Managing Communication and Expectations

by | Jun 12, 2020

Managing Communication and Expectations

Different words mean different things to different people.  Take the word “luxury”.  My definition of luxury is going to be vastly different to a billionare’s definition of luxury. We all conjure up different images for words like tall, short, big, small, modern, traditional….you get the idea.

Now, imagine when you tell your builder you’d like a big modern vanity for the ensuite in your rental property, you tell your tiler you just want plain grey tiles for the laundry and you tell the painter you want to paint the walls white.  What could possibly go wrong?  Everything.  This is where communication and expectations begin to fall apart. First of all, don’t get your builder to pick your vanity, don’t get your tiler to pick your tiles, and definitely understand there are thousands of shades of white.  Getting your builder or trade to make choices for you is asking for trouble because your expectations might not match up with their expectations.

So what can we do to manage communications and expectations and make sure we’re all on the same page with the renovations?  There are a few things.

1. Pictures – if you have an idea in your head about how you want something to look, hop on Pinterest or Houzz and see if you can find some pictures. If you’re more a magazine person then cut photos out of magazines. Vision boards are great to give the builder or trades the feel for what you want to achieve.

2. Be specific. If you’re talking about tall, short, wide etc, get a tape measurer out and give the builder a specific measurment. Never assume his or her idea of tall is the same as yours.  If you need to, use tape to tape out the size and locations of items such as doors, cabinetry and walls.

3. Pick out fixtures, fittings, tiles, and paint colours – Even if you don’t live near the property, go into the stores that have branches near the property  – Reece, Highgrove, Beacon Lighting, Dulux etc.  You can then tell your builder the specific items you want. Ask the cabinet maker and painter to give you samples of colours.  Be active in making choices. Your builder will love you for it.  Two points to make about this:

  • Make sure you know how much has been allowed for items in the contract before you get your heart set on the designer fixtures.
  • Make sure whatever you choose meets Australian Standards. Your plumber can’t install fixtures that don’t meet Australian Standards.  Same with your electrician.
  • Select the items, don’t buy them. Yes, you will pay the builders margin when they buy them but if you buy the items yourself, you are responsible if something goes wrong with them. For example, a mixer leaks and damages a vanity. If the builder has supplied the mixer, they will need to go back and fix the issue and organize rectification of the damage.  If you buy the item, it’s your responsibility to follow up the issue with the supplier and seek reimbursement for damages.
  • Send the choices through in writing preferably via email. That way it’s there in black and white.

4. Sign off on Cabinetry plans – most cabinet makers will draw a plan up for you. Make sure you ask to see it and sign off on it.

5. Do regular site inspections with the builder or ask for progress photos – if you can, ask the builder if you can meet once a week or twice a week for a progress update. If you don’t live nearby, ask the builder to send you through progress photos every week.  Keep in mind the following:

  • Be mindful that a lot of onsite meetings make it difficult for the builder to get on with the job. Give him the space to work.
  • If you’re looking at works in progress and the builder isn’t there to explain things, you may be seeing something that isn’t finished. Don’t jump up and down about something until you talk to the builder about it.

6. Understand things aren’t going to be 100% perfect, 100% of the time.

  • First of all, when you’re renovating, trades have to work with what is already there. Existing walls may not be plumb or existing plumbing connections could be done poorly.  It’s good to have high expectations (we have them as well), but realize the cost to make something perfect during a renovation may outweigh the return on investment.
  • Secondly, all products have standards and tolerances associated with them. For example your new doors might have a slight bow to them. Check the manufacturer’s literature and you may find that the bow is within their standards and tolerances.  The QBCC also has a publication called the Standards and Tolerances Guide – This is helpful if you feel something is defective.

7. Communication is key. I can’t say this enough. Talk to your builder if you have concerns.  A lot of the times there is a good explanation for things so talk before you yell.  If there is an issue, work with the builder, not against them to resolve the problem. You both have the same end goal of wanting the renovations done and done well.  If you don’t feel you’re getting your point across, put your concern in writing via email.  But don’t say things in the email that you wouldn’t say to their face.  Keeping it civil goes a long way in maintaining a good relationship.

In summary, nothing helps a job more than managing communication and expectations. Never be ashamed to have high expectations but focus on your communication to make sure your builder can achieve those expectations.

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