November 6, 2023

How I Establish My Remodeling Projects Schedule

In my opinion one of the most difficult aspects of being a renovation contractor is establishing and managing a schedule. As I mentioned last week, a large part of our job revolves around assumptions, wags, and swags. For those of you unfamiliar with the last two terms, I learned about them during my college education in Construction Management. It stands for wild ass guesses, and scientific wild ass guesses. This is our life, this is our business, this is how we are supposed to make a living. My suggestion is to understand that, communicate that, and to constantly adapt. 

At the beginning of each project during the pre-construction phase I begin to establish a schedule. This schedule is built off of a highly-detailed scope of work. I build the project on paper, and then manage the project to the best of my ability, prior to the commencement of the project. I use my itemized spreadsheet to develop durations for each and every task. This is done in half and full days. Anything more specific is useless in my line of work. Some days, I can spend half a day trimming one door, and some days I can trim an entire room in half a day. Each project is different, and I am doing my best to develop an average assessment of costs and timeline. The goal is for the hypothetical schedule to capture the most accurate assessment of the cumulative labor/management burden. This is the law of averages.

Each task on my spreadsheet has a labor and financial burden attached to it. I develop these quantities based on past experience, wags, swags, and leaning on my subcontractors and their expertise. I cross-reference my detailed written scope with my spreadsheet to develop a rudimentary gantt chart. From there I take each independent task and begin to overlap there where possible, or create “fluff” for inefficiencies, inspections, holidays, or weather. The combination of my spreadsheet and my scope of work help to ensure that I capture an accurate assessment of time needed for each project. Truth be told, I will miss time, my subs will inaccurately assess how much time they will need, things will not go as intended, and life will happen; so it is imperative to ensure that everyone understands that your estimated schedule and proposed date of completion is simply a guess. The important thing is to constantly inventory your schedule, your spreadsheet, your scope of work, and adapt it to the current state of the project. This is all that we can do. 

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As each project progresses, I update my gantt chart accordingly. I invoice bi-weekly, so this is when I typically address any changes to schedule and timeline. The gantt chart serves as a basis for where we stand, and what needs to be done, but we are not married to it. There are some projects, customers, and contracts that may be married to the timeline, but that is not what I choose to sell, and I advocate for this appropriately. I balance and tailor the schedule alongside budget, design, program, and customer’s needs. Nothing ever goes according to plan, so as long as I adequately communicate as to where we stand and what the outcome appears to be, my customers can help steer the ship according to their program. 

When I sit down to invoice, I assess our budget, our actual costs, our estimated timeline, and where we actually stand. If we need to make up time, we discuss the options with the customer and/or designers and see what can be given or taken to get us back on track. If the design, quality, or execution is the priority we concede to the timeline and alter the schedule. It is my job as the GC and manager to constantly adapt and find ways to sneak scope in where it fits best. The schedule must take into account the bigger picture. If a certain task is delayed, you may need to ebb and flow to maintain forward momentum. This may add time initially, but make up time on the back end. To obsess over the impact of every single decision is a waste of energy. Push through and re-assess when invoicing in two weeks. The goal is to maintain forward momentum, and if you cannot maintain progress, communicate adequately. 

Again, our job, our estimate, our budget, and our schedule is made up of assumptions and estimates. If you create a schedule that is perfectly maintained throughout the course of a job you got lucky more than much else. It is not about individual efforts, but the overall goal and scope. Adaptation, evolution, problem solving, and ingenuity are responsible for maintaining the agenda, schedule, and program. You have to get crafty and be agile. If you create a comprehensive scope, a line item budget, and a gantt chart schedule, you should be able to accurately assess where each project stands every two weeks. Then it is all about communication and developing a plan that accounts for everyone's needs. That is all that you can do. If you are bound to a contract or legality with regard to schedule, you better have a clause within your contract to up the budget with regard to man-power. I would rather communicate properly and then clearly present the issues, hiccups, solutions, options, and put the customer in the driver seat. They can determine what is most important to them. Is it to close the project out on time or get them what they want with regard to design and scope. These two things generally do not align on a remodel.

- Tyler Grace

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