Renovating a house – project management lessons
We planned to move closer to the city when our daughter starts schooling, which is January 2010. We evaluated several plans and finally decided to move into our own home in Colombo 5. That house was given on rent, but we decided the benefits of living in the city will out weigh the rent income benefit.
We decided to do a few renovations and to give the house a bit of a face-lift before we moved there. We decided it would be easier to do the modifications before we moved so we don’t have to go through the hassle of living in a construction site.
We gave our tenant notice to leave but he overstayed by a month until he found a suitable home for himself. Then we started the renovations, with the initial plan of moving there by the beginning of December. And I was determined to put the project management best practices that I apply daily in my work to the construction and keep it within the plan and the budget.
The first thing that went off the window was the budget. When you start building, you cant always keep to the original budget. While some of the estimates given to us were way inaccurate, we also overspent on some things. It just happens that when you shop for stuff, you always end up seeing things that are far more expensive and you end up buying them.
For example, we are adding a new room to the house. First we weren’t sure if we were going to go ahead with this plan. Then our architect convinced us that it was a good plan. Building the walls of the room was the easiest thing. But getting finishes for it, was another story all together. Our bathroom is going to end up costing three times the initial estimate. Then again, we are going to build only once and we want to build it up to the standard we want.
Then came the time lines. As it turned out, the contractors estimates were etched in rubber. They kept stretching. First he would tell us that he’s finish something in three days. Then on the end of the second day he’s tell us that he needs another three days. Then at the middle of those second three days, he says he lost two days of work due to rain. Man, software is far more easy to manage.
To be fair by him, the weather didn’t exactly go our way either. We had some of the highest rainfalls to hit Colombo during this time. So he and his crew actually did lost a few days of work (about 20 man-days all in all so far).
The third issue was coordinating the different contractors. We were working with separate contractors for the masonry, carpentry, electrical wiring and aluminum excursions. As all of them were independent contractors, coordinating their schedules were a bit of a nightmare. Made me realize how better I am in committing and keeping my commitments to my clients as a freelancer.
So on the brink of the month of December, I am there at the site trying to supervise the work. But our chances of moving during the first week of December are pretty bleak. Now I would be happy if we can move within the month of December.
So the lessons learned:
- When building a house, either go with an open but realistic budget or be ready to not to have the dream home. The dream home, costs money, lots of it. I am somewhere in between. My theory was things that are hard to change/remodel, go with the stuff that your heart tells you to get. For things that can be changed without a fuss later, go with the stuff that suits your budget.
- Get professional advice on estimates. Our contractors are trades people, not engineers. So their estimates change, and they don’t feel bad about it. They are used to that. They don’t feel bad when they cant meet a deadline. On the other hand for me, as an IT contractor, that is one of the hardest things to do.
- Have some buffer. We lost our buffer time when we allowed our tenant to over-stay.
Finally, wish for loads of luck. So that you’d find the things fast. We scouted for days sometimes to get the things we wanted. Some examples were bathroom fittings,tiles and light fixtures. After weeks of scouting we still didn’t get the things we had in our minds. We settled for the next best things, at a higher cost than anticipated.