3 Communication Lessons from Home Renovation

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PEX pipesHome renovation could be exhausting. After spending hours in selecting the design and materials, we landed a contractor to do the installation. We thought our job was done. Any technical details such as plumbing would be handled by the contractor. I was surprised to come home one day and saw a mix of copper and white, rubber-looking polyethylene (PEX) pipes connected to my hot water tank. As it turned out, we needed to replace some pipes and the contractor chose to install the popular PEX pipes. The combination of pipes certainly does not have the aesthetic appeal though functionally fine.

The lessons I learned reinforce that when we communicate, often times what we thought is clear might not be the case for the recipient.

1.    Expectation vs. assumption

I anticipated that my contractor would take care of the plumbing as I have no expertise. In fact, he did. He installed quality PEX pipes that meet industry standards. He assumed that I would have no problem and went ahead with it. In this case, I would not have any issue because I might not even know about it except for the sections that are visible. To avoid the surprise, I could have indicated that visible changes needed to be discussed first.

2.    Mindful instructions or the lack of it

The general instructions I provided included the list of changes and the respective locations. I thought they were clear and straightforward. As the project progressed, I realized that there were lots of details that required thoughtful consideration. Without any experience with home renovation, I needed to prompt the right questions to uncover what instructions I needed to provide. Otherwise, my contractor would be making the decisions on my behalf as I have provided him the liberty to do so.

3.    Open discussions vs. silent revoke

The internet provides a rich resource of information. Unfortunately, it could be confusing. My real concern with the PEX pipes was health risk. In my search on potential health issues with PEX pipes, Google responded with close to 20,000 results. Some information was dated but it took effort to peruse each search result. I was testy with my contractor about his decision. At the same time, I was frank about the real concern. He wasn’t defensive but provided useful sources that I could seek validation. We worked through my concern on good terms.

Mis-communication is frustrating. The tendency to point fingers might be the first reaction. It is important to take a step back, focus on the issue and not take it personal. In most cases, it is better to communicate frequently and seek affirmation than being surprised.

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