Two months into a project, the cabinet installation begins and the client says, "I'm not sure that cabinet color is the one I picked." All work stops. You lose valuable time and money getting the sample from the showroom to the field, verifying the contract specifications, and then verifying it with the homeowner.

Not at my company. To avoid these situations, I issue three separate informational binders to the office, the field, and the client. They contain client information, specifications, contracts, preconstruction forms, the schedule, product selections, change orders, and a place for notes.

But these are not ordinary notes. They are carbonless copy forms to record meeting information and provide a valuable paper trail. At the conclusion of every meeting, we fill out the form, sign it, tear off its pages, and place one page in each binder. We encourage the client to keep the binder with them throughout the project -- even while they're at work. That way, when questions arise, we can all communicate effectively. At the end of the job, we add warranty information to the client's binder. --Joel Oatten, production coordinator, Classic Homeworks, Denver