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Things to consider when managing your own renovation or construction project

So you want to manage your renovation or construction project yourself? Maybe because you have the time available or you like being in control of things or even don't see the need for hiring an architect or project manager. Well here are some points to consider should you be brave enough to take on the challenge.

It's not without any reason that many owners avoid managing construction projects by themselves, even with the most competent project managers, problems and challenges during a build are almost a guarantee. So I would say the first point to consider is to make sure what you are letting yourself in for, and have realistic expectations. If you have absolutely no experience in construction and what it entails, it will be even more challenging depending on the size of the project. It is not impossible due to the sheer volume of online resources that can help you to self-educate, but keep in mind there are many things to know about when it comes to construction.

Secondly, and probably one of the most important points would be the selection of a contractor. This important decision can make or break a project and your pocket. When looking at potential contractors, check their pedigree. How much experience do they have and have they done similar projects of the same size and complexity? It also helps if you can have a look at projects they have completed to get an idea or even talk to previous clients about their experience. Employing family or friends that are contractors might seem like a great idea, but keep in mind that it will very difficult to manage a friend or family member when they are not performing or not applying funds properly as this will have an effect on your personal relationship.

Thirdly, time and stress. Project management is a full-time job, it's not something you just do for 30mins during a lunch hour. For instance, you might have to do orders of materials, which have to arrive on site on a particular day. Coordination between different specialists could also become a very time-sensitive endeavour. The guy installing ceilings for example can't do that if the guy building the roof structure isn't done yet. So be ready for this role to take up your time. In terms of stress levels, you can imagine with the examples that were just described that certain things may not arrive on time or due to inclement weather a contractor is delayed which may delay other parts of the project. Things like this can become very stressful and this is where good project managers can help turn the tide by revising building programs to catch up on lost time.

Financial management is the fourth point. Don't fall into the pitfall of overpaying your contractor. This can happen very easily, especially when you don't have a lot of experience with the construction industry. Many contractors will do what is called "front-loading" which means they will claim larger amounts of payments at the start of the project and actually have a surplus of funds in relation to work completed or materials ordered. As architects and quantity surveyors, this is a situation that we always try to avoid, because this puts the client at risk. If the contractor stops performing or deserts the building site, they will have been paid more than they should and getting those funds back will be a pain for the client, not to mention the additional costs that you will require to get and pay for another contractor. In the construction industry, the "white form" or "blue form" building contracts that professionals use allow for a retention amount to be held back to ensure the contractor performs.

This takes us to the next point, building contracts. Make sure that you have one! Without it, you put yourself and your money at great risk. Only registered architects and quantity surveyors have access to the "white form" and "blue form", but there are many other contracts that can be used. It is important that you make use of a building contractor that is clear on key points of the project such as the project cost, construction delays, payment intervals, retention, cancellation, insurance, and malperformance.

Furthermore, technical understanding. Not having a clue of how a contractor should be doing a proper job will leave you exposed. It is important to know what is acceptable and good practice when it comes to construction. There are crucial parts of any construction project, for instance, the compaction of surface beds for floor slabs and foundations, the damp proofing, and concrete mixes to name a few. If the contractor takes shortcuts on some of these things it will have a major impact on the build and maybe only years after the contractor is out of sight. Make sure you have a basic understanding of what needs to happen and how it needs to happen.

Finally, follow the plans, specifications, and instructions. Contractors that aren't supervised by professionals may see the opportunity to convince clients to make changes to plans and specifications that will suit them. This should be avoided as far as possible, there is a reason why a professional has designed something in a specific way or selected a specification. Moving away from that may have unforeseen consequences even for the contractor. If you want to make changes to the design or specification, get the correct advice from a professional.

In conclusion, these are just a few main points that you need to take into consideration if you want to manage your own project, so keep in mind that it will not be an easy challenge to undertake. Be prepared and don't compromise. Successfully completing a project will be rather rewarding.

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