After the children left, it was the right time to downsize into a condo. The paint job that began as a simple painting project turned into a $150 per square foot apartment renovation, including appliances, lighting fixtures, flooring, soft furnishings, mirrors, and kitchen and plumbing fixtures. We faced a confirmed case of scope creep, common when renovating a property.
Our industry is forced to undergo hotel renovations to stay abreast of the ever-changing decor trends, requirements for star ratings, and technological advances. These renovations are stressful and frustrating. After completing dozens of large-scale renovations over the last four decades, these twelve tips helped me navigate the scope creep in my apartment.
- Define your goals. Ensure you are as specific as possible and that your group of owners has approved them. This time, my mistake was that my vision and my wife’s were very different. It led to severe time delays and cost overruns.
- The timetable is divided into thirds. Plan to spend one-third of your time planning, another third on the actual work, and the last third on quality control. Remember to value all of these segments.
- Budgets are never as good as they were when they were first created. Costs can go over budget in more ways than you can count. We were generous with our budgeting but ended up going about 25% over. This includes several areas where there could have been cost savings. Renovations are a great way to add new technology, such as LED conversions, security upgrades, and upholstery replacements. All of it adds up.
- What lies behind the walls of a building? There were no surprises because our condo was only 15 years old. We discovered significant issues with wiring, HVAC, and plumbing, which all had to be addressed before we began. These issues resulted, of course, in additional costs and delays. But the lesson is to inspect everything ‘under the bonnet’ before finalizing the scope and budget.
- Hire a great general contractor. You have to run a hotel, not a building site. Consider doing both at different times. It is essential to have someone manage the project for you. I saved time and streamlined communication by having the GC as my sole point of contact. He distributed all of my notes to the many tradespeople on site. He also reacted to issues and suggested possible solutions.
- Let everyone know your deadline. This is easy to do in a residential move; the date your home closes will determine the exact completion date. The GC was aware that the last month would be used for moving. The work was completed in the time frame set. As a senior manager, you decide the maximum amount of pain that can be tolerated before your property’s occupancy and reputation are irreparably damaged.
- You can’t just walk away. To keep things on track, I visited the site at least twice a month, along with a weekly GC Meeting. There were always unexpected problems and new items in addition to the regular status reports. You will know the devil in the details if your troops are on the ground. As an example, we didn’t specify the location of a thermostat. The HVAC people placed the thermostat in the position they thought would be optimal without considering the high headboard that would have covered it. It was good that I was present to see this before it became too late.
- Document any change orders. We kept track of the over-changes we requested. This did not result in any cost savings, but it helped us understand the reasons behind the overages. This method will be beneficial when explaining your budget situation or reconciling any excesses.
- Create a positive working environment. I am very particular about my coffee. My Italian, Portuguese, and Lebanese employees are also fussy about coffee. I knew one of my junior team members would be sent to Starbucks regularly if I didn’t provide good coffee. The Nespresso machine and capsules were an intelligent investment. The decaf capsules weren’t used.
- What-ifs can be expensive. Want to add a dimming device, move a light switch, or reposition one? The majority of GCs won’t say no. It is only a question of time and material. Be careful what you request because your fantasy idea could become a reality at a high price.
- Take many before pictures. Imagine the angles you liked and your position so you can recreate them with the new look. Comparing before and after photos can help you justify your cost overruns.