Your Renovation Project – Top Tips for Managing your Fear and Uncertainty
A renovation project, whether it’s a bathroom, kitchen or entire house, is complex, disruptive and can be filled with unknowns and uncertainty. Virtually all of our clients have never undertaken a renovation before. Since most renovations have a life cycle of 25 – 30 years, they may never undertake another again. It’s called a Low Frequency Transaction.
FEELING LOST? THE 3 BIGGEST RENOVATION PROJECT QUESTIONS
When we ask prospects what their biggest concerns or fears are, their responses consistently revolve around the following:
- How much will it cost? Translation = Can I afford it?
- How long will it take? Translation = How long will my life be disrupted?
- Can you fix it? Translation = Can I get/have what I want?
In short, their fears revolve around Budget, Schedule and Quality. We tell our clients, Pick Two.
The best way to manage your fears and concerns is to clearly document your design decisions before your project is priced and/or built. The more complete information you can provide your contractor, the more accurate their price and schedule will be. It is very helpful to have a contractor as part of your design team early on in the design process to help evaluate cost implications as your design is developed.
Finding your way: The answer(s) to your questions
Simply put, a floor plan is nothing more than lines on a piece of paper . . . Let’s dissect our bathroom renovation to better understand what I’m saying.
…until you give those lines meaning and intent.
It’s the same thing with elevations.
Without dimensions and notes describing materials, where those materials stop, start and transition from one to the other, your contractor will be making assumptions. Let’s hope his assumptions are the same as yours. In our experience, assumptions lead to surprises, cost increases, project schedule delays, frustration and disappointment. Sounds like fun, huh?
So, where and how do you begin? First, make ALL your design decisions, (and I mean ALL of them) as Sally and I describe in our previous post. Second, invest in a good, complete set of construction drawings, schedules and specifications. I know it means paying your designer more money, but it’s the best investment in the renovation you will ever make. Your pricing will be more accurate, with fewer allowances, (otherwise known as a contractor’s best guess). The construction schedule will be more defined. Your project will be completed with fewer delays and you won’t get tangled up in nearly as many change orders (Remember those allowances? They almost always go up . . . )
what’s in detailed Construction drawings, schedules and specs?
You should expect the following in a good set of Construction Drawings for your renovation project. (or any project for that matter)
- Demolition Plan: It tells the contractor what his crew is to remove and what is to remain, such as walls, switches, electrical outlets, lighting fixtures, etc. It should note items to be salvaged for reuse. (We salvaged the existing toilet and built in cabinetry for reuse.)
2. Construction Plan: Contains horizontal dimensions, keys the wall elevations and contains notes that clarify design intent. “Reference Schedules and Specs as required.”
3. Electrical Plan: Locates all electrical outlets with dimensions. Dedicated circuits and GFI outlets are noted. Reference Schedules and Specs as required.
4. Lighting Plan: Locates all light fixtures in ceiling and walls, with dimensions. Switches are located with dimensions. (I’ve seen them put right in the middle of a wall here a picture was to go.) Which fixtures are controlled by which switch are shown/noted. Special conditions are noted. Reference Schedules and Specs as required.
5. Finish Plan: Floor tile patterns, directions of wood plank, and transitions for one floor material to another are typically shown on this drawing. Depending on the complexity of the finishes on the ceilings, walls and floors, a Schedule of Finishes may be sufficient. We used the Finish Plan to show the tile installer exactly where he should begin laying out the floor tile. We noted the scope of paint on the elevations, because the paint finish is different on the wainscot and wood trim than it is on the walls.
6. Elevations: First, elevations show the finished appearance of a wall and provide vertical height dimensions. It’s where the fussy little things like, “Will a switch or outlet really fit right there?” are worked out and shown. In bathrooms, the vanity, towel bars, etc. are noted. In our case, we also called out the height of the wainscot.
7. Second, they show the extent of various materials on a wall, enabling the contractor to calculate the square footage of a given material. In this elevation it would be the marble slab, wainscot and paint.
