Without thoughtful and deliberate project management, your remodeling projects can quickly go from boom to bust. The larger and longer your projects are, the bigger role project management plays.
Project management can be viewed as having four broad components: planning, communication, execution and monitoring.
Needless to say, the execution component is the one in which most remodelers are familiar and would like to jump into right away; however, without addressing the other components, the project can quickly turn into a disaster. For this article, we will only address planning and communication at a high level.
Many remodelers will systemize multiple aspects of planning. Planning consists of more than just getting the project plans completed. Ideally the project manager would be brought into the project early to understand the client’s needs and objectives for the project. The plans need to be reviewed to understand what exactly needs to be removed and built. Part of the review should be to evaluate the likelihood of encountering surprises during the build. Is there a possibility of hidden ductwork, water damage or an unnoticed load-bearing wall?
At some point in the planning phase, you will need to complete takeoffs and develop a build schedule. During this part of planning, you will need to determine any long-lead items such as cabinets or fixtures that necessitate being ordered in advance. Get those front-loaded onto your schedule. Look for critical tasks or choke points in your schedule; these are tasks that need to be completed or the project will be at a standstill. Examples could be inspections, plumbing, rough-in or electrical installation, or the arrival of a central component such as cabinets.
Also part of planning should be a site inspection. This can be conducted as part of your preconstruction conference with the client. This conference will confirm a lot of your planning work and will also start an open dialogue with the client. It is best to have a systematic approach to this site visit to ensure you cover all of your bases at each meeting. Some tasks you may want to accomplish include:
- Confirm the project plans and contract with the client.
- Walk the project area and answer any questions you may have from your plan review.
- Verify your demo plans with the client to ensure they do not want to keep an item you had planned on sending to the dumpster.
- Verify with the client the production plan, including start and stop times of construction.
The remainder of the preconstruction conference really has to do with the communication component of project management.
Communication is one of the most important aspects of a project. An effective communication plan includes not only the client but also your employees, trade contractors, vendors and building inspectors. For our purposes, we will only address the client component, as the others are normally well established and only change with people or companies.
The preconstruction conference is a perfect time to work out the communication details with your client. Here are some points to address to ensure there is clarity:
- Determine the client’s preferred communication method. This could be email, text or phone. You could also establish a backup path as well. Many companies today use an integrated solution that provides client communication tools as part of the package. If you are using such a tool, educate the client and walk them through the system.
- Determine the client’s jobsite contact person and what time that person will typically be at the site. If construction is to take place while the clients still inhabit the house, determine when they will be present.
- Determine the primary decision maker if different than the day-to-day contact person. It is important to have an understanding of how the client will address issues that come up during the remodel.
- Address how change orders are issued and their effects. Explain to the customer that change orders can cause delays in the project and can be quite expensive for you and them. Determine if they know of any desired additions to the project. If such additions are brought up at the preconstruction conference, they can be priced according to normal policy and a change order can be written; if any changes come up later, the price will include an administrative charge above the price of the work. Explain that the client is not to negotiate with the trades for additional work, as it may affect the project’s schedule and associated warranties.
Project management can be a very complex and demanding skill—this article only broached its surface. Certified Remodeler and Certified Remodeling Project Manager explore the topic in much greater depth.
Take the NARI Recertification quiz for this article here.