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Home remodeling, as a specialized business, is a relatively new concept. In the last 20 years, it has evolved from a building contractor’s sideline into a systematized industry. Owners making significant changes to their own home—in a classic, hands-on sense—is far from standard practice these days.
Like new home construction, modern remodeling is shaped by the mass production of almost all building materials. Today, remodelers manage pre-made construction materials and coordinate highly specialized trade partners and suppliers in a context of inflexible building codes and other regulations. The complexity of these processes can make homeowners feel disconnected and unsure of their role in their own home.
In fact, a homeowner’s role during a remodeling project is more important than ever. The homeowner is still, ultimately, the leader of the process. By gaining a solid understanding of the systems involved in remodeling, owners can set a standard of professionalism for the rest of the team. Consider the following “leadership training” tips that help define an owner’s role during a construction project:
- Read up. Even though an owner won’t be wielding a hammer or acting as the contractor, he or she can get educated about the home remodeling process and gain an understanding and respect for the pace, phases, and materials involved. Owners can buy a book, do some internet research and ask a lot of questions. Knowing what’s what helps when communicating with the remodeler and the extra knowledge will boost confidence as the project moves through progressive stages of completion.
- Meet deadlines. Remodelers set deadlines for certain decisions so that materials and labor will arrive at the job site in a timely manner, ensuring steady progress and on-time completion. If the homeowner takes the responsibility to meet reasonable deadlines for decisions, such as the selection of cabinets or flooring, the construction schedule is more likely to be maintained. The homeowner who meets time commitments sets a good example for the remodeler and his suppliers and subcontractors to treat the schedule seriously.
- Respect the change order process. The homeowner should make sure that the contract includes a formal and dedicated process for managing change orders. Change orders are decisions made (or changed) after an agreed upon deadline. They always cost money and sometimes affect the schedule. It may take time to remove one product, wait for the delivery of its replacement, and then to install it. A professional remodeler will make every effort to accommodate customer changes. For their part, owners must respect the impact a change order has on costs and schedule and take the responsibility for requesting and accepting the trade-offs involved in such a change.
- Communicate. Communication is critical. Professional remodelers welcome open dialogue. When homeowners come into the process with thoughtful questions, and continue to ask them through construction, costly delays can be minimized or avoided. Questions are most efficiently addressed if the owner brings a list to scheduled meetings, but occasional ad-hoc phone calls, emails, or visits are appropriate when urgent matters arise.
Most remodeling contractors operate professional businesses and understand and respect the relationship they have with homeowners. Owners can meet them part of the way and realize greater satisfaction through self-education, respect for deadlines, and by asking questions as the project progresses.
Todd Allen Miller, AIA
QMA Design+Build, LLC
5000 Boardwalk, Suite 2
Ventnor, NJ 08406
NJ New Home Builder License #037561
NJ Home Improvement Contractor #13VH01107300
(609) 822-4949 – phone
(609) 822-4429 – fax
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