How long does it take to renovate a Queenslander?
In our last update, I showed you how we adjusted the design to protect the pre-1911 parts of the home. Well, actually protect the whole home (!) given we found it was all built before 1911! You can get up to speed here.
Whilst we worked through these design options, Michelle and Sarah juggled their own demands.
They were putting their current home on the market. They were deciding where to live whilst the renovation was occurring. They were also hoping to rent the existing home, so it didn’t sitting empty for the next few months.
Michelle and Sarah also had an ideal date for when they wanted to move into the finished home. March 2017. I set about creating a program to test how workable that was. This would also tell us how long a lease they could offer a potential tenant!
Speeding up a program
Renovating involves a series of activities, which are usually done in sequential order.
What do I mean? Well, you need to do one chunk of work, and get it finished, and then move onto the next chunk of work.
This of course applies for construction work on site. It also applies for the preparation before starting construction. Design, drawings, council and building approvals, quoting and choosing a builder. I usually prefer to do each activity before moving onto the next. This gives the ability to create checks along the way. Then you can proceed to the next step and not waste time, money and energy along the way. It also helps in not having to redo work.
Here’s an example of how I normally execute a project (at a very simple level):
- Create design concept
- Client signs off design concept
- Get a builder’s estimate
- Get client’s ok of builder’s estimate (if unhappy, some redesign may occur)
- Proceed to preparing full package of drawings for council approval
- Lodge drawings for council approval (Development Approval – DA)
- Wait for approval
- Project gets Development Approval
- Proceed to preparing drawings for Building Approval (BA)
- Get builder estimates along the way
- Lodge drawings for Building Approval
- Wait for Building Approval
- Project gets Building Approval
- Along the way, get input from other consultants such as a Structural Engineer. This enables us to resolve the drawings and prepare the required documentation for construction.
- Finalise the drawing package as a set for quoting and construction
- Get formal quotes from builders
- Choose a builder
- Sign contract
- Start construction
Along the way, we’re speaking to all the consultants and potential builders involved. This means that the project gets scheduled in their timelines.
You can see that we are waiting for each phase to be complete for commencing onto the next one. This is to manage the risk of proceeding on the next stage. This way, we’re not investing time and money in moving forward, without getting the last stage checked off.
It was clear this project would not work with a sequential delivery like this. If we were going to get Michelle and Sarah into their home by March 2017, we needed a different strategy.
So this is what we did.
Working backwards, and fixing timelines.
The construction of a home renovation will take as long as it’s going to take. Of course, some builders are more efficient than others. Generally though, the extension and renovation of a home will take a set length of time. This is usually based on the amount of building work required.
It is important to find a builder who will agree to a timeline, and who has proven ability to deliver on deadlines.
So, we spoke to some of the builders we were planning to ask for quotes. We estimated a 7 month construction program, and checked in with them to confirm.
With a move-in date of March, 2017, 7 months prior gave us a start date for construction of August, 2016.
Locking in the knowns
Before starting construction, we had to execute certain work to be ready for construction. Most of these things had fixed delivery times we could then map out.
Getting drawings ready
The client had signed of the design concept. Now, Aaron Wailes (of AWBD) and I needed to work together to prepare the drawing package for Council Approval. That was going to take a certain amount of time.
Then we would need to develop those drawings into a set for Building Approval.
After that, they would need to develop into a Construction Set.
Each step would take time. It would also need the involvement of the client to make decisions and selections. At each step, the package of drawings is increasing in number and detail. Other documents would be included, such as Interiors Schedules and Consultant Drawings.
All other pieces of information would have to be coordinated with the drawings.
Checking the budget
Part of this work needed to include a cost check.
I recommend you understand the cost of your project before you seek Council Approval for it. And then check it again at each stage of drawing and design development to make sure you’re on track.
Builders’ quotes can take 2 to 4 weeks to come in. I didn’t believe we had that time in the program. Especially for it to happen at each stage, and us wait for the quotes before going ahead. So we had to find another way to check the project cost that could work in tandem with this.
An alternative way to check your budget
There are professionals called “Building Estimators” and “Quantity Surveyors”. You can commission these consultants to provide cost estimates of your project. They will go over your drawings in detail. Using rates currently available to them, they will estimate a total project cost.
Of course, this is a garbage in / garbage out equation.
