When you’re trying to communicate your preferences to your contractor, it may be easier to share a photo of what you mean instead of describing it.

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Q: Any tips for effectively communicating with a remodeler so I get what I want, and don’t get what I don’t want?

A: If ever a picture was worth a thousand words, it might be when it’s time to remodel your home.

That’s because it can be hard to communicate to your builder in words exactly what it is that you want. Maybe you don’t know the exact terminology for what you’re trying to describe, but you can see it in your mind. (Sometimes you may feel that you and your remodeler are speaking a different language!) That’s when being able to point to a picture of what you want makes things a lot easier. And chances are, when your builder sees what you’re after, he’ll know exactly what you mean.

One way to do that is to set up an idea book. That can either be a physical notebook in which you store pictures from a magazine, or it can be an electronic collection of ideas. Online sites such as Houzz.com are a great resource for finding images that you can save in an online idea book to share with your builder.

You can also create a folder on your phone of images you take when you’re at a friend’s house and see a feature or element you really like. If you take a tour of a model home or an open house, you can snap pictures of design elements, floor layouts or other ideas to share with your builder.

If you find yourself collecting a lot of photos, you may want to organize your notebook into categories. That can make it easier for you to find the images you’re looking for — and share them with your builder.

Here are some categories you might consider.

Kitchen. It’s much easier to point to images of cabinets, sinks, islands and faucets than it is to try to describe them.

Master bedroom. You might want to share pictures of the kind of walk-in closet you have in mind, or show your design/build remodeler photos of the features you’re looking for in your master bathroom.

Common living spaces. Pass along your picture of a great family room or dining room — or even a really cool media/entertainment room.

Specialty items. See a fireplace you really like? Take a picture! Find custom windows that are just what you’re looking for? Snap a shot!

Colors, textures and finish styles. These are all things that can be hard to describe but can be captured in a photo

You can also capture your own notes and questions about the things you see.

Something else to keep in mind is that you can also take pictures (and make notes) about specific things you don’t like. Showing those to you builder can keep him or her from heading in a direction that will be a waste of time for both of you.

If you sometimes find yourself at a loss for words when describing what you want, don’t despair. Take out your phone and take a picture that will show your remodeler exactly what you have in mind.


Brooks Powell is the owner of Powell Homes & Renovations and a member of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties, and HomeWork is the group’s weekly column. If you have a home improvement, remodeling or residential homebuilding question you’d like answered by one of the MBAKS’s more than 2,900 members, write to homework@mbaks.com.