Once Tim and Janeen Welsh have signed a design agreement with a client and received a down payment, they sit down with the homeowner for what they call a “specification gathering session.” They have found that there's too much going on in a house for one person (or two) to keep straight. So over the course of 10 years or so — with a major helping hand from their project coordinator, Ray Brown — they developed this 20-some page spreadsheet, which, according to Janeen, “pretty much covers every question in every phase of construction.” Armed with this form, no details slip by.

Many of the sections get passed on to subcontractors, who must return them with their quote by the date indicated.

The appropriate boxes are checked based on what the project calls for. In the example below, the plumber will be moving the existing electric 50-gallon water heater.

A checkmark in the box on the left indicates that the project includes that particular item. There's a lot of black ink on these pages, and in most cases, many boxes will be left empty. So Tim and Janeen use red ink to draw attention to the entries (the computer printout, made after the meeting back in the office, also prints in red). Blue ink is used to signify an issue that needs to be discussed further.

If something changes during the project (including a revision of any “blue” check boxes), it is dated here, and a new copy is printed out and given to the project manager.

This particular sheet is just for plumbing, and there are similar forms for all aspects of the job. The form includes an index for easy reference by number.