By Renée Biery

listen on apple

listen on spotify

listen on google

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!






I am so excited to be able to bring on a GC that enjoys, appreciates, and understands the value that designers bring.

My guest today is Sean Canada, Co-Owner of Park & Patina Design + Build, licensed Contractor/GC, and a big fan of the show!

Sean has one foot in the Construction/job-site/GC world and one in the design. He has worked with both, hired both, and helped develop teams and people to work together to accomplish projects. He loves what both sides bring to the table and sees the need for them to be a collected team. Sean also has a wife who is a designer but is on job sites constantly. Sean also has Woman owned subs and hires onsite. He sees and engages with the design, development, and management of remodel and build, and loves to help elevate and grow the people in our industry.

Homeowners so often question designers, wondering why they need a designer in addition to their contractor or in addition to an architect. We do different things, have different skills and values, and so when all three are part of a project, it is an elevated custom to that project. 

The challenge so many designers have is educating homeowners as well as industry partners from whom they are trying to get referrals. And it can just be a lack of education that they don’t understand why they would need someone on the front end of their project.

Sean explains how, from his experience with large remodel projects, rebuilding an entire home, or adding a structure, a builder with no design background engages with just that – looks at the blueprint. A generic dishwasher goes here, a generic sink goes here, some cabinets go here… “I don’t care if the person is left handed or right handed. I just want the job to be done correctly and be paid at the end of the job. And I want it done fast because that’s how money is made due to speed and efficiency.” Sean says.

The issue with that, in Sean’s experience, was they get to the last third of the job, and the customer doesn’t want the builder-grade cabinets, or they didn’t know the door would block the view of the backyard etc…..

So Sean started engaging with designers, and what he learned from the good ones is that he doesn’t see projects the way a homeowner sees a project. The designers helped him see from the viewpoint of elevation and the experience of the client. 

Sean’s engagement with designers completely changed how they do business as a build company. Bringing designers, architects, and the builder to the same table for the same project is something you should do right away because this will enable you to have a job that’s executed well. 

How to fit in, and what approach to take to become a team member

If you’re being brought onto a project and the builder is already there, Sean recommends to always set up a meeting. Set up a meeting with the homeowner and the builder. 

Sean recommends this because the homeowner is in the middle of the relationship between you and the builder, and it helps set up the idea that you and the builder are there to serve this client.

Schedule yourself some time to be with the builder 1:1 on the job site to find out where they are on the project and learn as much as you can.

If you are new to being on a job site and project managing or engaging with the construction process, this is especially important for you as an opportunity to learn and ask all the questions you can. 

“Your job is to plan the site as the person who hired you wants to be and live in that place. You can’t not ask these questions. Your job is to ask the question and your job is to find the answers.”

“Figure out if the builder and the tradespeople on site are team players. You’re not the only person who has to be a team player. If they’re not a team player and they see you as an adversary, you have to turn that train real quick.”

Sean also adds that it’s important to learn the construction lingo. He speaks this to anyone on a job site. If you get corrected or don’t know, just shut up and learn because you will always be learning in this industry.

Get on the job site as much as possible

If you’re just getting into this industry, the more you can be on a job site, the better. 

Sean shares that if the GC and project manager are planning a meeting about where they’ve been, where they’re at, where they’re going – ask to attend that meeting. 

“The more people who are at the table and can spot the flaws and see things differently, the more I want them at the table. Because those are the ones who are going to help me not make a costly mistake. If we have to make a change order, let’s have that right away, so when we go to the customer, we all look like superheroes. Because it’s not if there will be a problem; it’s when. The heroes in our industry are the people who are unified and come up with answers that can, at times, be better than the original plan.”

Professionalism and Licensing

Designers sometimes wonder what the difference is between a GC and an interior designer, and there is a huge difference between the two.

Licensing is different depending on where you work, not just where your firm is. So I always encourage designers to research what they can legally do where the project is.

Look at the state level, county level, and whatever city zip code. It’s important to look at all three because they all have nuances. It also follows importance in that same order – state, county, and then city.

If you are at all on the construction site, operating as a project manager in any shape or form, you need to know these things.

When it comes to permits, Sean always tells everyone that if it’s a gray area, insist on a permit. If you’re not the person who’s able to pull that lever, ask yourself if that’s a project you want to be on because, at the end of the day, yes, permits and things like that are a pain, but if it’s a known thing that should be done, and you have people in the room as professionals saying, eh, what else are they ‘ehing’ about in the project and how it’s being done? Do you want your name to be associated with that?

And it can be hard to stand your ground, especially if it’s you against five guys. And if you don’t know the team very well, it’s even harder. 

And lastly, if you are on a job site and don’t feel like a part of the team, don’t give up. You’re needed. What you bring to the table is very important. You elevate the project.

If it’s a situation that just can’t seem to be turned around, just know you will become a  better, stronger person for going through it and not quitting. You’ll also know who and what you don’t want to engage with ever again. There are people in the building and the trades that love interacting with designers – because you make the builders’ work look great!

Secondly, find a mentor.

Find somebody who’s been through the trenches on the design side and find some builders or contractors who want to talk. Sean gave some great advice and that is to never eat lunch alone. Find a builder, a contractor, a designer, or an architect. In the worst case, you just had a high-calorie lunch that bored you to death. In the best case scenario, you may have created a lifelong friend and business partner that you will both grow rich doing.

follow the podcast

want to be a guest?

Fill out the form on the inquiry page under the podcast tab and we'll get in touch with you!

leave us a review!

We love hearing from you about your thoughts on the podcast, you can leave a review on apple!

You can find us anywhere! Click the icons to find us on the podcast platform you use!