Home Remodeling & Renovation Project Management
Project managing your own home can result in savings of up to 20
percent but can also end up costing you more than if you contracted
out. Before considering taking on the management of your home remodeling
or renovation project you should have some basic experience in project
management, people management and scheduling.
With that in mind, the following tips will help avoid common pitfalls.
- Planning - Plan and schedule your project
realistically. Schedule subcontractors far enough apart to provide
for inspection and repair work if needed. Duties such as gathering
bids and proposals, lining up subcontractors, working with financial
institutions, and developing detailed work schedules can take
a lot of time. There are 30 - 40 different subcontractors required
and with three or four bids for each subcontractor, you need to
plan sufficient time to do this properly.
- Conditions - Consider climatic conditions when
you schedule construction
- Materials Supply - Get commitments from suppliers
on delivery dates and ask to be informed days in advance if they
expect delays. Make sure you have back up suppliers or optional
materials in mind. Find out from suppliers the lead time required
for ordering. Order custom-made items as early in the process
- Labor - Get referrals. An experienced contractor
knows who to trust and who not to trust. You don’t. So get
each subcontractor to provide a list of referrals and investigate
them. Include the Better
Business Bureau, your local Builder's
Association, and various trade associations.
- Contingency - Add in contingency time for
unexpected delays due to weather, labor, and delivery problems.
- Costs – plan the amount and availability
with enough wriggle room. Take into account bank holidays and
processing time, and plan 15% contingency for overruns.
- Communication - learn and use the terms commonly
used among contractors. Get to know your subcontractors and treat
them with respect. Make sure they know you pay the bills and expect
them to provide quality workmanship, at the scheduled time, and
at the price agreed.
- Professionalism - act like a builder in a professional
manner to gain the trust and respect of subcontractors and to
avoid mistakes. Make sure they know you are the boss and all appropriate
project decisions come through you.
- Quality Control - an experienced contractor
will be able to judge the quality of workmanship being done by
the subcontractors. Checking past work of builders can identify
in advance which ones are used to working at the extremes of the
quality scale. If you're not sure about your ability to recognize
quality, start seeking knowledge and information wherever you
can, or engage a Construction Consultant to manage this aspect.
- Disputes - if an unexpected situation or dispute
arises, which it will, be fair, but tough. Have ready access to
information and protect yourself against liens and any injury
liabilities. Always plan for alternatives if work is not being
performed as agreed.
- Systems - use management systems to keep good
records – this includes both building records and financial
- Indemnity - keep the project insured –
this includes destruction of property and injury to those working
on the project or others who enter the project site. Make sure
you have the proper warning signs and perimeter safety in place.
Ensure that your subcontractor agreements make them responsible
for safety and insurance of their area of work.
- Work Environment - provide amenities for contractors
and subcontractors. Designate areas for storage of materials,
rubbish, and hazardous work. Be considerate of climatic conditions
and wherever possible schedule internal project activities on
days that are not desirable for outdoor work. Provide good heating,
ventilation, and facilities for bathrooms and breaks. A treat
of hot/cold cold drinks and snacks at the end of key stages shows
- Contingencies - have plans to manage bad weather,
material delivery delays, material unavailability, labor disputes,
inspection failures, and conflict. All of these things add to
the time and budget overrun. Always have alternative plans. Using
incentives for prompt delivery or work completion usually keeps
contingencies to a minimum. This is a favourite contracting tactic
of Donald Trump – he contracts the work at around 75-80%
of its value, with the balance paid if the work is completed to
satisfaction, on time. This avoids the trouble of having to seek
remedy for penalty payments when problems arise.
Managing any project is about understanding the priorities. Home
remodeling and renovation projects are no exception; this is where
an understanding of construction is necessary. The absolutes in
construction projects are:
FOUNDATIONS - Foundation must be right the first
time. Do not accept foundations that are incorrect, even if redoing
the formwork means delays. Every other aspect of the project builds
upon these foundations. So ALWAYS inspect the formwork and placement
of services to the specification BEFORE the concrete is poured.
Be there when the foundation is laid and get a sign off from an
independent inspector, irrespective of whether this is part of normal
FRAMING - CHECK framing is correct in both position
and timber grade. Many leaky home owners will attest to the damage
a rotting house can do to their health and wealth.
SERVICES - INSPECT plumbing and electrical BEFORE
lining the walls. Make sure these utilities are tested for correct
operation as well as correct position. This is the time to make
changes and replace faulty materials.
