Renovating in your home can be very unnerving. Construction is a unique industry… there are many unknowns which can be unsettling and confusing. Add this to the stress of your home life being disrupted for work to take place and you can see why it’s unnerving. Working with an experienced construction management professional and licensed and professionally vetted tradespeople can make it easier. What follows is a general overview of what to expect during the renovation process.

Do I Need An Architect?

First define what you need done and determine your budget. Depending on the complexity, you may need an architect to create drawings. Direct replacements of bathrooms or kitchens usually don’t require an architect, unless there is a structural problem. You will need whatever drawings the tradespeople need to perform the renovations. An architect is required for new construction, who will include drawings for the latest code requirements.

What Comes After I’ve Defined What I Want?

Choose the contractors you want to work with. Red flags include no proof of license or insurance; poorly presented or incomplete estimates; general contractors that present a “know-it-all” attitude, an overly talkative, hard selling approach which may include trying to upsell you. Professionals know the challenges and should present with more humility and know their own limitations, knowing when they need to call on a specialist. If you are not a professional construction manager formally running the project, once you’ve signed the contract and issued a deposit, you no longer have control.

What Happens Next?

There are specific steps that need to be taken so that your project can be completed professionally and pass all inspections. Permit request documents need to be filled out for all needed trades and submitted to the local township building department. Building Departments will not accept partial project information, so all permits must be filed together. Municipal building departments are allowed 30 days to issue a permit. Unless it’s an emergency, no work should take place unless a permit has been issued.

The Physical Work, Part 1

Once the permit has been issued the start date can be established. After a project start date is established, the schedule is projected based on knowledge of how long each step takes AND the availability of the trades crews. There is an order that the various trades should work. The building department wants to see the framing, insulation, plumbing and electrical wiring when the walls are still exposed. Your construction manager will schedule the required inspections. All trades work has to be permitted to close the walls and ceilings. If two trades pass and one does not, the walls cannot be closed until that trade passes inspection. Trades professionals are obligated to do what inspectors ask and this extra cost will usually be passed to the homeowner.

The Physical Work, Part 2

After all inspections have passed, walls will be closed and paint-ready. Once the walls and ceilings are covered, new cabinets, plumbing and lighting can be installed. Painting can happen before or after this work.

Final Inspections

When the project is done, the inspectors need to return to perform final inspections. Sometimes the plumbing or framing inspector will say that he/she does not need to come back, but the electrical inspector always has to come back. The family can live in and use the new space while waiting for this final inspection. The goal of the inspection process is to provide you with documentation that all the work you’ve had done, was done professionally and meets all construction code requirements.

In Closing

The renovation and construction process has many steps and requires many specialties to complete properly. Each step takes time and patience to complete. Skipping steps or changing the order to rush the job ALWAYS results in mistakes, which makes the job take even longer. To end up with a quality job, start with professional guidance, licensed tradespeople and oversight, and then do your best to be patient so your project gets done the right way the first time.


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