Communication is the key to a successful project

Communication is the key to any successful custom home project.

Through my years in this profession, I have seen and heard about plenty of failed projects. Very few of these stories have a clear cut good guy or bad guy defined. Most of the time it is a gradual decline in communication that leads to a project’s failure.

Unfortunately, it is human nature to hide from problems, to not address difficult topics and to hide our heads in the sand when the going gets tough. In the construction of your new home this is the fast track to failure.

If communication has degraded, HOW you get your communication back on track is very important. Things are already tough. I’m guessing something went differently than either you or the builder thought it would. There are bruised egos or lost money on one side or the other.

It is time to take a deep breath. You are not going to like hearing this. YOU need to be the bigger person.

Establish a system

Contact your builder -- I recommend by email. Lay out your concerns. Explain that for the sake of the project you are asking him to work with you to improve communication. One simple system I use for all of my clients is a weekly meeting at the job site. Follow this up with an email outlining simple bullet point of the topics you discussed.

Bring in another person

This is where your Architect-Owner-Builder triangle is critical. If you didn’t hire your architect to help you through the construction phase, you need to reach out to them now. You need a third person. An architect is uniquely qualified because they understand both the design and the building side. An architect now is your best chance to avoid the third person being an attorney. And trust me, nobody wants the third person to be an attorney!

Do not try to win the argument

This might be the most difficult step. Your goal is not to win against your contractor. Even if communication has degraded, you must keep straight in your mind that the goal is to finish this project. You want to get through this process and end up with a beautiful home. And always keep in mind that one year warranty your builder will hold. It IS in your best interest to resolve things amicably. The end is never the end.

I truly wish for you that you do not have a need to bring communication back to a project. I have had experience as the person who was brought in to a struggling project. It was not easy and there were a couple of tense conversations. We finished. Everyone moved on and the client is in a beautiful new home.

At the risk of sounding completely self serving (but it is my blog, what better place to serve one’s self) I do a very good job of facilitating communication throughout a project. It starts right in the beginning at the builder interviews. I help set the tone and expectations. This continues through contract negotiations and bidding. Everything bears on the literal and figurative foundation of a custom home project.

If you follow these steps, I believe you will be pleasantly surprised by the outcome. EVERYONE wants the project to finish strong. It just might take you stepping up and making it happen.

- Sheri


As Founder and Principal Architect of Springhouse Architects, Sheri’s mission is to lead Clients through the building process with the Clients in control and Springhouse as their guide, advocate and ally.  With over twenty years experience in Residential Architecture, Sheri brings knowledge and confidence to your custom home project.

Lisa Saldivar