7 keys to a great remodeling experience

General contractors tend to get a bad rap (sometimes deserved).  Many projects are doomed to be an exercise in frustration from the beginning due to lack of planning.  Often, homeowners and contractors are anxious to get to building something well before they’ve nailed down the details.  It’s understandable, right?  A contractor gets paid to build stuff, not to hammer out specifications on a computer.  And the homeowner is anxious to get their project going – they want to see real, tangible progress in the form of dust, lumber and pickup trucks parked out front.

At first it’s exciting to see sawdust flying.  However, the noise and mess soon loses its novelty.  Lack of planning, resulting in delays and cost overruns add significantly to the stress of having your life disrupted while remodeling.

Here’s what you need to enjoy your remodel

1. Quality Plans

Folks often skimp on quality plans, viewing it as an unnecessary expense.  Even designers, draftsmen and architects tend to downplay the value of complete drawings.  They often provide vague blueprints- leaving the contractor to fill in the blanks.  Most contractors aren’t designers and don’t have the time or processes for bridging the gap between what’s not on the plans and what’s actually going to be built.  Things that should have been figured out during the design phase are figured out on the fly.  The resulting delays and added costs frustrate both the homeowner and the contractor.  A set of quality plans should convey what is being built, how it’s being built and how it’s being finished so that everyone from the homeowner to the contractor to the carpenters and subs know exactly what to do.

2.  Detailed Specifications

Most contractors hate typing out specs.  They often work all day making sure things run smoothly on the jobsite then come back to the office at night to try to pound out estimates, proposals, and contracts.  Something’s gotta give and it’s usually the quality of the specifications.  The ol’ default standby specification becomes the easy way out, “do such and such, per plan”. Building per plan requires really good plans (see #1 above).  Many contractors would rather give you vague specifications and hope that the client will simply stay out of his way.  A homeowner should expect that the specifications list everything that the contractor is including in his proposal.  Every can light, paint color, door style, wood species, insulation R-value- everything!

3.  Contract Language

The contract governs the agreement between the homeowner and the contractor.  It should spell out the legal and procedural structure between the two parties.  Payment terms, warranty policy, disputes and remedies, start/finish dates, change order process, job closeout process and any state and federally required language should be included.  It’s important to know and understand the legal and process stuff before you enter into a contract.

4.  Written Schedule

Without a written schedule there is no way to efficiently manage a remodel.  When lead times and deadlines are published and committed to in advance, things get done on time.  Subcontractors appreciate an organized project and strive to meet their obligations, not wanting to let down those coming after them.  Homeowners are able to plan their lives around the workflow when they know what to expect.

5.  Communication Plan

How will project status be communicated?  When will it be communicated?  Do you expect a daily email rundown?  Do you prefer a phone call because you check email infrequently?  Maybe texting is more your style?  When and where will meetings take place at important milestones?  Decide upfront what is the most effective way to communicate.

6.  Change Management Plan

Changes are an inevitable part of remodeling.  Whether it’s a client request or an unexpected surprise hidden behind a wall, there has to be a process for managing changes as they happen.  Changes almost always impact the schedule and budget, so it’s best to make sure the change is documented, priced and taken care of quickly.

7.  Project Closeout Plan

When the project is coming to a close there are typically final touches that need to be taken care of.  These tasks are compiled in a punchlist.  The list should be created at a time when it’s most likely to be the one and only punchlist.  Creating the list too soon often results in extra trips and extra work.  Do it once and do it efficiently.  The list should be signed off by the contractor and the homeowner so there’s no misunderstanding about when the project is complete.

I’m a process geek and would love to hear your thoughts or questions on the remodeling process in the comments below.




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