Hiring a Building Estimator could save some time. It could also help us understand the potential project budget.
We needed to give the Building Estimator sufficient information to prepare their work from. Otherwise it would be unreliable in helping us make decisions and move forward.
We would also issue drawings to builders for quotes. However, the Estimator’s price would give us an independent check budget whilst we negotiated with the builders on theirs.
Time to get Building Estimate: 1 – 2 weeks
Involving other consultants
The cost of a project is informed by the design, which shapes the spaces, materials and overall look of the home.
It’s also informed by the structural design: what goes under the ground, and within the walls and roof, to hold those spaces in place.
As part of understanding cost, and resolving drawings, we needed to get other consultants on board (such as a Structural Engineer.)
We needed some information from them very quickly to feed to the Building Estimator. So we needed them to work a little differently as well.
Council Approval – Development Application
We had previously got advice we’d be able to fast track the council approval. Once we discovered the home was pre-1911, it meant we would be following a more traditional Development Approval process. Time indications became 6 to 8 weeks, instead of 2 to 3. So we locked that into the program.
Time Estimate to get Council Approval: 6 – 8 weeks
In a project such as this, achieving a Building Approval with a Private Certifier can take about 4 weeks.
Time Estimate to get Building Approval: 4 weeks
And then there’s Christmas
This timeline was taking us through the Christmas break. Consultant offices shut down for 2 weeks generally, as do building companies. We needed to factor that in.
We don’t have enough time
We were at the beginning of April, and August was less than 4 months away. We didn’t have enough time to run these things sequentially.
This is where working with a professional can come in handy. As you can see, there’s quite a few moving parts to bring together.
We had to think strategically about how we could overlap the stages without taking on too much risk.
We also need to guide the Michelle and Sarah through that process.
Doing the stages sequentially helps you be able to adjust and change as you go, without having to redo work.
As we would be overlapping stages, we needed other ways to ensure work didn’t need to be undone as we went.
We involved all the various consultants very early on. This would give them the opportunity to flag any areas of concern.
For example, the program would have us lodging the Building Approval at a similar time to the Development Approval. Normally, you would wait until you have a Development Approval, before starting Building Approval drawings. Then you’d lodge the Buildng Approval!
Also, a Private Certifier can’t grant you a Building Approval until they see the conditions presented in the Council Approval. Or know that your Council Approval has come through.
I don’t want to lose you here …
In a renovation and extension project, certain work requires Building Approval and does not require Council Approval. This is where expert knowledge comes seriously in handy.
We juggled a few strategic approaches. This included splitting the Building Approval into two phases. The work that didn’t require Council Approval, and the work that did.
This would enable us (should Council delay their approval) to get the builder started on demolition on site. Work could start whilst we waited for the remaining Building Approval to come through.
This was one of many ways we managed risk and time on the project.
Wooohoooo … We’re getting there!!
So, this is a snapshot of how this program worked (click to enlarge).
I used an online planning tool called “Tom’s Planner” which is free for one program. You can share the program with others too. This is handy with trying to get everyone on your team to understand the deadlines.
There are other tools you can use – and you can even use Excel.
#UA Tip: Map out a timeline
There are two things that can blow out in any renovation or building project …
And the two are closely related. Together, they can deliver dreams. They can also cause a cocktail of stress and anxiety for homeowners.
Understanding timelines overall can be useful for managing the project and managing your cashflow. This can help you manage your stress levels overall.
If you’re working with a design professional, ask them to prepare a program for you.
- You can anticipate when you’ll be receiving drawings and need to provide input.
- It will help you get your finances ready
- You can prepare for when you’ll be required to get involved
- You can ensure you’re available at those times, so your project can keep moving.
Generally, I find that the length of time a project will take is greatly impacted by this:
… a client’s ability to provide feedback, make decisions and sign things off so we can move to the next stage.
One way to be a great client, is:
- to be ready and willing to get involved,
- be guided,
- trust your professional and
- make decisions quickly.
Did this all come together? Did we actually pull it all off and meet program? Tune into the next Project Diary Update to find out!
Over to you …
Any questions about this process? Pop them in the comments below!
Other blogs you may find useful …
Have you read the rest of this Project Diary? Head here to go back to the start.
How do you choose a builder that’s right for you? Here’s my tips.
What design professional do you need? Here’s the difference between an architect, building designer and draftsperson.