House Rules

I had a wonderful breakthrough in my remodeling business when I discovered I could set project rules that homeowners would agree to follow. Now, I learned from practical experience that I couldn’t set these rules after the project had started. No, any rule setting had to be agreed upon before the project started. I understood I could do this after I spoke with a psychiatrist who had just completed a six-month remodeling job. After his project was complete, he told me that “parental transference” takes place on many remodeling projects. In many projects, a good contractor takes on a parenting role to the clients he or she is working with.

I’m a father to an 11-year-old son, and I’ve learned that in my parenting role with him, I can set rules that he must follow. He will always try to test these rules, but he does understand that there are certain rules he must follow as a member of our family. This key understanding allowed me to begin testing, in my newly defined parenting role with my construction clients, my project, the “ground rules.” These simple ground rules address specific issues that are present on every remodeling project.

The key is using an agreement like this is to review and agree on the questions before construction begins. This provides clear direction and puts you in charge of on-site construction management. This allows both homeowners and contractor to review potential problem areas before these areas ever become a problem. Besides addressing a number of potential issues, it also demonstrates project professionalism because you proactively address daily project management concerns that most homeowners have. They want these questions answered.

Complete this agreement during your preconstruction meeting, or earlier. The crowning jewel in this agreement is at the end. Both you and your clients sign the agreement, demonstrating that you have agreed upon the answers to each of the questions above. This puts you in charge of the project. You have control of the daily on-site questions that often bring disruptions to your project flow. Your clients may test you at times, but you have their signature at the end of this agreement. They have agreed to follow the “rules.”

Dave Lupberger is a founding member of the Remodelers Guild, a former remodeling contractor and the author of the Turn-Key System for Remodelers program and Managing the Emotional Homeowner. He can be reached at (888) 818-6614 or