Home Renovation Projects: My Secret Weapons for Renovation Success
If you’ve ever played the game “Telephone,” you know how information can change when the message is passed verbally from one person to the next.
All too often, home renovation projects turn into not-so-fun versions of the “Telephone” game, with the homeowner telling their contractor one thing, the contractor telling the subcontractors another, and the subcontractors hearing something else altogether.
The results? Costly construction mistakes and very unhappy homeowners.
After over 14 years in the design industry, I’ve handled more renovation projects than I can count. Fortunately, I found a couple of secret weapons early on in my career that put an end to those types of miscommunications amongst my project team.
Secret Weapon #1 – CAD Drawings
You’ve probably heard of CAD – computer-aided design. Just like it sounds, CAD software allows designers to create detailed drawings of our clients’ homes and the individual spaces in which we’ll be working. Before CAD, designers had to do these drawings by hand and a few still choose to do so today. I, however, use the software to quickly and efficiently create accurate to scale drawings for my clients’ projects.
We also use CAD to show exactly where details like stairs, doors, door swings, windows, and trim will be, as well as items behind the drywall such as studs, electrical boxes, and plumbing locations. Working in CAD allows us to adjust a room’s layout as needed. For instance, we are able to move plumbing or electrical locations to maximize function for the client as well as to capitalize on how the space flows. Once these major structural parts of a room are determined, I can better create other aspects like custom millwork and furniture layouts that serve to enhance the room to its fullest potential.
I truly can’t imagine trying to plan any renovation without a set of CAD drawings in hand. They are invaluable not only for guiding my choices but also for communicating to my contractors precisely what needs to go where.
Secret Weapon #2 – Finish Schedules
Design and construction professionals use finish schedules for things like paint, tile, flooring, lighting, plumbing, and millwork. A finish schedule is essentially a list that documents what products need to go on every part of the floors, walls, and ceilings in each space, as well as all pertinent details about each product.
For example, on a paint schedule for a client’s family room renovation project, in addition to documenting the paint colors, I might specify a matte finish for the walls but an eggshell or semi-gloss finish for the trim.
Here’s an actual paint schedule I used for a client project.
Using the schedules adds another layer of communication between my clients, my contractors, and me to ensure we are all on the same page about the materials we’re using.
Secret Weapon #3 – Using CAD Drawings & Schedules Together
For home renovation projects, the real magic happens when we put CAD drawings and finish schedules to use together.
I always provide both our CAD layout drawings and the relevant finish schedules to each contractor. That way, the electrician knows the exact height and/or location in which to hang each light fixture; the tile installer knows the tile pattern and grout color for each room, etc.
I can’t tell you how many times having good CAD drawings and finish schedules in place have prevented mistakes.
For example, on one project, I designed custom millwork for a client’s lake home. The general contractor (who was hired by the client and with whom I’d never worked before) couldn’t attend the design meetings I held with the client and the custom millworker, but I was able to send him my drawings, elevations, and the millwork schedule to refer to.
Midway through the project, the client decided to change a few things on the millwork. Even though the changes were very minor, the adjustments affected how the planned electrical and plumbing locations would line up with the millwork.
If the GC hadn’t been reviewing my drawings and schedules, he wouldn’t have noticed the impact of those small millwork changes on the lighting and plumbing design. Fortunately, he did notice, and he reached out to me to confirm the millwork alterations needed to be in line with the overall design. This gave us the ability to tweak our light and plumbing location before the walls were closed up.
Just imagine the headaches we all would have dealt with if he hadn’t been able to see the exact measurements involved! Those schedules and plans not only helped save the integrity of the space’s design – they actually saved the client money!
By using these secret weapons to make sure all tradespeople on the job site understand what needs to go where we have few to zero mistakes on our projects. And instead of playing a renovation project version of “Telephone,” then being left with a stressful mess to clean up, we get to enjoy projects that run smoothly and turn out beautifully for our clients.