It doesn’t matter if you’re a small contracting firm taking on your first big job, a landlord looking to make improvements to an investment property, or a homeowner hoping to revivify their living space with a remodel on a budget. That first big renovation project can seem a little intimidating. If you own the property, you will either have to live in it for years, or your livelihood will depend on your ability to make it as appealing as possible to prospective tenants. Furthermore, if you’re a nascent contracting firm trying to make a name for yourself, this job could make or break your reputation. In either event, you have a huge stake in making sure this is done right.

You want to do a great job, and delight the client. But at the same time, you know how risky it can be to over-promise and under-deliver. Whether this job dictates your future reputation and livelihood or the comfort and enjoyment you get from your home, there’s no such thing as being too prepared. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some things you’ll need to keep in mind for your first renovation project…

Ascertain clear goals and parameters for success

In a lot of ways, managing a renovation is just like managing every other business project. You need to start out with a clear vision and a set of goals. You’ll need to know exactly what a successful renovation looks like, and be able to communicate that clearly to anyone with whom you collaborate. If you’re managing your own renovation, you’ll need to communicate your goals and expectations clearly to contractors and suppliers to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Likewise, if you’re a contractor trying to make a big impression on a client, this is your opportunity to manage the client’s expectations. This is a crucial part of harmonious client relations in the construction industry.  Don’t fall into the trap of over-promising for the sake of making a great first impression. At best you will find that you have to make concessions for the client that eat into your profit margin. At worst, you will end up under-delivering and inadvertently dealing a PR black eye to your fledgling firm.

As important as it is to have a clear vision for what you (and all parties) want, it’s also very important to have a realistic understanding of the logistics and timescale you’ll be dealing with. Nobody benefits from vagaries when it comes to construction projects.

Master the fine art of budgeting

The next step to any big renovation is determining a realistic budget. While a renovation can add value to the property, this shouldn’t be an excuse to max out your lone of credit and spend indiscriminately. You need to ascertain your (or the clients) biggest priorities for the project and allocate funds and resources to them accordingly.

While your spending will depend on the current condition of the property and what needs to be accomplished, by the rule of thumb you should aim to spend between $100-$200 per square foot. However, your budget should also include a 10% margin of error to account for unforeseen circumstances and things going awry (which they almost certainly will).

If you (or your clients) watch a lot of property shows, budgeting may reveal a number of unpleasant surprises. The unfortunate truth is that property shows can be extremely misleading in their representation of the cost of remodelling. There is colossal variation in terms of how much you can expect to pay for renovations depending on your location and timeframe.

Again, managing expectations effectively is the key to a harmonious project.

Take the time to find a supplier you can trust

Whether you’re a contractor or a self-builder, your project will only ever be as good as the materials you use. Even a skilled contractor can only do so much with shoddy materials. This is why you need to take a long and honest look at your current supplier. Do they provide the kinds of materials which are of value to the client? Are they the kind of supplier upon which you can build your reputation? Do they have the international reach to get exotic materials like special glass, timber or tile from overseas? What assurances do they offer that materials will arrive on-site in good condition? A bad batch of supplies is more than just an inconvenience, it can result in lost time and productivity, adding to the length of the project and your budget.

Self-builders and contractors alike will look for the same things in a supplier. And if you run a construction firm, your client will likely want to scrutinize every element of your supply chain. In an age where ecological stewardship and sustainability are more important than ever to consumers, you should ally yourself with suppliers who have a strong ethical focus. Being able to offer renewable, sustainable and ethically sourced materials is an increasingly appealing USP for contractors and one that could see you build a strong reputation for caring construction.

Splurge-worthy items: The little flourishes that can make a big difference!

You want to make sure your client or tenant feels like they’re getting great value for money. And if you’re renovating your own home, you want to incorporate little touches that will wow guests. These are the splurge-worthy items that will help to lend the project its wow factor. However, they’ll need to be carefully enfolded into the budget. If it becomes a tight squeeze, you may need to think about distilling them down to one or two bold statement pieces and aiming for consistent quality elsewhere. Otherwise, you may have to make sacrifices that ultimately prove detrimental to the quality and integrity of the work.

Sure, we’re talking about the big statement pieces like that freestanding clawfoot bathtub, the statement lighting, the spiral staircases and the exquisitely decorated feature walls. But the little things can make a big difference too. The tiny touches, fixtures and fittings like a cupboard door handle, soffits and fascias and even the right manhole frame and cover can make a big difference. Often we notice the little things as much as the big statement pieces. And these little finishing touches are an inexpensive way to build added value into the renovation.

Make your site a pleasant workplace

Make your site a pleasant workplace. 

Managing a renovation project, wherever the scale and budget, can be a stressful experience. Everyone on-site will be cognizant of how much is at stake and the ramifications that are implied if something should go wrong. But if everyone is on tenterhooks, this kind of high-pressure working environment is rarely conducive to good craftsmanship. Indeed, it can give clients the impression that you’re out of your depth and panic, rather than committed to quality. As such, you should do all that you can to make your site an energetic, positive and happy place. Even little things like turning up to work every day with a smile, a positive attitude and a sense of genuine excitement and enthusiasm can instill positivity and energy in the client and the team alike.

Be prepared to provide reassurance and peace of mind

Even new construction firms will have a much clearer idea of what work-in-progress looks like than their clients. Indeed, there may come a time when the client looks around the site with a sense of undiluted panic. Not everyone can visualize what the project will look like upon completion, and not all clients are cognizant of how much needs to be torn down in order for the end product to start taking shape.

As such, you need to be able to operate with transparency, providing explanation and reassurance where needed. Answer any questions in a direct and unambiguous way, taking care to avoid using too much jargon yet also not skimping on the details. The more the client feels like they’re in the driving seat, the happier they’ll be with the process and the end result.

Use tracking tools to manage productivity

Whether you’re managing your own project, or you’re a construction firm handling the project for a client, every minute counts. As in any business, productivity is directly linked to profitability. And if members of your team aren’t as cognizant of the stakes as you, and don’t share your sense of urgency or perfectionism, you may find that productivity is lost.

Team members may waste time waiting around for plants or tools to become available. Resources can be poorly managed and team members may stall if they don’t have a clear idea of what they need to accomplish by the end of every day on-site. Thus, it’s a good idea to invest in project management software built around the specific needs of the construction industry. It can prevent wasted time and resources, and ensure that you get the most out of every day.

With the right planning, clear communication and a strong focus on your goals, that first renovation project stops being imposing and intimidating… and becomes much more exciting!