage that project successfully.


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