By Doug Hanna
One of the most common questions we get from owners, just after how much a project is going to cost, is “how long it will take?”. People who have experienced a renovation project before usually have a somewhat realistic idea of the schedule. We often say that were it not for permits and inspections, we might be able to shave months off a particular job. But the fact is that we, along with all of our above-board competitors, adhere to the requirements of municipal agencies and go by the book. This process has increased the length of projects more and moreover the years. Not only does procuring a permit take longer, but once we have the permit, new types of inspections are required, depending on the town (such as screw pattern inspections in drywall… right Somerville ?).
Renovation schedules can be generally predicted, based on the anticipated size and complexity of a project, but the nature of renovating buildings, especially old buildings, can lead to unexpected delays. Unanticipated repairs, or intentional increases in scope by the owner, have a direct and usually proportional effect on the schedule, not to mention the budget. Renovation shows on HGTV can give the impression, through time-lapse photography and severe editing, that a kitchen renovation can be performed in about an hour, or maybe a week. The truth is that a high-quality kitchen renovation, especially one that involves changing the layout, creating new openings, etc., usually takes anywhere from two to four months, and perhaps more, depending on a number of factors. Potential long lead time items, such as custom cabinetry, tile, and imported fixtures can have a significant effect on the timeline. Of course, when a singular project, like a kitchen, is wrapped up into a whole-house renovation, the procurement of custom components becomes less of a scheduling issue. Informed design and doing the homework of the decision-making ahead of time (and sticking to it), certainly helps keep things more predictable.
There are ways to speed up particular aspects of a job, and perhaps the overall project. Throwing more labor into the mix can help, up to a point. If people are in each other’s way, it can lead to inefficiency and increased costs. Sometimes owners are OK with that in the interest of schedule, but not usually. Ordering long lead-time items ahead of time can also shorten the schedule, but care needs to be taken that the items, such as cabinetry, are measured correctly for the space before production begins. This is something that most builders and cabinetmakers traditionally prefer happens after the rough carpentry is completed, in order to avoid mistakes.
Lastly, it’s not always best to tie your schedule to the project schedule: OK, we know that you are having twins in January, but the job only started in November, and it has a March 1st end date. You also want to add a half bath and we discovered termites in the main carrying beam between the kitchen and the dining room. Unless you can delay delivery, it’s best to make plans to live elsewhere until that time or put the project off until it is more manageable.
Managing and informing your expectations upfront, about schedule and budget, is the job of a good contractor and makes for a successful project.