What can start as a simple project can quickly blow up into contractors, consultants and owners at each other’s throats -- all because communications broke down along the way.

Shirad Ali, vice president of Atlantic & Caribbean Roof Consulting and Testing in Florida, has witnessed more than 60 litigations in the past three years where this occurred, and as a result, wants to put a stop to it.

“Every single thing on a project has to do with communication,” Ali said. “If communication is not clear and well documented and not everyone understands what that process is going to be, then you’re going to run into problems on a daily basis.”

As someone with more than 30 years of experience in the industry, Ali said communication comes down to having the contractor, consultant and owner on the same page, which can be done through a number of simple efforts.

Have a Clear-Cut Scope of Work

Ali suggested taking a consultant’s specification document, which tends to be extensive, and boil it down so the crew on the job can execute it properly.

“Take the specification document and the scope of work and condense it into a bullet-point form document where you can shorten the scope of work for [the foreman] where he can clearly understand, step-by-step, what happens on the job,” Ali said.

Periodic Progress Meetings

Ali said when a consultant is involved, it is a good practice to have regular meetings on the job to identify any issues that need to be addressed, whether it is unforeseen conditions or adhering to codes.

“This is another area where a lack of communication has led to major issues and turned into litigation because the contractor went ahead and performed the change or the work without informing the consultant or informing the owner,” Ali said.

Data is Key

Keeping track of various data points and providing them to owners is a great way to keep communications open. Ali said in his experience, he has seen contractors that provide daily reports that include how many squares are used and what section of the roof they are working on.

This also helps when dealing with liquidated damages, as clear documentation can show aspects like days lost due to rain or when work had to be stopped.

Subcontracting Properly

Ali kept this point simple: Keep owners and consultants informed of any subcontracting taking place. He said when subcontractors are working without supervision, it can result in work being completed how the subcontractor prefers to do it instead of to the contractor’s specifications.

Ali said roofing is the most litigated sector of the construction industry, so by communicating properly from start to finish on a project, contractors not only avoid litigation, but receive more jobs.

“Everything goes back to: How do you maintain that relationship on this one project that will lead you onto recommendations to other projects?” Ali said. “If you take the attitude of ‘It’s my job’ … then you run into problems.”