Our home renovation has been an adventure. It being my first project of this scale and i am not a professional contractor, and I don’t this kind of work every day, I have made several discoveries, (read mistakes.) Here are a few that will make your life easier and hopefully your project more successful:
1. Be realistic about what you are capable of doing. Hubris has always been my enemy in life. Most of my mistakes in life have begun with “Well… If he can do it…”
2. Plan, plan, plan! I cannot say this enough. You must fight the urge to just “get started.” I can build a Data center on the fly but that is because I do it all of the time. You cannot renovate a home as a game day decision. Everything always looks straight forward, at first. It is often not the case. Example: One mistake I made during demolition was that I missed a step and ended up needing 3 dumpsters instead of one.
A plan has several functions:
a. Keeping track of you work.
b. Managing your resources(time, material, labor)
c. Keeping you on target.
3. Calculate your real labor time. I calculated my time line like I was at work, (an 8 hour day.) I neglected to consider that I am only working approximately 16 hours per week, (weekends only.) As the project went on noticed I was getting further and further behind. I re-ran the arithmetic and found out why. Unless you are lucky enough to stop everything else and work solely on the renovation, the real labor time should be calculated based upon what your current schedule allows, not more.
4. Be flexible with your plan. Unforeseen things do come up. They will often adjust your time line or budget. I have always had the habit of tasking my plan and treating it like it was the word of God. This can also make life difficult for you. I had to accept that the sometimes my ideas are just wrong.
5. Manage your work force. I have had a problem with this. People that work for free or for Burger Meister and a beers, are a workforce that is giving you their spare time out of the kindness of their hearts. You must be ever cognizant of that fact. So you cannot work them like employees. You also cannot expect them to work with the same fervor as you do. (this leads back to that whole flexibility thing) Most importantly thank them often, and don’t make empty promises. If you promise them food, deliver. If you promise them a BBQ once the house is done, you’re gonna have to do that to.
6. Watch your contractors. This is not to imply that contractors are crooks or malevolent. In my experience the vast majority of them are honest. It does them no good to do shoddy work or overcharge you. A good portion of their business is referrals, so you are their best advertisement. Questions always come up, and you must be present to make sure that they are not only doing what you’ve asked, but that you understand why they are doing what they are doing. One blogger wrote. “Make sure to make explicit anything important to you” Cannot stress this enough, if you get a contractor you need to be there.
7. Manage your time. I am dreadful at this. I try to accomplish too much in one day and it always leads to disappointment. What I have learned to do is to pick one project to complete for that day. This allows you to see real progress and have that feeling of accomplishment at the end of the day.
8. Stop the project when you are done, not when you get bored . It is very easy to get overwhelmed and want to work on everything all at once. This tends to come from looking around and seeing a million projects that all need attention. Resist the temptation. All that it results in is a stack of projects that all need attention, and all of them are ½ done because did not finish them when you were there last time. You never want to go back things that you thought were done. I will be the most frustrated thing you will do to yourself. Finish the job then move on.
9. Do some research. I can not tell you how many times I could have saved time and my money if I would have just taken the time to look for a better way. The Library and the web are great places to start.
10. Ask for help! You don’t know it all, you can’t. There is no shame or harm in asking a professional for advice or information. In many cases they are pleased to have been asked and are more than willing to answer. Don’t worry about getting a sales pitch, most of the time if you are earnest and up front with them, they’re willing to send you in the right direction.