We have all heard horror stories about a contractor who took too long to complete a project. You know the story, the one where the contractor swore the project could be completed in 5 days but it really took over 3 months to be completed. Remodeling projects slipping over their projected completion date is a common remodeling problem, and one that can be avoided.
How do you avoid these types of miss-communications? Where is the breakdown? Why is it so hard to nail down a completion date on a remodel? Would you be surprised to know you, as the homeowner, have a lot to do with how quickly a job progresses?! Here are some ways you can be sure to help move the project along so the project is completed on time.
Establish communication with the right person
We all know good communication is key to any relationship, but why does it affect completion dates? Construction is complex and involves many parties including the homeowner, designers, regulators (city for approvals), subcontractors or employees, and consultants. If one party is not communicating with another, a break-down ensues. For the purpose of this post, we encourage an open line of communication with your sole point-of-contact. When you sign your contract, ask your contractor to be very clear who that point of contact is.
Here is an example for you from a construction point of view: If you talk to the framer and ask him to change a size of the niche for your new shower, he may say “sure, fine”. If the framer does not tell your sole point of contact (usually a project superintendent), then the tile installer may not know about the change which means you will be short on bull-nose. If you have an insert tile or a special order tile, this will delay your project while you wait for the extra material to come in. Construction is similar to a production line in manufacturing. Make one change in the front of the line without telling the next person in the line and all of a sudden your project (and its timeline) starts falling apart.
Being informed about processes, procedures, and different products is all great. What is not great is stopping workers several times a day to answer questions or discuss scope of work changes. If you are a person who likes to do a ton of research, we suggest having a pad of paper and writing down your questions, concerns, etc to review with your point of contact. As a remodeling contractor, we are often told by workers that homeowners come in frequently to ask questions about a process. As a worker, and a human, we look for distractions, especially when doing repetitive work (field workers in construction face incredibly repetitive tasks). So a simple question can turn into a 30 minute conversation, plus the time it takes to get his or her brain re-focused on the original task at hand.
For each moment a worker is explaining a process to you, he or she is not completing the task at hand. This goes back to making sure you are discussing questions with your point of contact. Your point of contact should be answering any questions or concerns you may have. Additionally, many times the worker does not have all the answers because he or she does not see the overall project, just the piece that is currently being worked on.
Do not delay on selecting products
Once you have selected your contractor everything starts moving relatively quickly. Or at least, it should. After your contractor has taken measurements of the space to remodeled it will be your responsibility as the homeowner to select the products to be installed. This sounds easier than it is, we know. Remember that in construction one decision affects several other decisions. This means cabinets can not be ordered for a kitchen remodel until appliances have been selected because the measurements of the appliances affect the remaining space available for cabinets. Countertops can not be fabricated until you have selected your sink. Electrical wires can not be installed until you have selected your lighting.
Make a day of it, make a weekend of it, but make it a priority to order your products as soon as you have the green light from your contractor. Need help? Ask your contractor for assistance. If you have hired a design build company to remodel your house, chances are you will have assistance in navigating the scary place which is product selection.
Select products without a long back-order
For the sake of everyone’s sanity, please pay attention to whether or not the item you are ordering is in stock! How could a contractor possibly have a completion date which you both agreed on if the finish product will take 4 weeks longer than the anticipated completion date? Are you ordering tile with a long back-order? If for some unfortunate reason the tile measurements are “off” (or tile gets broken during installation, which can happen), if you have ordered custom tile or tile that is back-ordered, this will delay the completion of your project. If there is a kitchen faucet or a lighting fixture you simply can not live without which has a long back-order make sure you discuss this with your point of contact so you can understand how that decision will affect your anticipated completion date.
Be confident in your decisions. What do we mean by that? Your design. Once you have signed your contract and signed off on your final design, stop looking on the internet for additional ideas….we know, its temping. Don’t do it. Revising your design will not only affect your completion date, but it may very well affect your project price (which is another concern for homeowners who remodel). Prices should not fluctuate once you have signed your contract. The only three things that could possibly affect your pricing if you are working with a reputable contractor are (1) design and scope of work changes requested by the homeowner after the initial contract is signed and (2) unforeseen construction problems (such as finding mold when your contractor does his demo work, (3) unforeseen scope of work changes required by a city official (ie: during permits or inspections).
