Why Project Management Is Not a DIY Job

Substantial home renovation projects come with equally substantial price tags — think new kitchens and bathrooms, updated energy and heating systems, whole home renovations, and the like. These are complex undertakings that involve big-ticket components and cut across many disciplines, including local permitting agencies, the EPA, engineers, a long list of contractors, vendors, suppliers, and specialists. Important details need to be coordinated, planned, and managed. Risks need to be anticipated and avoided. When problems arise, quick solutions need to be found so the project keeps moving along, avoiding time and cost overages.

So who is the right person to manage the details for a project of this scale? In some cases, contractors allow the carpenter or whichever sub is on site on any given day to try to manage your project between their daily tasks. In other cases, the homeowners attempt to handle the job themselves. In our opinion — based on decades of experience — project management needs to be handled by a dedicated project manager (PM) who has experience matching the type and scale of your project. As we’ve seen time and time again, a PM with little or no experience leads to frustration, headaches, or even project failure. Even those who might be experienced with new construction, commercial construction, or tract house construction are not suited to manage a residential renovation for an older home. These are all totally different disciplines with different project goals, complexity, design standards, and quality levels.

A professional and competent PM will handle all of the following vital jobs, and more:

  • Use proven processes and systems to create a tactical plan and construction schedule for building what is in your design drawings.
  • Ensure the subs are on site according to those plans, barring unforeseen events like weather, late decision-making, project scope changes, or illness.
  • Utilize intuition, experience, and knowledge to identify potential risks, pitfalls, and common issues that arise and get them fixed before they become big, costly problems. Generally speaking, the higher the price tag, the more complex the list of products and materials to be managed — and a mis-ordered or damaged item can take 6-12 weeks to replace!
  • Keep employees, subs, and even clients motivated.
  • Set the tone for the work site and direct everyone regarding safety, cleanliness, and orderliness.
  • Approve pay for subs when the work is correct, complete, and inspected (if required).
  • Keep stakeholders updated on progress, problems, and changes.
  • Proactively manage the many risks of a project so clients don’t have to.

When done properly, professional project management goes unnoticed by the homeowner because the project runs smoothly, stress levels are low, and everything feels easy. It’s when project management is absent or mishandled that it becomes a very obvious and vexing problem. Investing your money well in the services of a seasoned pro will pay dividends both now and throughout the life of your beautifully finished project.

Different Customers, Different Outcomes: The Value of a Streamlined Process

We recently received a phone call from a returning prospective client who had contacted us several months ago about doing a large kitchen/home remodel for her. At that time, we met with this homeowner and explained our process, presenting her with an example of our project book. This is a crucial tool we create for every home renovation project we undertake. It’s kind of the “bible” of the project, as it contains every drawing, specification, permits, and all of the product information necessary to complete the job. During the time since we last spoke to her, the homeowner had explored doing the same project with a home builder who had turned to remodeling after new construction dried up. She found that the builder didn’t use anything like our project book, and the spaces he created were unstylish, builder-grade solutions. So, seeing the value in our approach and appreciating the results we achieve, our prospect came back to us. The project book stuck with her as a symbol of “something different” she would get with us.

On the flip side, we’ve also worked with a handful of clients over the years who do not understand the value of the process and systems we’ve created. At critical periods in our construction schedule, such clients have requested major, project-altering changes in the plans that they had previously approved. When we are beyond the design phase and deep in the throes of construction, it is important for clients to know that products have been purchased, plumbing and electricity have been run, and appliances and cabinetry are ready to be installed – and changes such as these are a very big deal indeed. Of course, we do our best to accommodate such requests, but the results are problematic all around: added expense, delayed completion dates, compromised warranties and so on.

These two very different scenarios highlight the importance of project planning and management systems and finding a contractor with whom you share trust and respect. The process requires a high level of mutual commitment, and that’s why it’s so very important to hire a reputable firm. To read more about this topic, see the Myers Constructs Buyer’s Guide.

Enjoy the holiday weekend,

The Myers Constructs Team

P.S. Spring is just around the corner. The time for planning those warm weather projects is now.

Working in Small Houses is Tough

When we come to work on your home, we will need a lot of space to stage materials and tools. Here are a couple of photos to show you what I mean;

This is just the set up for the electricians who are in the basement installing a new electrical panel and service in this 1200 sf city home.

On the second floor,

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