How Long Will My Renovation Take? Home Renovation Delays Explained

January 18, 2013 at 8:14 pm Renovations

By Jeff Streich

Home renovations are notoriously drawn out and delayed projects. On average, I meet about three potential clients per week. After our walk through, the first questions asked are “how much is the project going to cost?” and “How long will it take?”

The question makes perfect sense. No one wants to pay rent or a mortgage on one apartment while paying for the renovation and mortgage on the new place. As the saying goes, time is money.

Here comes the bad news. Your project will take a lot longer than you think, more so if you live in Manhattan. This is just a fact. The following is a list of possible delays that could hinder your project schedule:Streich Reno Delays

You need to make up your mind. For example, if you cannot choose a medicine cabinet, the contractor cannot frame out the bathroom. The result will be delays.

It is very important to order everything you can as soon as you can. It’s so important because items often arrive damaged requiring you return and reorder.  Additionally there are often mistakes made in the ordering process – because construction parts are so specific (long catalog numbers, multiple sizes, finishes, material options) you may mistakenly order the wrong part or the distributor may by accident send you the wrong item.  It’s also very important to find out lead times. I have worked on projects where the client has ordered vanities that could not be delivered 6 weeks after we were scheduled to finish the bathroom. This, of course, will lead to…delays.

When you meet with a contractor for the first time,  ask them directly if they will help you order everything. I think it is very important for the contractor to help as you should not know what size rough you need for your toilet or what kind of housing you need for your recessed lighting.

Yes, your building might delay your project. We have worked in many buildings where the service elevator is man-operated. What happens if that man is frequently missing? If I had to take a guess I would say many buildings have staff who are on the job only five hours a day instead of seven. Over a course of a project that turns into hours and hours of lost time. These sorts of delays are difficult to predict and therefore difficult to avoid, but I would recommend getting to know your building staff – including the super, the resident manager, the elevator staff and maintenance team. Keep them abreast of any planned work or deliveries and make sure you’re aware of any other work going on in the building or planned vacations or holidays.

Water shutdowns – required if your renovation involves replacing or moving pipes around – can affect your apartment line or the entire building.  Because of the building wide impact of water shutdowns, they must be planned in advance and coordinated with the building staff. In one project I worked on recently, the building super forgot – despite advance notice –  that we had scheduled a water shutdown on three separate occasions. No surprise, this causes…delays.

The Perfectionist
Some people are more particular than others. If you want to lay out your tiles on the floor and take a week determining where you want specific tiles placed within the space, you will face…delays. I don’t believe there is anything wrong with this, but just know it will take longer.

You might decide you want to knock down an additional wall. This sounds easy enough until you realize that the electrician has to come back because there is an unknown conduit in the wall, the wood floor guy has to come back to repair the floor, the painter has to finish the wall and paint. There goes another week. Adding additional work will add time to the project, thus causing…delays.

Full disclosure, since I, myself, am a contractor, I opted not to put this one first but many times the contractor is to blame. Whether it’s his own crew or the sub-contractors he hires (i.e. the plumbers, drywallers, electricians, window installers etc) – these different teams all work on different schedules and on different levels of efficiency, thus requiring a lot of coordination and management.  You should be sure your contractor has a reliable foreman leading your renovation project. You should also keep in mind that there’s a lot of variation in quality of sub-contracted teams. Some are much worse than others. I have heard this horror story many times “ We hired him and he seemed like a good guy, they came and demo’d the kitchen and we haven’t seen him since.”

Obviously, that’s a worse case scenario. That said, you can never predict when a plumber or another sub-contractor will have an emergency and need to reschedule. The result?… delays.

Traffic and Parking
I know, it might seem like local transportation issues should not have a significant impact on your renovation, but as any New Yorker knows traffic and parking in this city are nightmares. It literally can take 45 minutes to get a truck from the Upper East Side to Midtown. Add that 45 minutes to the time it takes to find a parking place  outside your house and you’ll easily lose an hour to two hours of your workday.

The only way to come to terms with delays is to simply accept and expect them as inevitable given the number of variables entailed in any renovation project.

Take a look at the number of variables involved in full gut renovation:

  • General Contractor 
  • Carpenters
  • Plumber
  • Electrician
  • Painters
  • Millworkers
  • Glazers (Glass guys) 
  • Tilers
  • Floor
  • Countertop guy
  • Audio/ Video guy Owner
  • Building people

Not surprisingly the number of potential mistakes and delays is correlated to the number of people involved.  The bigger the project, the more people involved, the more patient you must be prepared to be for potential delays.

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