Ronnie Klein

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Construction Nightmare?

How do you make sure that renovating or building your dream home does not turn into a construction nightmare?

If a massive renovation or a new-home build is in your immediate future, how will you guarantee there’ll be no “if only we’d…” or “in hindsight, I wish we had…” recriminations once the project is well underway or ready for move-in?

When you’re undertaking a revolutionary project based on brand-new technology and new techniques, there may be surprises ahead. However, most of us are working within the range of the practical experience and tested expertise of the professionals hired to construct a dream home. This knowledge foundation makes anticipation the essential construction strategy for heading off expensive surprises:

• Anticipation in renovation involves starting with a thorough inspection of the existing structure, including evaluation by a structural engineer. An expert who knows the work of the original home builder could anticipate possible challenges or expenses with renovation. An experienced local contractor will have seen the problems typical of area homes: aluminum wiring, knob-and-tube wiring, cut joists, asbestos insulation, water damage, unstable foundations…. The resulting contingency budget will cover appropriate possible “surprises” like these.

Anticipation in new builds includes learning about past projects undertaken by the construction team, which may include an architect, interior designer, and a project manager along with the contractor team. Their combined ability to anticipate problems and opportunities will be visible in deadlines met, budgets held, design flow achieved, durability ensured, and very short “if only we’d…” lists from homeowners. The construction team’s track record will be reflected in your project, so choose wisely: what they did before, they’ll do again, good or bad. [end of bullet list]

Five Key Construction Myths undermine anticipation. Learn how to avoid them. Then, you and your construction team will be on the way to anticipating and achieving success for your dream home:

Myth #1: The biggest decision for you is deciding to go ahead with a renovation or a new build—after that it’s clear sailing. Homeowners are often overwhelmed by the range and number of decisions involved. Big decisions about foundation walls, window design, and type of heating/cooling system often pale beside the thousands of small and significant decisions that go into finishing every square inch of the interior. Which floor materials, which wall coverings, which light fixtures, which cabinetry, which kitchen hardware, which door hardware…. All of these elements and more must be integrated for overall functionality and that “look” you want. If these decisions are not made in advance or at least narrowed down, ordering and delivery dates may snarl up work schedules.

Myth #2: No one can accurately project how much it will all cost because there’ll be surprises along the way. Anticipating problems typical for the house type and construction plans will result in a realistic contingency budget to head off the unexpected need for additional financing. Commitment to a realistic overall budget and solid project management means that if expenses arise, savings will be found elsewhere to keep the project on track financially. Don’t underestimate the value of an excellent, experienced project manager.

Myth #3: No need to worry; things can always be changed. Often the biggest expense is change. Making changes on the go can also undermine timelines, budgets, design functionality, and relationships—yours and those with the construction crew. Invest time deciding, in advance, what will work and sourcing the best price. Changing one thing often sets off a string of changes, so stick to these decisions and save money and headaches. The smart way to get ahead here is hiring an interior designer who understands your priorities, requirements, and taste. They’ll develop an inspired, practical design that you can stick to with help from their stress-reducing professional troubleshooting. It’s not finding ideas or inspiration that’s the challenge—the internet and social media like Pinterest will swamp you with them. The key is deciding which ideas to adopt and then refining them to fit together—on budget, on time, in line with the skills of the construction team, and on-target for your goals. The architect, project manager, and/or interior designer (depending on the scope of your project) will help you anticipate and resolve these challenges. Where you’re overwhelmed, they have been through the construction maze many times before.

Myth #4: You can trust contractors and workers to do their jobs without the need for you to get involved. Striking a balance between interfering and being vigilant, so things happen as expected and to agreed standards, is essential. Miscommunication is as disruptive during a renovation or a new build as it is in any other setting. If you don’t keep an eye on what’s going on, walls can end up in the wrong place, wrongly ordered materials will be installed, finishing standards may be ignored, deadlines will be missed, and many other annoying and costly slips and errors may occur. During a personal friend’s renovation, he allowed the crew to install the kitchen according to detailed plans—without getting involved. Unfortunately, they managed to get everything in place except the pantry which disappeared— a source of continuing irritation for the family.

Myth #5: Big box stores are the only place to get things at good prices. It’s not just about paying less. Functionality and durability matter a lot for long-term enjoyment and ease of maintenance. A few years in the future, will you easily find parts for taps, door hardware, or other items with moving parts? If you go to the expense of creating a unique dwelling, does it make sense to exclusively use mass-market fixtures and finishes? Online shopping and buying local will reveal a wide range of clever options. For insight into the range of ideas, products, and issues involved in designing for a major renovation or a new build, check out resources like Metropolis Magazine, Interior Design Magazine,  and The Architect’s Newspaper.

Originally published on Realty Times.

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