Navigating Communication and Scheduling with General Contractors: A Guide for Interior Designers


As an interior designer, seamless communication and scheduling with general contractors (GCs) are crucial for the success of your projects. However, encountering GCs who are vague or unresponsive can create significant challenges, impacting timelines and client satisfaction. This blog post draws on a vibrant discussion from our Instagram community to explore strategies for improving interactions with GCs and ensuring a smooth workflow.

 Member Query: Managing Communication with GCs

A member of our community shared a concern: “Our design firm is big on communication, transparency, and processes. Just started working with a new GC, going great but they’ve been very vague with communication and scheduling. We had to request a construction schedule and they only gave us a PDF version but they provide an online platform ‘Buildertrend’ to the homeowner, which they have not invited us to join. We don’t want to be a bulldog and tell them how to do their job (haha). How do other designers navigate this?”

 Insights from the Design Community

Establishing Clear Communication Channels

Effective communication starts with setting expectations from the beginning. Regular meetings and using various communication methods—emails, phone calls, video calls, and in-person meetings—can help keep everyone on the same page.

 “Carrier pigeon?? Because nearly all of the southern GCs around here don’t understand technology, can’t open spreadsheets, work off of the wrong plan set, don’t value designers, mansplain, don’t know what a calendar is, I could keep going! I know I’m not alone in this.” 

Elizabeth’s comment highlights the importance of finding the right communication methods that work for all parties involved.

Requesting Access to Project Management Tools

Platforms like Buildertrend can significantly enhance transparency and coordination. If a GC hasn’t provided access, a straightforward and professional request can be effective.

 “I would suggest requesting access to the Buildertrend platform—it’s very helpful for designers if a contractor actually utilizes it. You can see the progress and schedule there. It has to be a plain and firm request. When I worked with Buildertrend, I invited even vendors so I can see their time frames in one place. You can restrict access to certain information as well, hence there is no reason for them to say no.” 

Here’s a sample request you might use:
“Dear [GC’s Name], we appreciate your hard work on this project. To streamline our communication and ensure we stay on schedule, could you please grant us access to Buildertrend? This will allow us to stay updated on progress and contribute more effectively. Thank you for your cooperation.”

Ensuring Involvement in Decision-Making

Designers must ensure that GCs involve them in all significant decisions to avoid miscommunications and ensure the project stays on track.

 “First thing the GC needs to know is that you are working on behalf of your client. That is the reason the client hired you—because of your experience and expertise. Secondly, make sure that all meetings are documented and the corresponding notes are emailed to all parties. Do not let the GC think that they can bypass you for decisions from your client. Your client should have ultimate trust in having you at all meetings.” 

This advice underscores the importance of documenting all communications and decisions to maintain control and clarity.

 Implementing Effective Communication Strategies

Transparent Contract Terms

Ensure your contracts clearly outline communication protocols and the necessity of access to project management tools like Buildertrend. Transparency from the start helps set the right expectations with your clients and GCs.

Regular Updates and Meetings

Schedule regular check-ins with the GC to discuss progress, address any issues, and adjust timelines if necessary. Consistent communication helps prevent misunderstandings and keeps the project on track.

 Use of Multiple Communication Channels

Different people prefer different communication methods. Combine emails, phone calls, video messages, and face-to-face meetings to ensure effective communication with all parties.

“I personally love videos because they can’t deny things later lol. Everyone communicates differently; there’s an art to it. Video and photos help with visual people. My GC focuses on what he needs. Emails cover your ass lol. So I try to hit all forms of communication every time.” 

Documenting Interactions

Maintain thorough records of all communications, meetings, and decisions. This documentation is crucial if you need to justify additional charges or address any disputes.

Building a Relationship of Mutual Respect

Respect and understanding go a long way in any professional relationship. Take the time to understand the GC’s perspective and constraints, and communicate your needs clearly and respectfully.

“I value the GC and PM. I established a good rapport from day one.” 


Navigating communication and scheduling with GCs requires a combination of clear expectations, consistent updates, and mutual respect. By implementing these strategies, interior designers can enhance collaboration, ensure project timelines are met, and maintain positive working relationships with GCs. We encourage our community to share their experiences and tips on managing GC interactions. How do you handle these challenges in your design practice?

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