We asked Michael Clarke, a Los Angeles-based contractor who developed the soon-to-be-available smartphone app Pulled, which helps homeowners communicate with contractors and designers, for advice on how to tackle a major renovation that involves multiple contractors.
Clarke’s advice about how to manage a big home improvement project, provided via email, includes:
Get everyone on the same page. Have a clear scope of work for each contractor and a clear understanding of who is leading the project, whether it is the client, the designer or a general contractor. Don’t rely on designers to coordinate the construction effort if they have not included construction management in their contract. Missed communication can have catastrophic consequences if each contractor does not know the design intent.
Create a schedule. Review issues that could arise with different construction elements and develop a schedule that has room for missed deliveries or challenges with permits, unexpected findings or weather. Meet with all of your contractors, service providers and designers together before the project begins and during major milestones, depending on the size of the project. Joint meetings give the team an opportunity to ask each other questions and bring information to your attention that may have been missed previously. For example, the cabinet installer may feel that installing the cabinets before the light fixtures is necessary when speaking with you, but after talking to the electrician and understanding their scope of work, may need to adjust that approach and install in phases or after the electrician has performed their work.
Choose contractors, vendors and designers carefully. Make sure you understand their experience and skills. Ask about your provider’s choices for materials, construction techniques and scheduling to understand the pros and cons of each decision. Often, lower prices are based on choosing cheaper materials or using less-experienced craftsmen and forgoing better management of overhead and more efficient job management. It’s best to question decisions and recommendations from your team at the outset, before walls are opened, so you understand the variables and can make the most educated decisions with their input.