8. Third, they allow a designer to study and detail transitions from one material to another, document special conditions and track a profile around a room to be sure it starts, stops and/or transitions as intended. For example, in the two elevations shown below, I knew I wanted the wood trim at the top of the wainscot to terminate in a very particular way. I call attention to that by drawing circle around the termination and I direct the contractor to a very specific set of details that clearly show my intent. The detail keys 4/A.2 and 5/A.2 tell the contractor where to look in the drawing set for additional information.
9. Details show precisely how a designer intends for materials to come together, finish profiles, and in general, anything that cannot be clearly communicated on the plans and elevations. I have shown the full scale details below, which were on Sheet A.2.
The contents of your drawings communicate your design intent to whomever is pricing the project.
This is what the drawings for our 6′ x 10′ bathroom looked like.
Complimenting the Construction Drawings for your renovation project are Schedules and Specifications. These documents focus on products, materials and installation techniques. Depending upon the complexity of the renovation project, Schedules and Specifications may be prepared for Plumbing Fixtures, Lighting Fixtures, Hardware, Doors, and Finishes. A Schedule includes information on a per item basis, including room name, item description, manufacturer, item name, item number, size, finish and notes. Each individual line is a specification. For our small bath, we prepared a Plumbing Schedule for the DXV and American Standard products. We always include cut sheets and installation information with our Schedules and Specifications.
Our Plumbing Schedule:
Sample Cut Sheet:
Along with our drawings, we provided our contractor, Premier Builders, with a notebook containing the Plumbing Schedule and Specs, as well as cut sheets for the lighting, exhaust fan, mirror with integrated LED lighting, marble slabs for the tub surround, wainscot and wood trim, floor tile, etc. WE HAD A SITE VISIT THAT INCLUDED THE CONTRACTOR AND ALL HIS SUBS SO THEY COULD SEE ALL THE EXISTING CONDITIONS THAT MIGHT AFFECT THEIR PRICING AND REVIEWED THE ENTIRE PACKAGE WITH THEM!
By having your designer prepare a detailed set of construction drawings, schedules and specifications, you leave nothing to chance. This set of documents also allows you to see where the holes are and what’s missing, giving you the opportunity to fill those holes and make those unmade decisions before the project is priced. YOUR CONTRACTOR CAN PROVIDE YOU WITH MORE ACCURATE PRICING AND THERE WILL BE FEWER ALLOWANCES IN HIS PRICE. Translation? Fewer change orders and fewer surprises.
Feeling a bit better about undertaking your renovation project? I hope so.
Having said that, I’ll now talk out of the other side of my mouth. Remember my earlier comment about X-ray vision? While you’ve minimized your risk by controlling the things you can control, no one knows what’s behind those walls, the floor and ceiling until they are opened up. THERE WILL BE SURPRISES. That’s what your 20% contingency in your construction budget is for. But, surprises and contingencies are for another day and another post. Stay tuned.
Renovation Project takeaways
- Make informed decisions and document them.
- The more decisions and information you have, the more accurate the pricing is going to be.
- Document those decisions with a set of Construction Documents, Schedules and Specifications.
- A detailed set of Construction Documents, Schedules and Specifications will allow your contractor to give you much more accurate pricing.
- A detailed set of Construction Documents, Schedules and Specifications will allow your contractor to give you a much more accurate construction schedule.
- A detailed set of Construction Documents, Schedules and Specifications will allow your contractor to complete your renovation project at the level of quality you expect and the look you desire.
- A detailed set of Construction Documents, Schedules and Specifications will translate into fewer change orders during construction and delays in the construction schedule.
- A detailed set of Construction Documents, Schedules and Specifications will enable you to control the things you can control.
- A detailed set of Construction Documents, Schedules and Specifications helps you minimize your risk.
Feel better about undertaking your renovation project? I hope so. If not, give us a call. The House Doctors are in.
If Sally and I can help you with any aspect of the design of your home, please don’t hesitate to contact us via the contact form on our website, here:
Or, if you’re not sure if you need to hire an interior designer, please give us a call. We’d be happy to chat.
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