What Questions to Ask Your Design-Build Project Manager

by | May 25, 2024 | For Your Next Project

Construction projects can become a complete headache for some people; especially for first-time homeowners with no experience in home renovations or remodeling. There are many considerations to be made from the initial stage to completion of the project, and unforeseen events can become too much for some to handle.

That’s why, in this blog post, we’ll be discussing common questions YOU can ask your project manager about the project; so you feel empowered and ready for whatever comes your way in your next home project.

Project Scope and Timeline

A project scope, or scope of work, in construction can be defined as a list of construction obligations as well as work activities that all project managers, subcontractors, and suppliers are obligated to do.

Think of it as a contract or an agreement between the homeowner and the project manager detailing all necessary elements of the project including timeline, deliverables, goals of project, and signature of both homeowner(s) and project management team.

Here are a few popular questions to ask your project manager in the initial meeting.

Can you walk me through the design-build process in detail?

If you’re new to the design-build process, or home renovations in general, feel free to ask your project manager to break down the building process from start to finish.

They’ll be happy to assist you with this. A lot of times, this is explained during the initial walk of the property to discover the scope of work.

We, at Streck Design Build, believe understanding the entire process from start to finish is vital to the success of any project; regardless of its size. So, our team has dedicated an entire page to it where we discus, in detail, our process and how we provide value at every stage of the project.

What is the estimated timeline for the project completion?

This is an interesting question because it truly depends on the scope of the project, the time of the year, material availability, etc. But it’s still an effective question to ask in order to gauge the project manager’s (or subcontractor’s) experience and ability to estimate based on the information given; because it’s truly a skill that takes time and patience to hone in.

Are there any anticipated delays or unforeseen circumstances that could impact the timeline?

Delays can be caused by several reasons including bad weather, lack of material available, difficult subcontractor scheduling, etc.

Therefore, it’s important for project managers (or subcontractors) to anticipate delays in projects for the satisfaction of clients as well as to maintain the scheduling of other projects they’re working on. Their ability to predict unexpected events comes with time and experience working in similar projects. Therefore, it’s always best to hire companies that have a few years’ experience under their belts.

This is a great reason why homeowners must do their part to verify the credentials and references of the construction companies they work with – the point here is to do your homework now about the companies you hire to minimize potential issues in the future.

What is the breakdown of the project phases and milestones?

Small wins and seeing progress in any project is a good feeling in itself, and can actually motivate homeowners to seeing the project through. That’s because projects can often take some time depending on the project scope. So it’s important for homeowners to know about milestones and project phases to keep the momentum of progress going.

Project phases are often any overarching view of the project – usually broken down into 5 phases (Pre-Design, Design, Procurement, Construction, and Post-Construction.) The more specific and detailed these phases are, the better a project manager can estimate the cost of the project to the client.

Milestones, on the other hand, are important dates set by project managers to help plan and track the project’s progress. (i.e. completion of 2 out of 5 phases of project, customer approves project scope, etc.)

Knowing, and understanding, the breakdown of project phases and milestones can bring peace of mind to homeowners, and keep all parties involved on track to completing the project on time and on budget.

How will we communicate through the project, and how often can i expect updates?

Effective communication is possibly the most important skill to have in any type of project. This is because miscommunication can negatively affect every aspect of the job; causing frustration, project delays, and often brings out the worst in people.

Knowing the communication channels between all parties involved (whether this be phone calls, text, emails, etc.) can truly transform the client experience and helps to establish a baseline of communication for the future.

For example, at Streck Design Build, we offer open communication at any time of day (6 days/week.) This means clients can email, call, website, or text throughout the week, and your designated project manager becomes your main point of contact throughout the project.

In the same manner, our project managers reach out with updates accordingly through Buildertrend (our preferred Project Management software) and clients are invited to do the same.

With that being said, make sure to set up communication channels with your project manager early in the construction process.

Design and Budget

It’s important to take note of design and budget – both of these project elements are inversely related; meaning as one increases the other decreases (more design elements there are, the less funds there’ll be in the budget . This becomes a roadblock in projects when the design is changed mid-construction as new plans need to be drawn up, and any additions can affect the project delivery date.

Here, we will discuss several popular questions to ask your project manager regarding design and budget.

Will I have multiple design options to choose from?

Depending on the design-build services chosen, it’s important to know your design options. This aspect of the project can be further discussed with your personal architect/designer.

How will you ensure the final design reflects my vision and style?

Project managers tend to work with you all throughout the project to ensure that all aspects of the project go according to your vision. If there is something amiss or that can be improved, it’s important for clients to be vocal as soon as possible; avoiding miscommunication and increasing client satisfaction.

What is the budget contingency plan in case of unforeseen costs?

Unforeseen costs can happen in any type of project, which is why it’s important to have a contingency plan in such occurrences.

Want to learn more about contingency plan, here the link below for more information:

How to create a contingency budget

How will change orders be handled during the project?

Systems of operations must be in place to accommodate change orders effectively; this often manage through project management software such as Buildertrend or Fieldwire.

Can you provide a detailed breakdown of the project costs?

This question can bring about more clarity and peace of mind to clients not accustomed to home renovations/remodeling. During the proposal forming stage, a breakdown of the project costs are usually shown to clients for approval, but if needed, project managers can provide this breakdown at any point of the process as well.

