Living Through a Home Renovation

A home renovation opens up new opportunities to update and enjoy your house.  You are starting a process that will make your house more of a “home”! A major renovation is an investment in the future needs of your family, and hopefully it adds value to one of your biggest investments.  After deciding the scope of your project, working through budgets and picking a contractor, perhaps the most difficult aspect of a home renovation is living through the event itself.  If it is a large enough project, you may elect to move out during the construction phase, but this adds expense and inconvenience, so most people elect to stay in the house and suffer through!

The construction part of the process should be planned out when picking your contractor, because you’re going to be sharing a lot of time together while the work gets done.  Everybody is happy at the time that the contract is signed, but immediately thereafter, you are in conflict with each other.  The homeowner tends to look at a project as an invasion of their family’s privacy, as subcontractors come in and out, bringing loads of materials, causing inconvenient systems shutdowns and making a mess.  It is tempting for a homeowner to micro-manage the subcontractors and the schedule, wanting to modify and change the scope and selections previously agreed upon. Unlike new construction, where the contractor owns the house until the day of closing, and the prospective home purchaser may walk through on occasion, in a home remodel the homeowner sees everything!  In a remodel scenario, the contractor wants to complete the project quickly, efficiently and without interference from the homeowner.

Here are a few suggestions for a smooth project:

  1. Have a well thought out contract. Take time in the beginning of the project to work through the potential issues. A good contract has details relating to the scope of project, the scheduling of the project, payment terms, and even has consideration of what happens if there is a conflict between the parties.  Breaking up is something that should be contemplated in the beginning. In regards to scope, the more details that can be dealt with in the beginning, the better.  Invest in an architect or engineer to have detailed drawings and specifications, and have a thorough list of finish details.   How can you set a budget it you have not actually selected the manufacturer of the HVAC system you are installing, or the faucets, sinks, lights, trim work and the myriad of other selections required in a construction project?  Discuss the different phases of the project. The homeowner should know ahead of time when different subcontractors have been scheduled. As far as the homeowner slowing things down, nothing slows down a contractor or destroys the sequencing of a construction project more than a delay in picking selections.  Pick the final selections before the project starts!
  2. Recognize that change orders are inevitable. However, they can be limited if you take time with the first suggestion, above. If there are change orders, they need to be in writing and agreed to between the parties.  Recognize that change orders can blow a budget and prolong the construction schedule.Discuss communication with the contractor before the project starts. Too much communication can slow a contractor down and lead to frustration on the part of homeowner when the contractor stops responding. Not enough, and the homeowner is left guessing at what to expect next. Discuss at the beginning the level and methods of communication that keeps all parties happy. Remember, good planning leads to success!

– Paul A. Sheridan