ADU builders are dealing with a lot during construction! With managing a full team, keeping track of supplies, and dealing with the city, anything you can do to make your general contractor’s life easier will go a long way and your builder will definitely appreciate it.

Sounds kind of backward right? You’re the client so your ADU builder should want to make YOUR life easier. That’s true, but there are easy ways that you can take a bit of the load off of your GC’s back to not only speed up the building process, but also be on their good side in case you like their work and want to work with them again in the future for a different project.

We’re proud to partner with experienced ADU builders who know both state and local regulations and are committed to value-engineering each project we send their way. If you need a local ADU contractor or are just curious about ADUs, click here to check your address.

While we’re happy to refer you to vetted ADU builders, it’s still up to the individual GC to either accept you as a client or to pass. These days contractors can pick and choose!

How do you connect with the right general contractor, communicate what you need, and get to a place where you both are excited about the results?

ADU builder

We asked Greg Popovich of Goldbar Builders, one of the most experienced ADU design/build firms in Northern California, to educate us about the contractor/client relationship. From the first interview to the build itself, he shares the experience from the contractor’s point of view.

Buckle up!

1. Be understanding of delays that are out of the ADU builder’s hands

Delays are going to happen no matter what you do, and trust us, no one is more frustrated about it than your ADU builder. 

Asking questions to stay in the loop is okay (in fact, we encourage it), but be mindful of the fact that the building process is very complicated. Your GC may not have an answer for everything, but that doesn’t mean they are inexperienced in their work. Supply chain issues, supply shortages, and lost deliveries are just a few examples of problems that are out of your GC’s hands.

However, your GC should be keeping you updated on delays.

2. Be budget conscious

Greg listens for clues that the client might expect expensive features on a shoestring budget. With all the Instagram and Pinterest accounts featuring gorgeous ADUs, it’s easy for homeowners to get carried away.

You may get to a point where you’re racking up costs and want to backtrack and say “never mind” to that custom granite countertop. This can really slow down the process as now your builder will have to shift gears and find a replacement. 

The key to bringing a project in on budget is to hire a seasoned ADU designer who will create plans that can be built using the funds you have. Unfortunately, some architects and designers are unaware of how costly it could be to build their ADU in today’s market.

That’s why Maxable verifies that all our design partners and ADU builders have the experience to stay within the budget you give them. No one likes expensive surprises!

ADU builder

3. Make sure your party is on the same page

If you have multiple people involved in your project, such as a spouse, sibling, parent, or business partner, make sure everyone is on the same page before bringing all of the plans to the GC. Sure, some squabbling is probably inevitable during the build, but try to present a unified front during that first phone call.

If you and your partners have different ideas for the ADU, it’s unfair to the GC to make them play the mediator. It’s important to have clear ideas so that your GC isn’t forced to pick sides down the line.

Second, understand that the GC’s job is to build an ADU on schedule and within budget. It’s not to counsel you through every aesthetic and personal quandary along the way.

While most are happy to offer an opinion, there are limits.

4. Trust your ADU builder

You’ve hired the general contractor and delivered your first payment. Now can you trust that the GC is working on your behalf and not trying to exploit you? Please try!

“We have no interest in spending your money,” says Greg. “We don’t make any money off of extra fees or permits or studies.” Likewise, the contractor can’t control how quickly the plans will be approved by the city.

ADU builder

In California, ADU permits are supposed to be approved or rejected within 60 days. The reality is that it can take much longer due to understaffing in most city planning offices. And the city can require extra reports after they’ve reviewed your plans, which you’ll have to pay for.

Contractors don’t like the delays and extra expenses any more than you do. Be patient, and eventually your ADU permits will be approved and you can start construction.

5. Try not to change things last minute

The most serious problem is change orders. Even something as seemingly simple as adding a few feet to a closet causes a ripple effect most homeowners aren’t aware of.

“Clients think, well, it’s just moving a wall. But it’s much more than that. Now we’re bringing in five or six different trades in order to remove the old wall and rebuild the closet. With the scheduling and everything else, it affects up to 20 subcontractors at a time. What appears to be a hundred-dollar change is going to cost them $3,000. They don’t quite understand that.”

How to avoid expensive changes? It goes back to hiring a designer who knows ADUs and will pore over the plans with you down to the last electrical outlet. Make your changes on the drawings!

6. Respect the subcontractors

In addition to resisting change orders, Greg would like homeowners not to ask his subcontractors to work on the main house while they’re supposed to be building the ADU.

“My crew are trained to be very polite. So a lot of times the guys will stop what they’re working on and go do what the owner asks. That means I’m paying them to work on the owner’s house instead of getting the ADU completed. I’ve actually put an addendum in my contract that says we only build ADUs. Any extra work will be expensive, and please don’t ask our people to do it.”

ADU builder Remember these “don’ts”

Greg isn’t the only contractor we’ve spoken with about homeowner behavior. A few other minor no-no’s from seasoned GCs:

  • Don’t get distracted during meetings with the contractor. Young kids are especially distracting; try to keep them away from meetings.
  • Don’t make changes without telling the contractor. You can’t just buy a new door or different cabinets and expect them to fit. Although GCs don’t love change orders, if you must make a change, go through the GC.
  • Don’t try to run the job site yourself. Subcontractors are supposed to take their orders from the GC, not the homeowner. If you step in, it gets the crews in trouble and messes up the job.

Final Note: A little kindness goes a long way

Now that you know what NOT to do, what about making the contractor’s life easier? There are lots of ways to achieve that.

“It’s fun when the homeowner takes pride in the job we’re doing,” says Greg. “Because even though the yard may be a mess, we’re working like crazy!” So if you like the work, let the crews know.

You’ll also earn points by being generous and thoughtful to the workers. Ask if they’d like water or some sandwiches. “Just a little gesture. The crews really appreciate it.”

Often Greg finds himself doing some work that wasn’t in the contract. “I like to be on budget with my ADUs. Sure, we could charge the homeowner an extra grand, but if it’s something that’s under a thousand bucks I usually just eat it and get it done.” You may not be aware that it’s happened, but most contractors will let you know. Say thank you!

ADU builder

Other behavior that will make everyone happier:

  • Pay the contractor on time.
  • Be familiar with the ADU drawings so that the GC has an easier time discussing the build with you.
  • Be courteous to the crews. Say hello in the morning and look for things that would make their work environment nicer. A few folding chairs for their lunch hour? An umbrella for shade?
  • Be on time for scheduled meetings.
  • Keep clutter out of the work areas, and keep your children and pets away from the crews and construction site.

Plan, hire, and manage your ADU project with Maxable

We’re here to help you every step of the way as you finance, design, permit, and build your ADU. We’ve worked hard to develop partnerships with ADU builders who know your region and all the local regulations.

When you’re building an ADU, nothing will save you more money or deliver more satisfaction than working with experienced designers and builders. There’s too much at stake to settle for anything less! So reach out for a free ADU planning phone call, and start making your ADU fantasies a reality.