We’ve all heard the stories about home renovations gone bad. Even worse are the tales of people who’s new home construction went off the rails. Of course there’s always the few people who make make it through the work without any major issues but end up a few avoidable design shortfalls now there with a permenant place in their home to annoy them every day. I’m sure you’d agree none of those outcomes is what you’d want after investing hundreds of thousands of dollars to create your dream home.
The biggest reason you hear about so many home renovations and new construction projects becoming nightmares is because the homeowner had the wrong person leading the project.
When good intentions become nightmares in the design and construction of a home it’s usually because the wrong person determined the project direction from the start. Let’s take a look at some of the people who most often cause a project to go off the rails.
#1: The homeowner
When homeowners put themselves in charge of a home renovation project it’s almost always because they’re operating under the misconception that they can save money that way. They think that by hiring the contractors, architect, designer themselves and then managing all the moving parts required to successfully completed project that they’ll walk away with a home they love and more money in their pocket.
The fact is, nothing could be further from the truth. It’s actually ironic that the biggest problems created by a homeowner taking the lead are directly related to money.
First-off is intimate knowledge of costs. If you don’t know what something should cost how do you know if you’re saving yourself money? For example; you could get two or three quotes from window installation companies that are twice the cost of buying direct from the manufacturer. But because you got three quotes at $40,000 you just assumed that is the going rate and paid $15-grand more than necessary.
The second big problem is handling money with the GC or trades-people. Most of the horror stories you hear from homeowners has to do with the contractor ripping them off and disappearing. The homeowner overpays on progress payments because they don’t know if the work that was completed actually warrants the money being requested. Contractors don’t get ahead of you on payments all at once, it happens incrementally in a way that you’ll never notice until it’s too late.
Sometimes it’s not even a contractor or trades-person being malicious. Some are bad at managing time or money . . . and often both. They get themselves in a hole overpromising to get more work and before you know it your project has slowed to a crawl because they haven’t shown up for days. Knowing the signs and being able to recognize when it’s time to drop the hammer or cut someone loose is critical. And doing so when the contractor is not ahead of you with payments makes it much easier and less costly to do.
I could go on but you get the idea. The fairytale shown on HGTV is nothing like real life. Many things can and will go wrong with a project. Without the proper training and experience a homeowner will mishandle those problems costing themselves tens-of-thousands of dollars, months of additional time, and even grinding the project to a halt because their action (or inaction) triggered a lawsuit.
#2: A Builder or contractor
Most of the time when a general contractor (GC) is the first to look at a project it’s the innocent mistake of a homeowner thinking this is the right person to call first. But GC’s construct and builders build. Someone has to give them specific plans on what and how to build it. If the homeowner puts the contractor in the lead, well let’s just say it’s going to be a wild costly ride.
This scenario always leads to an open-ended contract with lots of change orders and a home you’ll hate. Contractors and builders are not designers. A professional GC or builder who’s honest will always tell you what they need to do their job well; detailed plans so they can bid accurately. Hiring a builder or general contractor who starts out advising you on how you should plan or design your project should be avoided at all costs.
A good GC is a key player on the design & build team. But even more important is choosing the RIGHT builder or GC that best matches the complexity of your project. Making this choice is easy when you have the right professional leading your project.
#3: An Architect
We have the utmost respect for architects. Like contractors, Studio 818 has a select group of outstanding architects as part of our Design + Build Management team. But all architects are not created equal. Selecting the architect who is the best match to the demands of your project takes a lot of experience and a thorough understanding of the design & build process.
I put architects last in this list because in principle they should be capable of leading a project from concept to completion. But many architects lack the hands-on construction experience it takes to lead efficiently. Most rarely leave their office. And when they do take the lead on the construction of a new home the average architect is so focused on form that they often miss the interior design details and functional flow that a master design should be centered around.
When it comes to architects and home renovations these are two things that don’t usually go well together. Consult with an architect on your home renovation, major or not, and the most common thing you’ll hear them say is “it’s better to tear it down and start new.” It’s the nature of their professional training in designing new structures. In the case of home renovations the architect is a hammer looking for a nail.
Adapting plans to real-world problems during the construction process while still protecting the integrity of the design is another challenge. The way many architects respond to construction issues during the build process is with a compromise that negatively impacts the livability of the home. This again is the result an architects’ strength and professional training focused on form.
So if it’s not the homeowner, GC or architect that should be leading your major renovation or new build project — who should it be?
The right answer is not so much a person as it is the right system. A systemized process that is lead by an experienced team with no other agenda except to ensure your goals are met and your interests are protected from beginning to end.
The designer-led process
We’ve learned a lot through our experience designing, developing and selling over forty of our own designer spec homes. Most importantly we’ve learned (the hard way) the most efficient way to achieve a stunning integrated design is for the Studio 818 team to take the lead on the design and build process from the start. That means the Studio 818 team begins working with you from your first serious thought of renovating or constructing a new home, and we provide design-based leadership all the way to completion to ensure success.
We understand the practicality of different construction techniques so we can control overall costs by designing with the most efficient building methods in mind. Unlike a contractor-led process where budgets balloon and the design morphs as the project moves along, in our designer-led process we first develop the master plan for your project which has the sole focus of creating a home that perfectly compliments your lifestyle. This in turn is the basis for complete control over the design, budget and timelines for your entire project.
When it comes to overcoming the challenges of dealing with an architect on your own, we solve that with our designer-led team as well. When we’re first on-site to consult on your home renovation we leverage our experience reconfiguring funky floor plans into functional spaces and put that to work for you. We create the floor plan and space plan that deliver what you want, then we work with the right architect and engineers from our team to draft permit drawings. The only time you’ll ever hear “tear it down and build new” is when it’s the best decision financially, not the easiest decision.
If you’re building a new home from the ground-up we take the lead and design from the inside out before bringing in the architect from our team. We do this so that the master plan and design direction are oriented around the interior details and functionality that ultimately will make your home both beautiful AND practical to live in. We then work side-by-side with the architect to finish out the building envelope, structural components and engineering details.
The bottom line is this — with our designer-led full-service Design + Build Management process we keep the focus on function, form and lifestyle alignment of your home from the start. Before the first hammer swings every detail is pre-planned to control project costs and increase timeline efficiency. And when construction starts we stand in the gap for you handling all challenges that arise during the build phase, protecting the integrity of your design and minimizing change orders with our construction administration. All you have left to do is — sit back and enjoy the pretty stuff! 🙂
To learn more on how Studio 818’s six-phase process for Design+ Build Management sets you up for success with your home renovation or new home construction — get the details here.
If you’d like to dig deeper and get a better understanding of the costs of building or renovating in South Florida we’ve published two eBooks that you’ll want to get:
- The Real Deal on Design & Renovation Costs in South Florida
- Seven Killer Flaws to Fix When Renovating a Home in South Florida
You can grab them both for free HERE.