Mike Otto

Three ways to prevent your remodeling project from taking forever to complete

Often I run into people who tell me that remodeling projects seem to drag on forever. And ever. And even a little bit more.

My friend Terri lives in Chicago. She started a kitchen remodel in June 2011. It was supposed to be a two month project. As of November 2011, she still can’t use her kitchen. She and her partner are having to eat out every night – which is getting to be tiresome for a couple that loves to cook.

I was just talking with my friend Heather Nemer last Thursday. She was bemoaning the fact that her contractor, who was a friend of the family, was taking three weeks to get some in-stock carpet installed in her basement.

Stuff like that is enough to make you want to pull your hair out.


Why do projects get delayed and what you can do to keep your project from dragging out?

There are only three reasons projects get delayed:

1)      Poor upfront planning by the contractor.

2)      Unforeseen conditions.

3)      Changes by the home owner.

Let’s look at each one of these see what they sound like and learn what you can do.

Poor upfront planning by the contractor

Poor upfront planning by the contractor is one of the most common reasons for a project delay. I know this because every time I slip on the planning side of the project, my projects get delayed.

Poor upfront planning often sounds like this:

“We are ready for the electrician, but he can’t make it here for another week.”

“The tile we selected is out of stock and is on back order.”

“I keep calling my contractor but he never gets back to me.”

“I’m sorry, but we aren’t going to be able to get your job done on schedule. We’ve been delayed in some of our other jobs.”

How do you minimize poor upfront planning with your contractor?

The easiest way to minimize this problem is to get a written schedule for how the construction project will be done.  Some contractors are very detailed about what goes into the schedule; others are not quite as detailed. Lots of detail or a little detail, either way will work because it will give you a chance to see immediately what is going on from week to week. If you get to the end of a particular week, and the work is not done according to schedule, you are at risk for a delay. This is a good time to talk to your contractor about what is going on.

Unforeseen conditions

Most projects do have things that are hiding behind the walls or some other conditions that can’t be seen until the construction project starts. Unless your contractor did a poor job preparing for your project, or was lowballing you to get the work, these hidden items should be relatively small – but not always.

Unforeseen conditions often sound like this:

“We just took out the plaster and the insulation in your house and we discovered rot.”

“We just opened up your ceiling and noticed a plumbing problem.”

“It’s been raining all week and this has affected our schedule.”

If your contractor is keeping a written schedule for you, he or she should be able to tell you almost right away how many days or weeks the project might be delayed. Even though delays are undesirable, I have found that telling people that their project will be delayed as soon as I know is better than waiting till the end when you’ve gone past the original scheduled by a few weeks.

Changes by the homeowner

A homeowner who adds to the project and a contractor who is not upfront about the added time for the added work is the second most common reason for delays.

Changes by the homeowner sound a lot like this:

“I know we were thinking of laminate countertops, but we’d like to change to granite now.”

“We would like to do our bathroom as long as you are doing the kitchen.”

Homeowner changes happen quite often and are considered quite normal. The impact to the schedule can be minimized by an experienced contractor who asks a lot of questions during the design phase of the project. Most homeowners don’t have the expertise or experience to know what other work makes sense to do at the same time a particular remodel is being done. A good contractor does. Asking about these potential changes early on can help set price and schedule expectations.

When you decide to make some changes in the middle of the job, the contractor should update your schedule to show what impact these changes will have.

So, to sum this up, a written construction schedule can keep you and your contractor on track. A verbal, “Yeah, I think we can be done in 2 months” is not a schedule you should accept from your contractor.

Tell Us What You Think.

Mike Otto, Fair and Square Remodeling

2 responses to “Three ways to prevent your remodeling project from taking forever to complete”

  1. Feinmann
    January 24, 2012, 3:39 pm

    Issues are bound to arise but organization is key. It’s important to make sure that the client and the contractor are on the same page from the start. A written schedule with completion dates along the way for different parts of the project can help keep the contractor accountable.

  2. Mike Otto
    January 25, 2012, 11:28 am

    You are exactly right. Many homeowners and contractors are eager to start. No one wants to hear that often you have to go slow to go faster. If everyone is on the same page the project will get done faster and with fewer surprises

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