Renovation projects can be a lot of fun. They enable people to get creative, work with their hands or bring an idea to life. They can also increase home value, improve functionality and solve problems homeowners have lived with for years. But renovations have their pitfalls and delays can occur.
Whether the homeowner is completely DIY or hires professionals to do the job, there are common (but somewhat unknown) hurdles to overcome. It’s helpful to be aware of the following home remodeling delays before you pick up that hammer and crowbar.
1. Lack of flexibility
Even if a homeowner decides to hire a professional to do a job, they must be available to that professional to ensure the project runs smoothly. Not being able to meet the contractor in a reasonable time frame for estimates and consultations, not answering questions in the middle of the day, or being inflexible with weekend scheduling can derail the time frame.
When I was a professional, I worked around the availability of potential customers as much as possible. But rescheduling multiple times for relatively small renovation costs the pro time and money, and they can walk away from another project.
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2. Hidden surprises
Surprises hidden behind walls, ceilings, floors, and even underground can completely destroy a time frame. While water damage and mold are common culprits, shoddy wiring, leaky plumbing, or asbestos can turn a relatively quick renovation into a long, drawn-out process.
Here’s a hidden surprise from when I was renovating a bedroom in my own house. After tearing down the drywall, I found extensive carpenter damage. The framing was corroded and there wasn’t much left to screw in the new drywall. I had to remove more wallboard than I expected, remove the damaged wood, and re-frame the wall before I could continue with the rest of the project. That delay cost me a few extra days, which should have extended a weekend renovation.
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3. A foggy range
The term “scope of work” describes all project details such as the types of materials, designs, and the actual labor of removing the existing materials and installing new ones. Without a clear scope or understanding of what needs to be done, homeowners and do-it-yourselfers can expect quite a few delays as they move through the project. Every change they make to the process further exacerbates the delay.
Anyone who has ever exchanged home improvement knowledge and skill for money knows this problem all too well. Color changes, material changes, “Can we move this window a few inches?” changes, and other change orders will turn that deadline upside down. However, some contractors don’t mind, as these types of delays usually mean more money for them.
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4. Amateur planning
A general contractor is a person or company that signs the original contract with the homeowner. Part of their job is scheduling experts, making sure all subcontractors, contractors, and inspections are all done on time and in the correct order. This is one of the greatest skills a good GC has to offer, and it helps keep projects on track.
Homeowners and do-it-yourselfers can create their own projects GC, and it often makes sense. However, they should realize that there will likely be a few planning bumps along the way. For example, if the floor is laid before the plumber can rough up the connections for fixtures or water-side heating, the floor will likely be damaged, which will require the floorer to come back and repair it. Or installing drywall before the electrical inspection may mean pulling down the drywall and starting over.
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5. Material Availability
This one is obvious, but homeowners may not realize how easy it can be to avoid it. Material availability has been very volatile in recent years, causing projects to be delayed while the contractor waits for the chosen material to arrive. There are ways to avoid the problem.
Even before there are material shortages, I would ask my clients to choose at least one backup material or style for certain materials in their renovation. When it comes to specialty materials such as countertops, floors, cabinets, tiles, and other finishes, homeowners can take a few extra minutes to choose their first, second, and third favorite choices. With backups in mind, DIYers and homeowners can decide if waiting for the material is worth it, or if it’s a better option to go to a second favorite choice to keep the timeline.
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6. The permit and inspection process
Do-it-yourselfers embarking on their first major remodel may be surprised at how long the permitting and inspection process takes. In some cities, the permitting process is straightforward, requiring only hand-drawn plans and a detailed scope of work. In other areas (and depending on the project), the permit may require engineering plans with certified stamps. It can take some time to get these plans, so it’s best to get plans well ahead of schedule.
Also, throughout the project, the construction department will want to inspect the project in certain phases. For example, the inspector might want to see the framing to make sure the structure was built according to the code. Electrical and sanitary inspections also take place after structural work and then again after installation. Because inspectors don’t just drop everything when the do-it-yourselfer calls, they have to make an appointment and it can take several days for an inspector to show up.
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7. Payment Issues
Here’s a challenge that’s usually only a problem for homeowners who hire a shady general contractor, but it can be a significant cause of delay. When the homeowner pays the main contractor, the GC must then pay the subcontractors they hire for the project. They can be plumbers, electricians, drywall, painters, flooring professionals, and many more. If those pros don’t get paid, they have the right to put a lien on the house, bringing most of the work to a halt.
On smaller projects, a lien usually won’t slow the project down much (but I’ve still seen them make an impact). When it comes to a whole-home renovation, major addition, or similar projects, a lien on the property can impact financing, home liquidity, and more.