Double check key areas. You will save you time and money down the
Project Management Absolutes
MANAGE TO THE PLAN - Manage timelines and changes
to the plan every step. It’s amazing how quickly small delays
here and there add up to big delays.
Timing is everything with scheduling of jobs is the predominant
function of the project manager. Stick to the Work – Inspection
– Work cycle and create a "critical path" timeline
- timing of various tasks usually overlap so creating a clear timeline
of interdependencies and completion date for each function is critical.
Don’t be tempted to start cutting corners on design or quality
when things start dragging behind the timeline. Instead, look for
alternative materials and added labor if these factors are causing
delays. It may cost a bit more in materials or time, but overall
the cost will be less that prolonged delay.
INSPECT, INSPECT, INSPECT - Inspect before you
pay – money talks. Always have an independent inspector review
the subcontractor's work before making payment. Once they have the
money, your negotiating power has weakened.
RECORD KEEPING - Keep good records: contracts,
specification plans and changes, purchasing documents, labor timesheets,
compliance records are all equally important and you need a good
system to ensure they are filed correctly and are accessible if
and when required.
It’s good to know what changes commonly occur during a remodeling
and renovation project. These are more common during this type of
project that a new dwelling as unexpected surprises arise once walls
start being stripped back or knocked down.
Rotten timber – damp is not always evident
in warm climates and well ventilated houses. But this needs to be
replaced before the project continues.
Non compliance of existing services – stripping
of wall linings can reveal plumbing and wiring that no longer complies
to building codes. This can be an expensive surprise. It often pays
with older homes to have all these amenity services inspected PRIOR
Unexpected load bearing components – walls
are either load bearing or non loading bearning. The latter can
be removed without impact to the rest of the structure, but load
bearing structures will need to be propped and alternative bearing
structure put in place. Any experienced builder will have a pretty
good idea before building which are which, but surprises can happen.
There have been some shoddy builders around that have done things
in some rather unusual ways.
Materials unavailable – even with the best
of intentions, sometimes supply just dries up due to unforeseen
circumstances. Have back up suppliers and alternative materials
Labor unavailable – subcontractors are
humans with all the personal frailties of accidents, illness and
personal circumstances that prevent them from working to plan.
Industrial Unrest – if your country have labor unions, expect
trouble so watch the news carefully if anything is in the wind.
Make sure you Contract allows for penalties, where legally able.
Oversight – project managers are human
also and can make mistakes like overlooking scheduling of materials
or labor, not checking deliveries correctly or just not being aware
that something is incorrect. Doublecheck everything and if you are
short on knowledge in certain areas either learn it or sub someone
in who does know.
CASE NOTE 1
Manage timelines even BEFORE the project starts
I got caught out badly on the rebuild of my leaky house. I had agreed
with a builder that he would schedule my project into his work plan
for 18 months in advance [that was the market delay at the time].
Nine months before the due start date, I went offshore for 6 months,
and so contacted the builder 3 months ahead of the planned start
time to get the Contracts underway. Only then did he bother to tell
me that he had so much work around his base location that they no
longer were doing work outside a 10km perimeter. This put my project
back 3 years, as I had to then get the time to go through the whole
selection process again; the market was even further behind; and
building standards changed significantly requiring a redesign of
the work to be done. Very unprofessional of the builder and very
frustrating and expensive for me.
CASE NOTE 2
In cases of error – make sure the resolution is
CLEAR AND AGREED.
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MANAGEMENT INDEX | Home
Sometimes you just have to be onsite, especially during foundation
work. During an extension project I noticed that the foundations
of a retaining wall did not appear to resemble the design on the
plan. I immediately contacted the builder and agreed to meet him
before work the next day. I pointed it out to the builder, who duly
agreed that he had not checked on the subcontractor the day before
and that it was incorrect. Expecting that the foundation would be
corrected when I arrived home from work that day, I instead found
a completed block wall. The builder, although conceding that an
error had been made, decided that he thought it would look fine
anyway and continued with the plan. Duh! Who cares what he thinks!
The specification plan is there for a reason and it should be followed.
Always make it clear to a builder that you are open to suggestions
for changes but that the decisions are yours and yours alone. That
bit of wall bugs me every time I look at it. I am still debating
getting it torn down and replaced when I do my next project. [NB:
The contractor was ‘supposedly’ managing the project]
More Building Project Management
Using A Designer As Project Manager
A Building Contractor
Types of Building