Don’t Fall for the Quick Renovation Trap
Renovation time lines

Don’t Fall for the Quick Renovation Trap

Renovations take a long time. Unless you’re doing minor work such as cosmetic upgrades, most renovation projects take at least a solid month and large ones can take half a year or more.

Understandably, long construction periods can be discouraging to would-be renovators. All of the home improvement TV shows prioritize speed – it seems disappointing and unfair when you learn your project will take all summer.

Take heart. After the dozens of renovations we’ve designed, we’ve seen firsthand the benefit of taking your time. And we’re here to warn you about the risks that go along with ambitious deadlines.

Risk #1: You don’t get to pick the best team.

Architects, interior designers, contractors, vendors, and installers. In the course of your renovation, you will work with a lot of professionals. You want to be able to choose your team based on their communication style, references, portfolio, fees, and capabilities. If you prioritize schedule above all else, you often eliminate the people who will satisfy your other, very important qualifications.

Worst case scenario, you hire someone who can take your project immediately (even though everyone else seems to be really busy) and they go out of business in the middle of your project. Or just stop taking your calls. Not to be too gloom-and-doom, but the fact remains that if you choose based on schedule alone, you may be overlooking other aspects of professionalism.[bra_divider height=’30’]

Risk #2: You build the wrong thing.

Even for small projects, we think it always helps to talk to a designer or architect (which, yes, does take some time). Unless you are 100% satisfied with the size, function, and layout of your space, you could stand to benefit from consulting with a designer. If you don’t have the funds to pay the 10% fee, ask if you can pay hourly for them to come see the space and talk through some issues. This takes a little longer than pushing forward with what you think should be built. But the result is you’re more likely to build only what’s necessary to achieve your project goals. In other words, an architect can often save you money by helping you fit more function into your space so you can build less.[bra_divider height=’30’]

Risk #3: You’re not prepared for the unexpected.

Here’s the biggest issue with prioritizing deadline above all else: in reality, you have very limited control over renovation scheduling. Unless you’re doing everything yourself (which isn’t usually the fast-track anyway), you’re depending on other people to help you do the work. Delays may arise at any given time. You may get your heart set on a particular tile or pendant light that is hand-made and has an 8-week lead time. Maybe you applied for bank financing and don’t have control over how and when they release funds. Or maybe a family issue arises for your one-man builder and he’s out of commission for a month. The bottom line is, it’s an unpredictable process and it’s best to understand that going in.[bra_divider height=’30’]

Renovations often take the same amount of time whether you have a deadline or not. The difference is that people with deadlines are often more stressed out during the process.

I didn’t write this to discourage you. My intention was the opposite! Renovations are difficult, time-consuming projects. In our experience, the people who fare best are those who accept the fact that it’s a messy process and learn to expect the unexpected.

I’m not encouraging you to be completely passive about schedule – being a communicative, proactive client is a great way to keep your team moving along. But don’t be afraid to take the time to do things right. It may not make for good television, but it makes for lovely renovations.

So what is a realistic time line for a kitchen, bathroom, or master suite renovation? How about an addition? Click below to download sample time lines for 4 project types.

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Mary Agraz
July 8, 2016 2:15 pm

Such a nice guide
What about a contractor that you have used for years and he brings his son into the business and
he is not quite the quality person the father is? Sticky!!
Love your old house guide. Personally, I never met one I didn’t love. But dealing with city hall can
be fun.
Aunt Mary

Sara Martin
July 8, 2016 3:08 pm

That is sticky! If the father is a level-headed businessman, I would discretely mention to him the issues you’ve had with his successor. At least then you’ve given him a heads up that his business may not be in the most capable hands. If it’s not that easy, you may have to find a craftier way to get quality work done without burning bridges.

So glad you like the old house guide! That means a lot coming from someone with your experience. Thanks for reading, Aunt Mary!