By Doug Hanna

From early in our career, we knew that our clients were concerned with three basic issues: quality, cost and schedule. Back then, we assumed that the priority was in that order, with cost occasionally being number one. We sometimes struggled to deliver all three consistently and believed that you may need to compromise and choose only two of the three. If you wanted high quality, then either cost or schedule would suffer. Likewise, if you needed an expedited schedule, then there was the possibility that quality or cost could be affected. However, through the years we have learned that if you build an estimate - and ultimately a project first around a schedule, the other two factors are much more likely to be achievable as well.

From decades of experience, we know how long each aspect of a project will take-and how they interconnect and affect each other. A well-thought-out schedule enables an orderly and predictable completion process, informs the budget, and predicts the necessary time to produce a high-quality job.

A typical residential construction project is broken down into Architectural Divisions and depending on the nature of the job, there can be between 17 and 20 different divisions. These include items such as Site work, Demolition, Rough Carpentry, Finish Carpentry, Finishes, Plumbing, etc. (within these divisions are multiple sub-categories of tasks.) Throughout these different sections of a job, often done by different tradespeople, there runs the most important line called the critical path. The critical path shows which portions of the project must be completed in order for the rest of the job to proceed. Not everything is on the critical path. For instance, interior painting can sometimes proceed before all finish carpentry is done, if rooms are isolated. On the other hand, inspections and insulation are on the critical path to drywall and plaster. The latter cannot be installed until the former is complete.

Knowing how long different phases of the job typically take to complete allows estimators to first construct a rough schedule which informs them on the labor costs involved. Having a refined schedule at the start of the job gives the company employees, from laborers to project managers, manageable goals for the day, week and month. This applies to subcontractors and suppliers as well. Each team member is able to anticipate and plan for when deliverables are due and provide a road map to confirm whether the project is on time. 

Of course, not everything always goes as planned, especially in renovation work. Hidden conditions can affect price and schedule, but having a written and graphic schedule to refer to incentivizes team members to do their best to keep the organization, planning and execution at a high level.