Tracking home improvement projects can be a risky adventure if you are not managing the details of the project process and the budgets throughout the improvement process. These details include the items necessary for the project, the labor if any for the project, and time and when certain items need to be procured. Managing budgets as the project goes through its process is necessary to insure that enough funds are available to complete the project. The last thing anyone wants is a half completed project in a home which occurs more often than you might think.
Home improvement projects generally have five phases. Each phase can guide you to the next phase and help you better prioritize your home’s and your family’s needs. By following a project management methodology for your home improvement projects, you are more likely to have awareness of the specifics about your project or projects and to follow the details needed to complete the project. Here are the five phases.
Managing Your Project Ideas and Concepts
When determining what you need and want done to your home in the form of projects, it is time to get them all in a wish list. Some projects might be fix it projects like updating a roof or replacing a hot water heater. While other projects are design or renovation projects that either require cosmetic updates or complete demolition and construction of a room or location in your home. When it comes to our homes, many of these projects feel like a priority but discussing what needs to be completed and the desire of the projects will help identify project priorities.
Maintenance or fix projects oftentimes become a first priority in that it affects a way of life. A broken hot water heater results in cold showers. Or a non-working heating and air conditioning unit can result in very cold winters and very hot summers. These projects are not the end of the world, but may find themselves in your priority list due to your lifestyle.
When it comes to decorating, design or updating your projects, determining your style or theme of what you want your home or a particular room to be like is important. You style will lead you in considering the materials and finishes you want to incorporate into the design of your projects. This is important as some materials may be more expensive than others but there may be a comparable material on the market that will still fit your needs but may fit into your budget more effectively.
In determining style, you will need to also gain a clear understanding of your spatial layout in your home or room. Having an understanding of your existing room or area sizes or understanding your room sizes for future additions is important to spatial layout. You can love all the products you want, but if they do not fit in your room than you will find it difficult to incorporate them in your design. Make sure your measurements are accurate for the space and the items that will be incorporated into the space.
Once the wish list process is underway, the number of projects that all the parties want in a home start increasing and the need to prioritize when each project will be started and then completed is a conversation for everyone involved. This can also help with managing expectations over a period of time. Managing projects over one year or over multiple years still becomes important to make sure visibility is transparent and the projects are moving smoothly. By managing multiple projects over time, all the parties involved can agree on when a specific project will be completed and when. Keep in mind weather conditions can help you design your project schedules. Conducting landscaping projects in winter where it snows might not be a wise use of time or dollars.
Following the Money
Once you have identified your projects, it is time to gather the data about the costs of these projects. Simple research can be done to find estimates of projects both from a parts and materials component and also a labor component. This research can be gathered online, while out shopping, talking to friends and even interviewing contractors or product manufacturers. Gathering this data about your projects will help you identify what budget requirements are needed for these projects and how to prioritize them against one another but also against the other items in your life like vacations, cars, education and more. This process also gives you an opportunity to start understanding the basic details of project expenses. This phase is your first opportunity to understand the finances and the time it takes to complete a project.
DIY or Contractor Hired
Understanding your capabilities and whether or not you have the time and the experience to conduct your projects or you need to hire them out will help you also identify the budget requirements for your projects. Hiring contractors to perform the work will result in a labor costs that you may not have been aware of and need to now budget. Labor costs can vary depending on the project and the crew that will come in and finalize your project.
This process may also include hiring a designer. If you struggle with understanding how to make a home truly yours or are looking to create a specific look, then hiring an interior designer can help you move the process along and also help you find exactly what you want as these individuals have connections with a lot of vendors and suppliers that could help with the design and feel of the room. An interior designer’s fees will need to be incorporated into your project budget. Interior designers can also help with recommending and/or hiring contractors. This community generally has a number of parties that work together and are familiar with each other’s style and communication methods.
An interior designer or a contractor can help with the overall project management process of the project, which could result in increased fees but if this burden is too heavy for you, this could be a great compromise. You will however need to make final decisions on the overall project process.
When hiring contractors, interview multiple ones for the job and also ask for customer references. Once you understand that the contractors have the right skill, previous experience, and you feel like you have a contract that supports both you and the contractor, then you are in a position to start the hiring process. It is important to stay involved in the process and to establish a communication methodology to keep the project on time. Both contractors and owners can slow the process down by not making decisions quickly.
Labor costs can also change should an unexpected situation arise. Sometimes delays can occur due to permits or unexpected weather conditions can delay a project, among other things. Having a fall back position in your mind or in your budgeting process of extra labor costs can help you manage through any of these unexpected situations and keep you on top of potentially increased labor costs.
It is important and best that if you do not have the time nor the skills to perform the specific project, hire the right contractor to help you get the project completed. Nothing is worse than doing a project that you are not equipped to perform and then having to redo it thus spending double or more the money due to someone needing to come in and fix the initial project.
Always keep in mind your safety if you choose to do these projects yourself. Not having the skills to perform a contact can result in safety issues that could result in more challenging situations long term.
Shopping for Project Details
Now that you know which projects are in your near future, it is time to start shopping for the specific items necessary for your project. Homeowners will often remember the large items like appliances, large furniture, cabinets, countertops, and more in a project but forget the smaller items like garbage disposals, faucets, towel racks, etc..
Understanding the features, costs and specific details of each item is important during the project lifecycle. What you want versus what you can afford is a struggle we all face with our home projects. Should you spend more money on appliances and less on flooring and countertops? If you buy the high end bath tub you really want, can you save money elsewhere on the project and still be within your budget? These types of questions are ones that many people struggle with in seeing various aspects of the big picture.
Tracking Project Costs
The phases of a home improvement project allow homeowners the ability to understand how to manage individual cost budgets for projects and help keep you aware of any changes that might occur during a project. Tracking costs of multiple projects also help track the funds and cash flow needed over a specified period of time.
By tracking the project details including receipts, warranties, and photos of before and after will come in handy during tax time of the year if you decide to sell your home. These project details also come in handy when you need to update your home inventory and details with your homeowner’s insurance agent. Making sure you are properly insured when new projects are updated can insure that you are aware of your home’s details should anything unexpected happen like a fire or some other tragic situation.
Once your project is complete, It is also time to schedule the maintenance on your newly updated parts of your home. Appliances require regular maintenance where you will follow the recommended maintenance instructions from the manufacturer’s owners manual. Other items like countertops might also have suggested maintenance depending on the materials. Follow the recommended maintenance activities for these items by referencing sources that focus on these items. Determining if you need a service provider to come into your home occasionally can also help with the process of staying on top of your maintenance.
The most common reasons a project is over budget is poor planning, no budget or estimates, no comparison shopping, bad contractor contract, and not pitching in on labor.
Following these phases of the home improvement process can help you stay aware of your projects that include the details, the schedule and the budgets. Focusing on a process can also help identify if any unexpected changes need to be made to your projects that could result in increased dollars needed to complete the project. Following these simple steps can bring awareness and visibility to home improvements along the way avoiding any potential risk of an incomplete project.