Permits and Construction

Permits ensures that construction projects adhere to Boston Building Code for structural integrity, fire protection, plumbing systems, electrical, and accessibility. 

In addition, permits allow for inspections by qualified building inspectors at various stages of the construction project; identifying potential problems early on so they don’t become major problems later on.

Here are a few questions to ask your project manager regarding permits.

Who will be responsible for obtaining necessary permits for the renovation?

If you’re working with a project management company, they’ll handle all necessary permits for the renovation. But this is still a good question so everyone involved in the project is on the same page.

Are there any zoning restrictions or code requirements I should be aware of?

Code requirements differ from city to city, and sometimes, even from town to town; so it’s important for project managers to verify all code requirements as well as zone restrictions for the city or town. 

How will you ensure the project adheres to all safety regulations?

Regular inspections by city inspectors ensure the project adheres to all safety regulations according to building/zoning codes.

Who will be the point of contact for any issues arising during construction?

During any point in the construction, clients tend to reach out directly to project managers/supervisors via phone, email, etc.

What is the process of waste removal and site clean-up?

Your project manager will alert you on any incoming waste removal services that will be in place for the collection of waste and debris.

As for the site clean-up, this can be further discussed with management to ensure a clean environment after every working day; to minimize community disruption as well as contain any possible contaminants to your residence while construction takes place.

Quality and Warranties

When it comes to construction projects, quality is of topmost importance; whether it be before, during, or after the project is completed, top quality craftsmanship and professionalism solidify business relationships and puts the client first.

Offering warranties for services performed, for example, can boost a client’s confidence and smooth out the issues that may occur along the way, if any; because it puts their mind at ease if major problems are not promptly resolved as per contract.

Here are a few questions to ask your project manager(s) regarding the quality and warranties for your next construction project.

What type of materials will be used in the construction?

If you, the client, are interested in having more say in the materials used in the project, make sure to make this a talking point early on in the project; to deter confusions and misunderstanding.

There are many different types of materials that can be used in a project, and although project managers can assist you in the selection of such materials, you can still have a say in the final material to be used. So don’t hesitate to bring these important talking points up as proposals are developed and contracts are signed.

Do you offer any warranties on the workmanship and materials?

This depends on the project manager, or subcontractor. But it’s a good opportunity to clear the air in regards to your expectations of the final result of the project.

For example, by law, subcontractors offer 1-year warranties on all the projects they work on; increasing client satisfaction and piece of mind. So if an aspect of the job performed doesn’t work as intended, then the client needs to contact the subcontractor to resolve the issue.

How will you address any quality concerns that may arise during or after construction?

As per regulation, especially here in the Greater Boston area, projects are required to be signed off by inspectors. Professional inspectors will bring up any issues to light, whether this be an issue already occurring before construction or due to negligence from the construction management or subcontractor.

In addition, project managers and supervisors should always be on the lookout for issues, regardless of their severity, to maintain quality standards and keep on schedule.

This is still an effective question to ask because it’ll shed light on the professional’s experience level and attitude towards the project.

Who will be responsible for maintenance and repairs after the project is complete?

If still under warranty, a project manager will be responsible for relaying this information to the client. As previously mentioned on this post, this aspect of the job will depend on the company you’re working with.

If not under warranty, the client is responsible for maintenance and repairs.

Can you provide references from past clients in the area?

A true professional that’s been perfecting his craft for several years will most definitely be able to provide potential clients with references. This applies to both subcontractors as well as project management firms such as Streck Design Build.

Additional Considerations

Here are several additional questions to ask your project manager or subcontractors throughout the construction process.

What is your experience with similar renovation projects?

It’s great to know about similar projects your project manager, or subcontractor, has worked; not only because they know what to expect in terms of budget and problems that may arise, but also as a proof of concept that they know what they’re doing.

So, ask for pictures, plans, and anything else that may help you feel more confidence on the team you’re about to work with.

How will you handle communication with subcontractors and suppliers?

Project managers at Streck Design Build, for example, communicate with subcontractors and suppliers on a daily basis depending on the needs of the project as well as expectations. 

Therefore, the client should expect the same level of attention and care at their project; in order to minimize miscommunications and optimize progress of the project.

Do you have insurance coverage for workers' compensation and general liability?

This is a great opportunity to gauge the professionalism of the company you’re about to hire; by law, subcontractors are required to have workers’ comp, in case of an accident, and general liability, in case of something goes array in the project. 

This not only protects the consumers but, also, all parties involved in the construction project including subcontractors and workers.

What is your policy regarding dust control and noise mitigation during construction?

Creating policy to control dust and noise during construction is becoming an increasing concern for clients; therefore, project managers and subcontractors should do their best to accommodate such changes.

This benefits all parties involved including the community surrounding the home under construction.

Will there be a designated space for material storage on my property?

Materials should always have a designated location so that it is accessible and organized. It’s a good idea to have a designated location for materials to ensure all materials are accounted for, for inventory purposes, as well as to ensure the safety of the crew working. 

This approach minimizes the risk for injury in the workplace as materials will remain in one place, and not all over the construction site.

By asking these thoughtful questions, you can ensure clear communication, manage expectations, and feel confident about your design-build project in Boston. Remember, don’t hesitate to ask for clarification or further details whenever needed.

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Written by Yuri Silva

Assistant Operations Coordinator @ Gary Streck Design Build