It all is so exciting at first. You can visualize what your new remodeling project is going to look like when it is complete. You have carefully vetted your design team and your general contractor. All along scrimping and saving to put the money aside for this much anticipated renovation. The hours of research have piled up preparing for this major event in your life. You have prepared your well thought through questions for the contractor interviewing process and you are prepared to select your team and get this project started. Flash forward, a 3 month project has turned into 6 months and you’re not even half way finished. What went wrong? More importantly, what do you do now…..
Planning and Setting the Proper Expectations
Let’s roll the tape back and determine the possible steps or events that caused the wheels to come off the cart. We all have preconceived ideas and expectations before we immerse ourselves into the details of subject matter articles and listen to our friends stories of their own personal adventures with a remodeling project . You may even have had formed your own perceptions based on some previous renovation or home remodeling experiences in Houston. In any event, most everyone has some fairly strong opinions before we even start our journey.
This is not always a bad thing. It’s good to have a heads up that your dream remodel can quickly become a nightmare. But it is very important to approach each project and all interested parties with an open mind and a reasonable sense of skepticism. That is to say if you approach your design / builder team candidates during the interviewing process as experts sharing their knowledge and opinions, this process will only help form and shape a better project for you. Share some of the opinions and facts that you heard from one contractor with his rival. Your goal at this phase of the project is not to be an expert but rather absorb as much content as possible and to shake it up a little. Determining which contractors are like minded and collect a general consensus on the difficult and challenging aspects of your project.
Don’t Only Listen To What You Want To Hear
If we carry the previous discussed preconceptions as our general mind set into making a deal with your designer / builder, you will limit yourself to some very beneficial conversations. I have been personally a general contractor for 35 plus years and I still need to check myself from doing this. People have a tendency to listen more carefully to opinions we want to hear and instinctively avoid thoughts that we do not want to hear. This can have a very negative consequence on the resulting performance of your contractors and your project. Keep in mind at this stage of the remodeling project is all about the contractors selling you something. If your prospective contractors feel you are not interested in hearing something you don’t wish to hear, they will indeed avoid sharing it with you.
This lack of open communication will ultimately lead to further issues in the project. For example when an expensive special ordered product does not work as intended or when a potentially schedule wrecking event surfaces during design or the renovation that effects a previous commitment made by the contractor. The contractor will not openly discuss these setbacks in a timely manner and will likely choice to handle the matter without discussing it with you the owner. This pattern can continue until they cause major interruptions in the project time line to late to avoid them.
Structure an Exit Strategy For Unacceptable Contractor Results
Much like a marriage, few of us want to discuss what will happen if the project turns south while you are discussing getting marriage. As uncomfortable as this may seem it is a good idea to openly discuss the conditional provisions in your contract for the unlikely event that this becomes necessary. As a general rule terminating your designer or your builder in the middle of a project will often result in even greater delays and more cost to complete their work.
Topics that should be considered in these discussions are the treatment of ordered materials not yet delivered to the site, pending special product orders not placed, permit transfers to new contractors, and the retaining of on site working subcontractors. If your payments have been associated with progress payments, this will provide some logical calculated amount of severing the contract due to the contract breaches.
Develop Plan B
Plan B development is not planning for your project to fail, but rather providing an interactive plan with your contractors plan to preserve potential project continuity, protecting critical product obtainment and to maintain future project momentum. This plan addresses the critical milestones of the project like the delivery of long lead time items and critical conditions of major subcontractors that will be working through the entirety of the project.
This plan identifies key products that require advance ordering with long lead times and implement an effective plan of taking delivery of these products in advance of their installation. If you cannot store at the job site, you can rent a short term rental facility to hold them till you need them. This will insure that a) the products are available when the project requires them, b) that if you part ways with your builder, that products are there to move forward with the job.
Another important aspect of this plan is arriving at an understanding with the major subcontractors on site. In most cases it is in your interest to retain these contractors on your project because, a) maintains their warranty, b) it is a cost effective alternative to replacing them, c) commits them to project accountability through the entire project.
Don’t Start The Project Before You Are Ready
This is one of the biggest mistakes owners will allow to happen on a major remodeling project. They start the project before the plans or permits are complete. They will allow the contractor to begin demolition after the contract is signed but before all the details are ironed out with the construction documents. Starting prematurely to gain time will often result in eventual project delays rather than reducing construction time.
The best practices for preparing to expedite your remodeling project on a aggressive schedule is as follows;
1. Complete the plans and secure the building permits
2. Complete the details of drawings on cabinets, built ins and floor designs (designer features)
3. Create a Plan B with the general contractor scripting an exit plan if contract is breached
4. Provide contract provision to retain subcontractors as part of exit plan
5. Complete major product selections before you start any project
6. Confirm orders and delivery on all long lead time products / services
7. Take delivery on all critical products long before your need them
The best overall strategy for receiving a quality product on a timely project is to select a good seasoned working partner that you trust. A builder that listens to your needs and that you feel comfortable with on a business level and on a personal level. Most often this will not be the lowest bid, but rather the best overall value for the quality, the customer experience and the assurance that your goals are met in a timely manner.