Friday, August 3, 2012

Major Renovation Logistics: Planning

We've already received a lot of questions about how projects like this work. We thought we'd talk about the logistic portion of our major remodel as well as the actual remodel. If you've ever watched Property Brothers or any HGTV remodel show and have seen the homeowner buy a cheap house and then have plenty of money to renovate with, you've surely had to have asked yourselves, "Where did that 'plenty of money' come from?," or "Where do you even start?". Well, here's how we started: 

The day we placed our offer, we immediately began work to prepare for our new project.

In order to get our financing all worked out, we had to have our plan on paper. According to our financer, Paul and I are the General Contractors for the project (with our professional day jobs this wasn't that far of a stretch). But even with that being said, getting a plan on paper is a lot of work. I feel it is important to say that again. We do this type of thing for a living, and it's a lot of work and we were on a quick time frame.

We took measurements of the home, hundreds of them, and then I took a couple of days to place it into my drafting software, Revit. By the end of day two, I had floor plans, elevations, a 3D exterior model and was ready to start working on the paper work.

We plugged budget numbers into Excel daily, edited our drawings, visited cabinet shops, tile stores, placed orders for samples, requested quotes, created an organized binder and worked tirelessly to get our plan into place. We call this type of work "At Risk". We didn't own the property yet but we were spending most of our waking hours working on it and we were shelling out a couple hundred dollars here, a couple hundred there to have some evaluations done. That's risk people and it sucks when it doesn't work out and you're out the time and money. But that didn't happen in our case, at least not this time around.

I started by using an Excel File template that we use at work regularly for estimating the cost of our projects. It's typically broken up into what we call specification divisions, but since this was a personal project and we didn't need all of the divisions typically used we edited it for the purpose of our project. So here's how we broke it down into categories:

1. General & Existing
2. Concrete & Structure
3. Masonry
4. Windows & Doors
5. Plumbing
6. Electrical
7. HVAC (Heating, Ventilating & Air Conditioning)
8. Floors, Walls & Ceilings
9. Millwork & Counters
10. Equipment
11. Light Fixtures & Miscellaneous Electrical
12. Miscellaneous Items
13. Exterior Improvements
14. Basement Renovation

And within each of those categories we broke it down further. For example, under General & Existing were items like Termite Treatment, Demolition, Clean Up, Roof Replacement and Gutter Repair. And every task that was going to occur on the home had a cost associated with it. Whether it was a ballpark number, an actual quote or a best guess, it had a cost. We had already been given our amount to spend so we worked within that budget number to get all of the project accounted for. It was tricky to balance the money in the appropriate places and to determine where to save and where to spend before getting to spend even a dollar.

Then we took those estimate forms and organized our binder by the categories. Each category has a tab and all supporting documentation for that category went with that tab. Cut sheets, quotes, reports, emails, you name it, it goes in the binder. We still are using this binder and keep it up to date constantly as we plug through the stages of our project.

Once our financing was set and we we're nearing the closing and the start date for our project we created an "Actual" tab within our estimate Excel file. This way we could continue to keep track of how much we were spending/saving, based on our original estimate. I have to open this file daily. It is the bank account of our project.

The way our financing is set up, we are required to complete our project in six months. It's one of the ways that the lender protects themselves. If they allow projects to drag out too long, they don't make the money they want to make and their collateral is at risk. The quicker you complete the project, the quicker the bank has it's collateral. Well, six months is an awfully long time if you're waiting for Santa Clause to come or for the next Harry Potter movie to make it's debut but that isn't a lot of time for a construction project that you're managing yourself (while working full time jobs).

Next, we downloaded a program (for free) called OpenProj. It's the freebie version of Microsoft's Project. It allows you to plan a project based on tasks to guarantee that you are falling within a desired time frame. Based on our knowledge of predeceasing tasks and a quick scribbled calendar, we started laying out our tasks in the program. And after a couple of tweaks and re-works, we had a pretty solid schedule lined out with approximately a full month of cushion time. Then I translated it back to a standard calendar so we have both ways to view it. We must be done with our remodel by January 13, 2013. We must move out of our apartment by January 5, 2013.

We've set up shop at our apartment. We've practically eaten every meal so far as a family on the couch/high chair. The dining table has become our renovation office/trailer and since it's tucked neatly back into it's own corner in the dining room, it has worked out pretty well.

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