Do not add changes to your scope of work
Again, be confident in your decisions and do not search the internet for additional ideas once you have signed off on your project drawings. If you make changes to the scope of work once the final drawings have been approved the engine on your remodel has to stop or at minimum slow down. What do we mean by that? Here is an example: You decide after you have ordered your kitchen cabinets that you would like to have a wine cabinet installed. The wine cabinet affects cabinetry, countertops, and electrical trades. New drawings have to be made, cabinet orders change, and once all those changes are made you will need to sign new drawings and a new material order takes place. That one change could cost you a day or a week. Either way, it is a delay. Some homeowners are willing to cause a delay because of a “must have” item. Just understand the delay is not due to your contractor, it is due to a change of scope of work.
Have your home prepared for the project to start
Having your home prepared for the project to start means just that. Are you remodeling a kitchen? Make sure your cabinets are 100% empty and packed away somewhere safe. Remodeling your bathroom? Take everything off the walls, clean out the cabinets, clean out the toilet, and make sure the hallways are cleared for workers to have a safe traffic area. Once the project has started, stay clear out of the area. Do not pack boxes in the space. Any time the workers have to spend removing your items from the work space means they are not working on the remodel. If you are not sure how to prepare for your remodel, reach out to your point of contact for guidance.
Allow access to the home
This seems to be a key item we need to discuss. When you are having your home remodeled, it is important your contractor has access to the home during regular business work hours. Some homeowners want to be home when the work is being completed. If you want to manage the schedule by dictating when the workers can start, stop, and what days they can work, I promise you your schedule will be compromised. Contractors will generally ask to have a lock-box with a special code allowing them to enter and exit your home while keeping the contents of your home safe. If you trusted your contractor to remodel your home, it is imperative you trust them to have access to it when you are not home. Not allowing access to the home during regular business hours is a key to keeping your project timeline on course.
Avoid micro-managing your project
Let me ask you this: When you take your car to the mechanic, what happens? You explain what is wrong, the mechanic takes a look, explains what the price will be and you leave until the work is complete. Right? The same is with your remodel. You have hired your contractor because he or she is the professional, trained specifically in construction and remodeling.
The construction process is complex. To the untrained eye, you may believe something is missing if you see an electrical wire hanging loosely or a baseboard that is unpainted when all the others are already painted. What you don’t see is the reason for why that part was left “unfinished”. If we can offer one of the biggest piece of advise it is – understand that the remodel is not complete until your contractor says it is complete. This means that if you see something you are concerned about – make note of it. If it is still a problem when your contractor says the work is complete, bring it up during your final walk through.
Every contractor should offer a final walk through before asking for a final payment. This is the time to bring up any unfinished work or any workmanship details that may concern you. This does not mean if you see an electrical outlet on the wrong wall that you do not bring it up. That is an obvious miss-step during the remodel and one that the contractor should by all means catch before you do.
If there was one thing we could say to help a homeowner help their contractor complete their job on time it is – be available! When your contractor calls you and needs you to make a decision, consider it a high priority. When it is time to do a job walk with your contractor, make sure you are available. It may be that the longer you delay the job walk, the longer the job sits because a decision needs to be made. When it is time to select your product, don’t wait for the weekend you are free – make the time to make it happen. Be available and be present (ie: avoid distractions) when meeting with your contractor.
Remodeling your home is a team effort. Once you have selected a contractor – you have essentially invited a new partner into your personal space for 3 weeks to a year, depending on the size of your project. Nurture the relationship. Communicate, be accessible, and be confident you have made the right choices from the moment you selected your team-mate.
Classic Home Improvements
Classic Home Improvements is a licensed general contracting company specializing in home remodels in San Diego, Ca and Temecula, Ca. This company offers design services as well as remodeling services. Their office is located in Escondido, Ca and has a kitchen and bath showroom which is available by appointment only to homeowners looking complete a kitchen remodel, bathroom remodel, or whole house remodel as well as home addition projects.