Home Renovations and Project Managers - An Essential Relationship

by Scott Sowers

Thinking about renovating your kitchen, converting an attic for a home office, or in need of a home addition for a master suite or family room? If so, we have some advice about why having an active project management component integrated into the fabric of the design and renovation process is essential to the success of your home renovation project.

There are several approaches you can take to get started on a home renovation project. They differ primarily in the way the renovation process is structured and how the design and renovation team is organized around the process.

FLOOR PLAN Washington DC family room addition This floor plan is a Washington DC family room addition

Three Approaches to Home Renovation & Project Management

The first way is to hire an architect to develop design concepts and create a set of construction drawings needed to price the job. That done, the architect may help you solicit bids from builders. Once a builder is chosen, the architect hands off the project to the builder and you part ways. Or the architect may continue on as construction manager. In this optional scenario, the architect continues in a leadership role checking job progress periodically while letting the builder’s lead carpenter run the job on a day-to-day basis.

The potential downside of this approach--known as "architect-bid-build"--is there is no guarantee that conversations between builder and client or architect and client will be accurately transmitted up the chain of command promptly.

The second way is to directly hire a general contractor (GC), who will estimate the cost of the job based on construction drawings provided by an architect. In this case, you will be dealing with the GC or a lead carpenter on a regular basis as they play the role of project manager.

The potential downside of this approach is that general contractors tend to focus on “getting the job done”--which makes the approach somewhat rigid, with little room for variation. Also, standards for project management and client communication vary widely depending on the general contractor you’ve chosen to work with.

The third way is to hire a design-build firm that has architects, designers, lead carpenters, and project managers all on staff. The advantage of this method is that all the renovation team members work from the same playbook. Project management is built into the system and influences the work of specialists in each of the core areas: architectural design, interior design, construction, and construction administration.

In this streamlined approach, communication between the different departments is ongoing--leaving less room for errors and omissions. A design-build approach to renovation and project management is flexible and responsive to the needs of the client as well as the requirements of the project.

John Lowe, Project Manager"My job is to make sure everything runs smoothly," said John Lowe, Project Manager.

John Lowe and Patrick Curtis are project managers at Gilday Renovations, and often the first point of contact for new clients.

"I work directly with one of the firm principals and my lead carpenters to help oversee my projects," says Lowe. 

Initial client consultations lead to the formation of a design drawing that lays out the necessary parameters for the project. The design plan develops into a construction proposal and eventually a set of construction drawings created by the design team. Once the plans are complete, priced, and approved, Lowe, reviews the project and begins his visits to the job site to manage the cycles of demolition and construction.

"The project manager's role is to manage all the details on the job while making sure the design is being realized," said Tina Keppler, Architectural Designer.

Home Renovation Success is Built on Rigorous Project Management

Making sure the design gets realized means keeping track of lots of details and making effective decisions:

  • Materials must be ordered and available on the job site when needed.
  • Homeowners must finalize selections for windows, cabinets, lighting fixtures, sinks, faucets, paint colors, tubs, toilets, and kitchen appliances.
  • Design or construction issues must be analyzed by the renovation team, explained to the homeowner, and resolved without delay.

The project manager works with the designers and onsite carpenter foreman to get those decisions made efficiently, so things move forward on schedule.

"Somebody has to look at the big picture regarding layout and design issues--and somebody has to be double checking the plans as we go," said John Lowe.

In addition to reviewing the plans, the project manager assists the lead carpenters with the critical task of scheduling sub-contractors in the correct sequence. The delicate dance of carpenters, plumbers, HVAC technicians, electricians, and painters must happen in a coordinated, organized, logical fashion to move the job towards completion and minimize disruption of the homeowner's daily life.

"The lead carpenters typically run the jobs on a day-to-day basis," says Lowe, "the project manager signs-off on the subs completing their tasks while also providing the customers with good communication, they have the project manager's direct cell number so we can always give them direct answers," he added. 

 

Chevy-Chase-MD Porch-Addition

This plan is a porch addition in Chevy Chase MD

The Team Approach to Project Management

To keep everybody in the loop, the project manager typically schedules update meetings with the homeowners on a regular basis.

"It depends on the client," says Lowe, "some of our clients want to meet every week." 

To close the loop, Lowe also remains in contact with the design team back at the office.

"We usually have weekly meetings," says architectural designer Tina Keppler, "and our offices are across the hall from the project managers, in case we need to talk to them quickly." 

If you don't have a good project manager on the job, communications won't get relayed, mistakes can be made, and time lost. We always tell our customers, if you're feeling anxious about something, don't try to be a good sport about it, raise the issue so we can address it promptly.

Everybody agrees that having an attentive project manager on the team increases the chances of a successful renovation and makes things easier for everyone.

"Having a project manager in the loop makes a huge difference with keeping things on a schedule while dealing with multiple tradespeople," says Keppler, "the project manager helps it all fit together like a puzzle and puts the homeowner's minds at ease."

If you’d like to find out more about how a team approach to project management will make your renovation experience seamless and, dare we say enjoyable, then please download our eBook: HOW GILDAY RENOVATIONS INTEGRATED TEAM DELIVERS THE HOME OF YOUR DREAMS.

Gilday Renovations Integrated Team Delivers Home of Dreams