There was a day when most kitchen and bath remodeling projects were small, straightforward jobs. You could show up with your pickup truck and tools, figure out what you needed to complete the work, head to the lumberyard and plumbing supplier, and get to work. While we, and our clients, would like to think that a lot more thought and planning go into the projects we are now involved with, that’s not always the case.
Regardless of the size and scope of the project, there’s a lot of similarity in how they are planned and executed. This fact allows us to come up with some standardized ideas as to how we approach them.
While a certain amount of basic planning and preparation will get done prior to the time a project is signed, it’s important not to squander the time immediately after a project is signed. Let’s break this down into three areas of concern: planning/scheduling, ordering/purchasing and client communications/relations.
As soon as the project is signed, you will need to fit it into your start schedule based on assumed material and resource (labor and subcontractor) availability and lead times. It’s a good idea to maintain some type of formal start schedule so that it can be referred to whenever needed. Most clients are anxious to know when their project will start once they have signed a contract.
The first step after the sale is to bring all of those who will be involved (designer, project manager, purchasing agent, etc.) up to speed on the scope and nature of the project they will be responsible for executing. The best way to accomplish this is to review the plans and specifications with these individuals as soon as possible, while any “undocumented details” are still fresh in your mind.
After some preliminary review of material and resource requirements, you should be able to lay out a preliminary timeline (Microsoft Project is one of several flexible programs that works well for this). With this information, you can consolidate for each subcontractor all of the work you have scheduled for them. Since every sub has a finite amount of work they can perform in any given time period, it’s critical that they not be overbooked. Such a consolidated work schedule allows you to determine quickly when you will be able to start new projects and when you need to be looking for additional resources. Since this effort allows you to schedule your materials and subs weeks or months in advance, you are much more likely to avoid situations where they are not available when you need them.
Assuming that you have verified that there are no material lead-time constraints, you can now schedule your subcontractors onto the new job. It’s best to notify each sub with a written work order of some type for each project on which they are scheduled. It’s also a good idea to send each subcontractor a copy of your consolidated work schedule showing all jobs for which they are scheduled on a regular basis (weekly or biweekly) to keep them apprised of changes in the schedules.
At the time you are conducting that initial review of the project, you should be identifying those items that may be a lead-time issue or subcontractors with whom you don’t normally work. Get these ordered or scheduled immediately! Determining when these items and/or subs are going to be available will allow you to insert them into your timeline and thus come up with the earliest possible start date for the project. If there are product decisions that still need to be made by the client, those should be identified and deadlines set for them.
It’s a good idea to get all of the product orders placed with suppliers immediately, with a “date required” included with the order. Pay particular attention to those items that are considered “critical path” items as those that will stop the project if they do not arrive on time. You will need to monitor the progress of all of these orders, watching for notification of back orders or delays. Some suppliers will want to ship orders as soon as they are received; if you do not want to store these materials, you will need to work out shipping details in advance.
It’s likely that a preliminary start date was provided to the client at the time the contract was signed. Certainly, many things (permit delays, material back orders, etc.) can conspire to delay this start date, and it is important that your client be kept informed as these occur. Even if nothing changes, it’s a good idea to check in with the client every week or two just to let them know that everything is proceeding as planned.
As the actual start date approaches, a “pre-construction” meeting should be scheduled to go over details of the actual construction process with the client. It is usually best to have this take place at the actual work site, usually the client’s home. This meeting will provide a time to prepare the clients for the experience they are about to embark on. This might work as follows:
- Meet at the job site and have the key people present (designer, lead installer, project coordinator and the owner/general manager) to meet with the client.
- Have an agenda of what is to be accomplished. A good agenda will cover the following main areas:
- Job site locations (electrical panel, water shut-off, etc.)
- Site preparation (furniture removal, floor protection, plastic barriers)
- Access and staging (key box, security system, pets, etc.)
- Job site inventory (fixtures to be saved/reused, condition of carpets, etc.)
- Timeline review (dates of importance to client – including payment dates)
- Deadlines for any remaining decisions (paint colors, grout)
- Provide the clients with a copy of the timeline for their project. This allows them to have a graphic presentation of the schedule of events, answering many of their questions about what comes next.
- Provide the clients with information they will need in the course of the project. Provide a sheet with the names of all of the people they will come in contact with (including subs, receptionist, driver, etc.). This information sheet should have emergency phone numbers, email addresses and the combination to the key box.
It could easily be argued that the most important period of any project is the time between the sale and the start of field work. If you use this time wisely to plan, order materials and educate your client as to what to expect, the work will seem to take care of itself. If you squander this time, you will feel like every job is a series of brush fires that you spend all of your time trying to stamp out.