The Importance of Field Communication for Residential General Contractors
When it comes to residential repair and remodeling, a general contractor is responsible for all that happens onsite. The general contractor meets with the homeowner to go over things like initial project details, estimates, drafting a contract, and hiring workers. The general contractor then hires subcontractors (plumbers, carpenters, electricians) to do the actual work.
So the general contractor basically acts as the communication liaison for all parties involved. If you’re a homeowner who has worked with contractors, you know that this can go pretty smoothly or pretty bad. The differentiating factor is proper field communications, and that’s what we are going to discuss in the following paragraphs.
Why Communication is Necessary for Contractor-Client Relations
Effective communication is the key to success of any project, no matter how large or small. When it comes to residential contractors, field communication can help in a lot of areas, especially authorizing repair costs and change orders.
Let’s take a look at these two factors in detail.
Contractors can provide estimates anywhere from one day to several weeks after they receive a project. This is because providing estimates requires researching costs of materials, calculating the time, and number of workers needed etc. The best way to make estimates accurate is that clients make the effort to be available onsite when contractors provide estimates to discuss the job and go through all necessary details before signing a work authorization form.
Even when the cost of the project is authorized, subcontractors have to work unwritten change orders, which can lead to major disputes. But change orders are commonplace. In fact, surveys show that commercial projects involve more than 50 change orders on average.
So while it’s ideal to put changes or authorization for extras into writing before the project commences, we all know that this is not always practical. In fact, most change orders are approved verbally.
The solution is to draft contracts that factor in decision making in such situations by the general contractor, who can establish whether a change is within the range of the original work (they usually are).
How to Improve Field Communications
Improve communications go a long way in avoiding pitfalls and preempting disputes before they can arise. But communication is a two-way street and both clients and contractors have to work on it.
Experienced contractors relate that the property owners who have realistic and well-defined goals end up the most satisfied with their project. So clear expectations should be set in the initial stages, and there should be no haste in preparing the initial contract. Homeowners can and should review contractors and add more details necessary. This may take time, but clearly defines the scope of work.
This also means that the key players (owners, general contractors, subcontractors) should meet at least once before the work starts.
And while it’s impractical to create a contract every time there’s a change order, all major changes should be authorized in writing.
Ultimately, this helps to resolve disputes, which can prove costly to all parties involved.Back to Blog