How to Manage a Renovation Project

After BeforeManaging a renovation project takes a lot more than good organizational skills. It also takes a wealth of knowledge and experience for things to run smooth. If you have a loan, you need to come in on time and on budget. Having the right people in place, to do what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, is crucial to a project moving along at a healthy pace. It’s equally critical to ensure they have the supplies they require to complete their job. If you, as the home owner, are managing the project, this responsibility falls on you. I cannot count the number of times someone has told me they plan on managing their own renovation. I also cannot count the number of times these same people have come back to tell me it cost them more money and took much more time, and they’d never do it again. 

If your renovation requires a permit, the City usually requires detailed drawings to be submitted well in advance. This requires planning and complete understanding of the timelines involved. Slight deviations from the plans are acceptable, major changes can easily put you back at square one and cause significant delays. That’s why it is so important to have your design, drawings, material selection, and contractors planned in advance. Basically, know what you are doing, and who is responsible for doing what, before you lift the first hammer!

Time is a huge factor in any renovation.  Quite often, many home owners seriously underestimate the amount of time it actually takes to manage a project. The biggest question I’m asked, is “How do I find good contractors?” References! Talk to everyone! One of the biggest distinctions I’ve seen is that when a Project Manager or General Contractor is involved and a problem occurs (problems arise on jobs – it’s how they are handled that determine the success of the project) someone always wants to blame someone else – drywallers wants to blame the framer, painters blame the drywaller, etc…. . For the average home owner, this can become overwhelming. You need to be on site supervising!  How are you to know who is telling the truth, who’s at fault, or what went wrong. Then you have time delays for fixes, and additional costs for someone to make modifications…it can easily add up and eat into your renovation budget and your work day!

When a G.C. or P.M. is involved, they have dealt with this many times and can stop this situation before it starts. Many of their contracts are written in such a way that a sub-trade is responsible for ensuring their work commences, only when the trade before is completed to their requirements. Once they begin, they have deemed the previous work to their standard, and now accept responsibility to the next stage. This applies all the way down the line. G.C. or P.M. will typically hire the same sub-trades job after job, so each is fully aware of the next one’s expectations/requirements for the job to progress smoothly. The G.C. or P.M. is there daily to ensure this occurs. A home owner may be present, but may not be aware of how something should be done. Couple this with independent contractors, who often have never worked together and are unfamiliar with what the next requires, and you have a recipe for disaster! Mix in a contractor who sees the opportunity to take advantage of a home owner and make some extra money, insisting something needs to be removed and done ”right” by his guys, and there go your hard earned renovation dollars …. This is why references are so important. 

I was at a clients a few weeks ago as she was getting quotes from a contractor, before he was even hired, he was “warning” her he was not prepared to accept responsibility for his work because he didn’t do the job before, he’d have to up-charge her to make it “right” if it wasn’t done right, a few red flags???!! A trade can come in and tape and mud drywall, but if it was not installed correctly, chances are the screws will pop, and the seams will crack. If the home owner is managing the project, it’s up to the home owner to ensure the drywall is installed correctly before it taped and mudded. Is your knowledge base adequate to be comfortable doing so and knowing the job is done well before the next trade proceeds??!! This is the risk and responsibility you take when you manage your own project.

Another huge cost is delays or modifications that occurred because of an incomplete design plan. You plan for a shower but not exactly knowing what type. There are countless models that require different plumbing solutions. You decide you want a shower with multiple body jets as well as the overhead rain shower head, but have already roughed in basic plumbing. Then you are paying to re-do the plumbing to accommodate the change in your plans, waiting for new custom materials to come in, etc. This can then delay other trades, and push your entire job back by weeks – leading to delays and additional costs. This is why it is so important to have the plan completed well in advance. You also have the products and their specifications for installation there well in advance so the tradespeople are able to read the specs and complete the work according to manufacturer specifications the first time. You coordinate the work once and pay for it once. It saves a tremendous amount of money and time.

There are always small obstacles to overcome with any major renovation. Even though I am in the business, when it comes to things I have no experience with, I hire a professional. We’re doing renovations in our home. Installing gas inserts in our wood burning fireplaces is part of the overall plan. It’s not my specialty, so we’ve hired this out. I’ve used the company before for my cottage and was very happy with their work. It’s well worth it to me, to know things are done correctly the first time. It’s one part of the overall design plan. Step by step, systematically, all the parts of the design plan will come together perfectly!