Get it (all) in Writing

My work takes me into many homes each year, and I rub shoulders with lots of General Contractors, tradesmen, and homeowners. This past week, a homeowner succinctly stated one of the most common remodel complaints. It went like this:

“I invested countless hours of my time in discussing various issues and problems at the beginning of the project. We made decisions about what was going to happen at various stages. I assumed they (designers, contractor, foreman) were keeping notes. But as the project rolled out, again and again I would have to stop things and remind them of the original plan. It became incumbent upon me to catch all these things or they weren't going to get caught.”

GCs and their on-site representatives are notoriously bad at keeping good records. Kitchen designers are usually a lot better. In this particular situation, the kitchen designer was no longer employed by the cabinet provider, left nearly no notes, and could not be reached by the homeowner. So yes, it was a mess. But sometimes it feels as if most jobs are a mess. There's always some excuse or special situation.

Here's the bottom line for the homeowner: Get it in writing.

Let me propose a little test that should help to ensure you against some of the ineptitude which lays in wait for you. Keep your own quick list of the things discussed between you and the GC/designer during the pre-bid stage. Then, before you surrender a down payment, ask to see their list of those details. If anything is missing, consider it a bad omen. You're just asking for misery if you accept a bid from someone who isn't keeping good records. You deserve better. Keep looking.