Can You Project Manage Your Home Renovation Project?

Renovation projects are complicated and full of responsibilities. It may be easier to hire a professional project manager to help you, however sometimes, be it because of financial constraints or simply because you want to be hands-on, you may choose to do it yourself. Here are some tips on how you can project manage a renovation project on your own successfully.

So you may wonder, what Is the Project Manager’s Role? A Project Manager will take drawings, chosen fixtures and finishes and deliver a completed project on time and on budget. Their role involves budgeting as well as time and resource management.

A Project Manager will take responsibility over the build and will oversee contractors and/or subcontractors, liaise with local authorities such as planners, building control, health and safety and utility companies. Their fees range between 3 and 15 percent of the contract value. If your project manager is also taking on the role of contractor and organising construction work, fees will be higher.For larger projects they may also function as a contract administrator or be responsible for appointing one. They will coordinate the design team and any other professional consultant involved in the project. (e.g. Structural engineers, tree consultants, ecologists, historic building specialist, etc).

Not all projects require a Project Manager. Smaller projects may only require a main contractor with enough experience to handle some of the requirements of the job while assisted by an architect or designer in the background. Whichever function is not fulfilled by the contractor or architect is usually undertaken by the client.

For larger or more complex improvements, the project manager role and contract administrator is often handled by the lead architect, probably in conjunction with a quantity surveyor to provide interim valuations for completed work.

This might suit you if you have limited time or knowledge. Project management services are also offered by other professionals, including chartered building surveyors and quantity surveyors, members of the Chartered Institute of Building,  Architectural Technologists, and even some interior designers.

Some project managers also provide construction services, overseeing the organisation of the work in place of a main contractor. If so, they are also responsible for establishing the build schedule, managing the budget and cash flow, finding and managing subcontractors and material suppliers, as well as plant and tools.

Acting as your own project manager on an extension or renovation can save on professional fees for contract administration. Some home improvers decide to take on this challenge working in conjunction with a main contractor. Some also take on the role of contractor, hiring subcontractors and tradespeople directly.

Managing a large home-improvement project such as this is a big commitment but, provided that are able to execute the role effectively, you can be saving as much as 10 or 15 per cent. You must be aware that most self-managed renovation projects take longer to complete and while you might save some money on the Project Manager’s professional fees, a longer delivery schedule, usually translates to higher costs.

If you decide to take on the role, here is what you can expect.

On a day-to-day basis the job will include scheduling the work and making sure your subcontractors know in advance exactly when they are required and turn up, do so on time, knowing exactly what they will be doing and have everything they need to carry it out. Don’t forget that whilst a large portion of the job can be done over the weekends or in the evening, things such as site meetings and ordering an sourcing of building materials will have to be done during regular working hours so make sure you plan for this, especially if you are in full-time employment.

You will need to find reliable subcontractors to carry out your job. Once you do, you are on your way, as they will have worked with many others whose work they know and respect. This can prove a useful source of contacts as a good tradesperson is unlikely to recommend someone unreliable or incompetent – especially if they are going to be working with them or after them. Networking within the trade is very important and works both ways: if you’re a good employer and are fair and pay on time, word will get around, just as it will if you are not.

When hiring consider if the subcontractor has the relevant experience, is available, has good references, and is on the same page as you in terms of payments and delivery dates. Make sure you device a payment schedule that will work for everyone. Some trades, such as electricians and plumbers, have to be members of a trade body or certification scheme, as they are the statutory regulators of industry safety standards.

Most renovation work attracts VAT at the standard rate of 20 per cent; however, if a subcontractor is not VAT-registered, they must not charge it on their labour. Using individual tradespeople whose turnover means they do not have to register for VAT can mean a significant saving on labour costs. If your project is eligible for any concessions, such as the reduced rate for dwellings empty for two years or more, you will only benefit if you use VAT-registered subcontractors however. Make sure that the subcontractor is aware that the work is eligible for a concession and that the appropriate rate is charged.

If you decide to self-manage a project, here is a checklist of things to look into to get you started:

  • Discharge any planning conditions
  • Arrange any Party Wall settlements with neighbours
  • Notify building control
  • Arrange utility disconnections/connections
  • Plan the layout of storage on site
  • Get the relevant insurance for the project
  • Make the property secure with fencing if required
  • Arrange welfare facilities, a rest area and WC
  • Plan for compliance with health and safety
  • Check access for deliveries
  • Notify all subcontractors
  • Check lead-in times for materials orders
  • Check title deeds and lease
  • Check all boundaries
  • Arrange skips and scaffolding, plus any permits required for street closure
  • Check for tree preservation orders
  • Arrange a building warranty or guarantee

At Dominant Construction, we are always keen to know about your projects and we are happy to work with you to make sure that your project is completed on time and on budget. If you are planning a renovation project give us a call or make an appointment to come and have a chat at our office in Hammersmith. We are always happy to talk construction.