managing projects

Managing Home Improvement Projects

To celebrate the last day of National Home Remodeling month, we’re shedding some light on hiring home improvement teams. We want to help homeowners get a clear picture of their options when it comes to managing more complicated home remodels, designs and renovations. If your next big project involves more than one professional, you may want to consider hiring someone to manage your team.

When it comes to team management, you have three basic options: a general contractor, a construction manager or a DIY approach, acting as your own team manager.

Construction Manager

A construction manager can come in many forms: an architect, designer or organizer are all examples of professionals that can act as a construction manager. A manager is different than a general contractor in many ways, most of which place more control in the hands of the homeowner. For example, with a manager, you are likely to choose each of the individual professionals that will work on your project. Once you’ve chosen them, the manager will step in to coordinate schedules, paperwork, permits, estimates and any other planning issues.

Green Expert Tanya Stock points out,

“That individual can answer questions, provide guidance and support as well as assist in finding the ‘team’ the homeowner will need.”

Managers typically charge by percentage of the total project cost, which is definitely more expensive than managing a project on your own, but less than most general contractors. The downside to managers is that they don’t accept responsibility for the actions of each individual professional. So, if a painter accidentally uses the wrong color, it’s up to you to make correction arrangements with the painter. This equates to more involvement, but more responsibility and possibly more headaches.

DIY

Being your own project manager is easily the cheapest option, when you consider only final cost. But you should also consider the value of your time. For the uninitiated, hiring, organizing and overseeing several professionals is a daunting and time-consuming process. You are also completely responsible for any oversights between projects that arise from bad communication between professionals or incomplete planning.

Artist and designer Pablo Solomon cautions,

“Be certain that you understand the proper sequence in which to do things and the building permits and inspections that are necessary for each step. There are some great books available on how to be your own general contractor–some even have sample contracts and other forms you will need.”

For simple projects that only require one or two professionals, managing a project on your own can be feasible. For remodels that require more complex installations and more than two professionals, it’s probably best to seek some outside support.

General contractors represent the most hands-off approach to home remodel projects. You meet with a contractor to discuss your project goals and then they select and hire a group of sub-contractors who do the actual work. A general contractor takes the estimates of each sub-contractor, adds on a percentage, and then gives you a total estimate for the project. Because of this added percentage, general contractors may be more expensive than a construction manager.

Sam Lazarus of ServiceMaster by Best recommends,

“When there are multiple contractors, in my opinion, it is wise to have a GC over see the project. This does increase the overall cost, but can simplify the process.”

The upside of a general contractor is that it requires the smallest time commitment and accountability for you. If any problems should arise with the project, the general contractor is responsible for fixing them. In short, by hiring a general contractor you have better assurance that the project will be completed in full, on budget and on time.

Considerations

No matter whom you hire to work on your next home improvement project, remember to use good hiring practices. Get several estimates, check references and look for people with good communication skills. The more care you take in choosing your professionals, the more likely you are to be satisfied with the final results.