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Use 3 Ring Binders – Get Organized

Creating A Jobsite Organizational Binder

Did you know that many construction projects finish on schedule? Have you ever wondered what they do to make this possible? Usually, the key to this type of success is good planning and subsequent jobsite organization. Jobsite organization on residential projects can be accomplished very simply and easily. It is just a simple matter of assembling all of the information concerning the project and keeping this information handy for all people who are involved in the job. A method that has worked very well for me over the past few years uses a simple 8 1/2 " x 11" loose leaf 3 ring binder.

Delays and problems often occur on projects when a question cannot be readily answered. For example, imagine the electrician shows up to the job to install rough wiring. Let's say that the plan calls for wall sconce light fixtures on either side of the bathroom medicine cabinet. The electrician asks the contractor what type of medicine cabinet and lights will be installed. Will the medicine cabinet require electricity for a self-contained light? How large are the wall sconce fixtures? I could easily list three more questions. The point is, if the items have not been pre-selected and all information concerning these items, including dimensions and catalogue photographs, is not readily available, the builder or the homeowner will not be able to definitively answer the questions. This same scenario can occur with every sub-contractor. It can become a nightmare.

The Solution

I have always encouraged clients to make selections of items either before the project begins, or as soon after the start as possible. When clients make their selections at the various supply houses, the salespeople mail to me the next day all technical information and photographs, if possible, of every selected item. I then begin to assemble this information in a binder which stays at the jobsite at all times. This binder becomes almost as important as the plan.

The creation of the binder is very simple to do. Purchase a 3 ring binder, some loose leaf paper, a set or two of dividers with colored tabs, and a simple 3 hole punch apparatus. The 3 ring hole punch will come in very handy. There will be copies of many things that have to go into the binder which do not have holes in them.

The first step in assembling the binder is to try to determine how many categories or areas you wish to create divisions for. This is not extremely critical, because you can always easily add a divider or a section. For example, a common set of categories for a project might be the following:

  • Contract
  • Specifications
  • Change Orders
  • Electric Fixtures
  • Plumbing Fixtures
  • Kitchen Cabinets
  • Counter Tops
  • Appliances
  • Hardware Selections
  • Notes of Meetings
  • Sketches

Depending upon the scope of the project, you could easily have more categories or fewer categories.

Once you have decided upon your categories, begin to label the colored dividers and arrange them in a logical fashion, if at all possible.

Now for the fun part. Simply begin to assemble copies of all information concerning all of the items you have selected. Use a colored highlighter to draw attention to various items on any given page. Often, technical data sheets have information for many models. Find the specifications or dimensions for your model and highlight them. This will help to minimize any confusion. Be sure to obtain catalogue photographs of fixtures.

The more information you gather prior to the start of your project, the better. The reason for this is very simple. For example, would you think it important to select a medicine cabinet while the foundation is being poured? Many of my clients could not understand the urgency. They did not realize that in just a matter of days, the carpenters would be framing the bathroom walls. They need to have the proper dimensions of the cabinet so that they can create the correct rough opening. The same thing goes every item.

Binder Benefits

If you decide to create a binder for your next project, your efforts will be rewarded. The job is guaranteed to go smoother. Clear lines of responsibility will have been created. Virtually nothing will be left to speculation. All information will be in writing in black and white. You, as the homeowner, will minimize or eliminate the possibility of a dispute concerning material selections. This should be important to you. Disputes take all of the fun out of jobs. They can almost always be avoided. Often, disputes arise out of poor planning or reliance on verbal agreements. A jobsite organizational binder takes care of problems like these.

Because these binders can be assembled usually for less than $10 each, I suggest that 3 identical copies be made. One should be the homeowners, one the contractor's and the third one should be left in a safe, secure and dry place on the jobsite.

Many projects do not have a full-time superintendent. Sub-contractors can arrive on a job and work unsupervised. If they know that a binder is on the jobsite, they can refer to it to obtain answers to questions they may have. They will not have to call the contractor. This can save valuable time.

A binder which has all contract and change order information is invaluable. Imagine a jobsite meeting between you and the contractor. In the course of discussion, you fail to agree with the contractor on a particular point. If you have a binder with all contract documentation, the disagreement can be settled on the spot, not the next day. It is a good practice to 'white out' all financial information on the contracts and change orders. This is personal information and the jobsite binder could easily be reviewed by many individuals. Financial information such as this is none of their business.

Smooth-running projects do not occur by chance. They are usually the result of organization and attention to detail. A jobsite organizational binder can achieve this goal. Try one on your next project!

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