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Design, Spec, Build – Know the Players of Your Next Construction Project

Depending on the size of your stacked stone tile project, a bunch of different people with lots of different skill sets could be involved. One of the things that can make projects confusing, even for those of us with experience, is that sometimes those skill sets overlap and what role someone may fill on one project can be different on the next project. To really understand who the players are in a construction project, big or small, let’s take a look at three of the major steps in the process of taking an idea and building it into reality - Design, Specify, Build.


The design phase of a construction project is pretty clear cut. The needs and desires of the client are determined and balanced against things like project location, budget, and construction practices. An architect is often relied on for their expertise in this phase. For projects both big and small architects perform the crucial role of drafting the detailed blueprints and construction documents necessary for the “build team” to actually take a project through permitting and construct the job with. These experts take into account things like the added weight a ledge stone accent wall will add and what that means to the structure of a building or construction method of a wall.

Architect meeting with client during the design phase of a construction project

The lines blur considerably in the design phase when you start talking about projects that are more renovation in nature, and generally speaking don’t require a building permit, for example upgrading the tile on a kitchen backsplash or adding stone veneer to a fireplace. A competent contractor, or sometimes even the homeowner, can fill the gap and perform the design and crucial planning steps for projects in this realm.


The specification phase of a project is always exciting because it involves picking out a lot of the materials to be used and detailing out how specific things are to be built on the project. While its not quite the same level of satisfaction as seeing concrete get poured or walls get painted, it does often provide a great visual introduction to what the completed project will look like it. Larger projects will have multiple teams of designers working on specific areas, such as interiors and landscaping, and sometimes the architect even plays a dual role as specifier as well. Owners and / or owners reps meet frequently with the design team and are heavily involved making material selections during this phase and making sure the project is moving forward and on budget.

Design center used in the specification and selection phase of a construction project

For smaller projects, homeowners often find themselves in the role of specifier. They might be re-doing their fireplace in a stone veneer and had the “design” discussion with a quality contractor, but now its up to them to research and find a product that they love and that works for the project. Depending on the scope of any given project and that homeowner’s desire or ability to make those decisions, many of our clients often enlist the help of a designer, sometimes on an hourly engagement basis, other times handing over complete control of the project, to help with this phase of the project. It can be intimidating for a homeowner to try and learn everything there is to know about a product like stone veneer or ledge stone, so leveraging an expert is a great way to save time and often times money as well by avoiding costly mistakes in material selection and ordering.


As with many things in life, successful prep work without taking any short cuts in the Design or Specify phases is the key to a successful Build. On large projects, clients will be working with a general contractor whose job it is to manage multiple sub contractors performing a variety of work and ensure the construction is being done according to the plans, according to building codes, and to the expected level of quality their clients demand. On smaller projects a homeowner can sometimes act as their own general contractor, perhaps working with an electrician to wire some under cabinet lighting on a backsplash project and a tile installer to actually lay and grout the tile.  However the project is being managed, making sure a great contractor is selected for the work is always important.

Stone masons installing stone veneer panels during the build phase of a construction project

No matter the size of the project or how formal or informal each phase is, all successful projects are designed, specified, and built. Even for a DIY project where the homeowner is handling all three phases, laying out the project in this manner will help lead to a successful project, and cut out extra trips to the hardware store or costly re-orders or returns of products that weren’t planned for correctly. The team at Norstone is well versed in working through this process on any size project so contact us today to start planning your next natural stone veneer project.

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Norstone's New Dimensions in Natural Stone blog aims to discuss design themes, sources of inspiration, and how the world around us influences our creative interpretation and buying preferences.

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