How To Avoid The 10 Biggest Home Renovation Mistakes

Home Renovation Mistakes

When planning your home remodeling or renovation project one of the main decisions you need to make is who will manage the project. You may have engaged a Designer, and add managing the project to their contract. Alternatively, as is common practice, the main builder may act as the Contracting Manager. Or you may decide to take on the project management role yourself.

Designing a building or renovation is not just about how it will look and function but also what materials are used, when they are needed, ensuring payments are made to suppliers and subcontractors, and quality assurance. If you feel you have the experience to deal with this, great. But be warned, its not as easy as it may sound. Contracting your own home result in savings of up to 20 percent but can end up costing you more than if you contracted out, if delays, poor engagement and low quality results.

The 10 most common mistakes made by homeowners acting as remodeling and renovation project managers are:

Insufficient Planning

The success of your project is probably 80% based upon good planning. This means dealing with as much detail as possible up front; always planning for contingencies and checking the progress of work against the plan every day. Small things can mount together to be big outcomes, and not always favourable. A plan keeps you focused when there seems to be multiple activates going on at any one time. Project management can be a full time job so part of your planning is ensuring that you have sufficient time to dedicate to the project management role. If you don’t know what a Critical Path is – find out. This structure of dependencies will be the defining thread of your project plan.

Poor Materials Management

Time and Materials planning is a big task but it can be very costly not having the right materials in the correct quantity at the right time. In large projects you will engage a quantity surveyor to estimate the material requirements. Some may add a time element to your material requirements plan, otherwise you need to work closely with your builder and supplier to ensure that lead times are built into the delivery scheduling of materials to avoid delays.

Not Planning Sufficiently For Contingencies

Materials can become unavailable due to warehouses burning down, transport strikes, import problems and even short supply being given to a more valued customer. Labour can become unavailable due to illness, injury or overrun on previous jobs. You need to have contingency plans to manage this and understand the impact of an alternative choice of materials in terms of the support structure required and finishing. Remember – What is possible in six weeks, on average takes ten weeks and in a worst-case scenario could be twelve to fifteen weeks. You need to be able to reschedule to meet these types of delays.

Poor Record Keeping

Keep and file everything, and keep records well organised. Your finance provider will most likely require proof of completion at each stage and a summary of expenditure to date, before releasing the next progress payment. If not using finance, good record keeping is just good management. You need to know exactly where you are in terms of time and dollars against the plan specification. This should be the final task you do each night.

Not Managing The Work Site

There are a number of regulations and workplace safety items that need to be covered during any building project. When trying to keep costs down it is tempting to throw caution to the wind and avoid the cost of indemnity insurance for destruction or property and for injury to those working on and visiting the site. If you do, you are a fool – and any builder or subcontractor who works on a site without ensuring these things are in place, are also foolish. Ensure that your subcontractor agreements make them responsible for safety and insurance of their area of work.

Slack Quality Assurance

Use a work-check-approve-work cycle on every stage of the project. The three most critical parts of the project from a QA perspective are the foundations, framing and services. The foundations are the base upon which every other part of the design specification relies. Get this wrong and the problems start snowballing. QA is one task that should NEVER be rushed through or passed over when under time pressure. The downline impacts are too great.

Poor Subcontractor Management

One benefit of using a builder as the project manager is that they have a network of trusted subcontractors. In a full home renovation, there can be 20-30 subcontractors. You need to use a well planned system for engaging, qualifying, contracting and managing your subcontractors. And remember to check and sign off their work BEFORE they leave the site and certainly before you pay them. You may like to engage an independent building consultant to manage these inspections.

Poor Communication

Act professionally, it gives subcontractors more confidence that the project will be well managed. Let everyone involved with the project know what you are expecting from them in terms of deliverables and quality. Even with the most detailed plan, inevitably things will crop up that need discussion and adjustment. If all parties are not using the same lingo, it is easy for messages to get miscommunicated and misunderstood. Invest the time to learn the standard building trade terms, and if ever you are in doubt – ask for clarification. With the intensity of managing a home renovation or remodeling project, especially if its your first attempt can mean you forget to communicate to contractors and suppliers as humans. A word of thanks goes a long way; a round of cold drinks on a hot day goes even further.

Poor Change Management Control

This ties in with the item above. All changes should be documented and signed off, however insignificant it may seem. Builders and subcontractors are human, they make mistakes. You need to ensure that any remedy or changes resulting from those errors is agreed, documented and charged to the appropriate party. I have been in the position where a builder made a major error which could not be undone, and meant the design had to be changed to ‘accommodate’ the error. He then tried to charge ME an additional $8000 based on the change in design.

Not Keeping Check Of The Budget

Although this is part of record keeping and contingency planning, it is worth a mention as the final item on our top 10 list. All project will overrun the initial estimate. It is normal practice to add 15% contingency to allow for alternative materials, increased costs, higher cost for replacement labor etc. It is so easy for $40 here and $25 there to become $3000 over a two or three week project. This is why it is so imperative to update your expenditure every single day so you know exactly where you are. There is nothing that will stop a building project in its tracks faster than subcontractors fear of not getting paid.

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