A recent note:

I’m curious to know if there has been any discussion or if you or any of the contractors you meet with talk about the roles of the contractor and designer. Specifically, when it comes to supplying certain materials and the mark ups involved with supplying them.Contractors and Designers

I have been working with designers more and more and one of them actually reached out to me wanting to know what the correct or common practice was. I too am unsure and directed her to your site as that’s where I was going to look.

Is there a common ground or way that the designer and contractor can do business together, each make the money they need to, and not overcharge the customer? If a designer wants to supply the tile and countertops do I as the contractor in charge of the project, then mark up her material again or should I simply carry a cost to handle or install them?

I don’t like questions like this because the answer risks damaging my Mr. Nice Guy reputation. I probably won’t make any friends today, but here goes.

I don’t believe designers should be supplying construction-related materials for a project. If the materials aren’t attached to the building, that’s different, but if the materials are part of the construction project, they should be purchased by the contractor. If the designer is a qualified and licensed general contractor, that’s a different story, but I don’t think that’s what we’re talking about here. If they were a general contractor, they wouldn’t need you.

Allowing a designer to purchase and provide materials on a job isn’t much different than having homeowners provide their own materials. If a designer believes they’re entitled to furnish materials so they can add a markup on those materials, they need to take full responsibility for those materials. They need to guarantee those materials and the installation. If something goes wrong, they pay to make it right.

Making it right isn’t just replacing the material. It’s paying all costs incurred because of problems with that material. It’s paying for multiple trips to the supply house to replace parts or get additional parts as needed. It’s replacing any surrounding or attached parts that might have been damaged or destroyed because of that material. It’s covering all costs related to dealing with damaged or defective parts, including meetings to resolve issues and travel time.

Bad batch of paint? The designer pays for the next batch of paint and all costs associated with repainting. Faulty dishwasher? The designer pays to replace the dishwasher and to repair all damage caused when that dishwasher failed.

They’re responsible for having all materials on site and ready for installation at least three working days prior to when they’re needed. If not, they pay for your time and mileage to get those materials.

But let’s be honest: when you make an agreement like this, it adds to your time and trouble, especially if a problem arises with those materials. That’s why I think that designers should do design work, and let the contractor provide the materials and build the job.

I’ve heard the argument that designers need to furnish materials and make a markup on those materials so they can make enough money to stay in business. Baloney. They need to read Markup and Profit; A Contractor’s Guide and learn how to charge the correct amount for their design work. It’s what they are trained to do, and if they’re running their business like a business and not a hobby, they’ll make a profit on their design work.

We like to see the good guys win. That includes designers. They should be paid for the value they bring to every project, which is their design ability. Relationships need to be win-win; where is the win for the contractor? I’m not convinced that it’s necessary for a contractor to sacrifice convenience and profitability to help a designer make money.

I’d be interested in hearing comments from general contractors who work with designers. Do you let them furnish materials on jobs? I’d also like to hear from designers; what are your thoughts?

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