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Contractors are not mind readers

Updated: Jan 28, 2023

Unpopular opinion alert. When things go sideways in a remodel, it's not all the contractors fault. Contractors are not mind readers.

But don't take my word for it, let's both visualize a space at the same time and compare notes. This short exercise will teach you an important lesson about how to communicate with your contractor.

Let's Start the Exercise

For a moment, picture your dream bathroom remodel.

  • Let's both picture an on-suite.

  • Grab a pencil and paper and sketch out what it looks like in your mind.

Don't worry, its ok if you aren't an artist.

  • Visualize the cabinetry, the fixtures, bathroom and shower.

  • Imagine reaching out for the faucets. What do they look and feel like?

  • Get specific.

  • Visualize the light fixtures.

  • Sketch what the bathroom vanity looks like.

  • Imagine the tub.

  • Now imagine walking into the shower.

  • What does it look like?

Great, now that you've visualized the space, write down a few notes describing it.

  • What color is the vanity?

  • Is the bathtub standalone or built into tile?

  • How large is the space?

  • Is the toilet out in the open or in a small room?

  • What does the vanity look like? Sketch it in your notebook. Does it have legs or is it floating?

  • Where are the windows?

  • How many mirrors are there?

  • Are there sconces?

Let's see how good we were at reading each other's minds.

This is what my bathroom looks like:

  • The vanity is floating and a natural, oak finish.

  • There are two sinks that sit on top of the quartz counter.

  • Two black faucets are attached to the wall.

  • The tub is stand alone.

  • The floor tiles are dark.

  • The entire bathroom is tiled wall to wall.

  • There are two floor to ceiling windows with privacy screens.

This photo was the inspiration for what I was visualizing. What about you? Share what you visualized in the comments.

Modern luxury bathroom with black tiles, marbled tile walls, a stand alone tub, floating vanity and two sinks.

I'm guessing what you pictured isn't exactly what you see here. We made different assumptions about what the space looked like. When I gave vague descriptions, your mind automatically filled in the gaps, right?

Your brain is wired to fill in the gaps. Contractors are people too. Their brains are also wired to fill in the gaps.

Let's dive into how a scenario can lead to miscommunication, delays and project cost increases:

Did you assume the walls would be tiled? We may have made different assumptions. Tiling all the walls takes longer and costs more than if only the shower is tiled.

Without specifics, a contractor will likely make an assumption about what material will be used, where it will go and how long it will take to install. To win a bid, he'll probably assume he's just tiling the shower. It costs less that way and you probably want to save the money. When the tiler shows up to do the work, you walk him through your vision and discover you are not on the same page.

Can he do it? Probably, but it will cost more and take more time than promised. He planned for only tile on the floors and shower surround.

You and the contractor just made different assumptions. It happens. Everyone feels frustrated. The project might get delayed further because he only ordered enough tile for the shower. Or worse, its unavailable for weeks and you scramble to choose something else.

Remember - your contractor is not a mind reader. With clear plans, clear material choices and visuals you can make sure you are on the same page. When you remove ambiguity from your plans you both know what you want and you get a more accurate bid for the work.


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