The Emotional Homeowner 6: The Preconstruction Meeting

Lay the ground rules for a more successful project
By David Lupberger
December 10, 2010

As established in the previous installments of “The Emotional Homeowner” series, managing your clients’ emotions means managing their expectations. If you inform them ahead of time of what will be happening, you’ll lessen the possibility of an unexpected upset. One critical way to accomplish this is with a preconstruction meeting.


“Remodeling is a bit like having 15 strangers over to play football in your living room for a few weeks. They all arrive and depart at different times, and each is determined to make a mess of your home. It may not be that bad, but remodeling will disrupt just about every routine you have, including some you’re not even aware of.”

( From the Consumer Guide #5: Surviving the Remodeling Process, by the Home Referral Connection Service, 10 Post Office Rd., Silver Spring, Md. 20910, Copyright 1996)

Although the quote above refers to longer projects, its relevance is universal, making a good case for why a preconstruction meeting should be a necessary part of working with your homeowners. Schedule the meeting for no less than two weeks before construction begins and be sure the primary people are in attendance:

• Yourself

• Perhaps a salesperson, if a salesperson is involved;

• The lead carpenter;

• The homeowner and spouse, if there is one. (This may be difficult, but in married households, both partners should be in attendance for every major meeting because of the decisions involved.)

The preconstruction meeting should serve at least two functions:

• First, you’ll review the scope of work and construction schedule portions of your contract to answer any questions.

• Secondly, you’ll discuss and arrive at a set of ground rules that balance the homeowner’s quality-of-life requirements with your need for access to and freedom within their home and on their property.


Take the time to set up some ground rules. Decide on as many as possible as early as possible during your preconstruction meeting. In addressing these questions before the project has begun, you resolve issues before they have an opportunity to become a problem. This planning and organizing are part of what you are being paid for and are key to managing your clients’ expectations, which successful contractors do proactively. Following is a sample agreement that a designer and a homeowner could review and sign at the preconstruction meeting:

Project Ground Rules

For one-day projects, please answer the following questions:

1. If there are pets, where will they be kept during construction?
2. If there are children, what rules apply to them around the work site during working hours?
3. What dust containment procedures will the contractor employ?
4. What kind of cleanup will take place at the end of each day?
5. What restrictions, if any, are there on your contractors’ use of your bathroom?
6. Is there a designated eating or smoking area?
7. Are there any parking restrictions the contractor should be aware of?

And for projects that are longer than one day, but less than two weeks:

8. What time will daily work begin and end?
9. Can work be scheduled on weekends?
10. If weekend work is an option, are there any special restrictions?
11. If there is an after-hours emergency, who do you call?
12. Who will you talk to about “change orders?” What is the best number to call?
13. Who do you take day-to-day comments and suggestions to?

For projects lasting more than 2 weeks, please review and answer these questions:

14. When would you want the weekly homeowner meetings to occur? (Homeowners’ meetings bring the builder and homeowners together at regular intervals to address questions and review progress.)
15. Will any work areas need to be completely cleared of furniture? Specify: (Note: Most contractors will state in their contracts that they will not be responsible for any valuables left in any area under construction. The possibility of accidents is too great.)
16. Where will workers store their tools and building materials?
17. Which outside area(s) will bear the brunt of construction activities and what protective measures can be taken?
18. Does any landscaping need to be moved or protected?
19. Is there any way to lessen the impact of construction?
20. If necessary, review the location of the dumpster and Porto John

_____________________________               __________________________

        Signed: Homeowner                                        Signed: Contractor

You will notice there is a place for both homeowner and contractor to initial the agreement. Having both parties sign the agreement helps ensure that its contents are taken seriously and creates a written record that the terms are acceptable to both the contractor and homeowner.


The form above is just an example. Develop your own questions that reflect the particular concerns, needs and the nature of your projects. Think about this important issue before the meeting. Don’t be afraid to bring up any of your concerns, no matter how small. Remember, this preconstruction meeting is the basis for job ground rules and will ensure the project gets off to a smooth start. When done correctly, it is also a tangible demonstration of your professionalism, and you will eliminate over 90 percent of the issues that arise on most construction projects.

—David Lupberger is ServiceMagic.com’s Home Improvement Expert. He draws on more than two decades of experience in the residential remodeling field, working with remodelers to develop proven business systems. More than 90 percent of Lupberger’s work came from repeat and referral business, demonstrating the trust he developed with clients. That experience led him to write a book called Managing the Emotional Homeowner, which has become one of the bibles of the remodeling industry. Lupberger’s “Ask Dave” column on Proconnection.ServiceMagic.com is a tremendous resource for professionals.

Missed the earlier installments? Read from the beginning:

The Emotional Homeowner

The Emotional Homeowner 2: Building Trust

The Emotional Homeowner 3: Communication

The Emotional Homeowner 4: Dealing With Anger

The Emotional Homeowner 5: Problem Clients

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