Ready to start a new home project? Upgrade old kitchen with modern cabinets and appliances? Remove moldy tiles in bathroom with shiny Italian marble? Want to be on-time and on-budget? Make sure you not just use a good contractor, but you also employ proper project management methodology and tools!
Let’s start with a methodology. You don’t have to be a certified PMP (Project Management Professional) to manage your home project. After all, in most cases it is not that complex. All you need is to set an objective, list what needs to be done, put those tasks in proper order, keep track on their progress, perform some adjustments to a plan from time to time until job is done.
Since sometimes the “devil is in details”, the proper decomposition of “what needs to be done” it important. Planning should always start from large chunks of work, which then be broken into smaller and more manageable pieces. The best to illustrate this methodology is to use a real-life home project as an example.
Use case: Upgrade a home kitchen
Main objective is to have a “kitchen of dreams”. This sets a final goal of what you want to have at the end of a project. It is important to describe the objective as clear as possible!
Step 1: High-level plan
High-level plan lists all major activities that needs to be done in order to achieve the project objective. In case of kitchen upgrade it is usually following main activities:
- Design new kitchen
- Order new kitchen
- Remove old kitchen
- Build/Install new kitchen
Quite simple and straight forward, isn’t it? Probably. But in most cases you will need to get several contractors involved, several suppliers involved, you should account the goods availability and delivery times. Goods has to be stored somewhere on-site as well as trash from a removing old stuff… All these are details that we will incorporate into four above main tasks. In order to keep track on all those little pieces we will need a help of technology – e.g. you need to use app for your home project. Example – task management software.
Today there are many nice and comprehensive task / project management tools available on a market. It is not that important which one to use as long as it fits your particular case. Here are few typical requirements for a software for “replace kitchen”-type project:
- Track tasks by time, money and materials
- Be able to decompose large activities into smaller manageable tasks
- Perform an assignment
- Make tasks inter-dependent (example: you can’t install cabinets before they delivered)
- Have control on schedule – e.g. move individual tasks or entire groups back and fourth
- Be mobile (e.g. tools available “on a go”)
Step 2: DETAILED PLANNING
Once tool is selected – let’s start working with our large activities and decompose them into smaller and more manageable tasks. First we need a project – let’s create one that is stored in iCloud (e.g. we can access it from iPhone on the road as well as from our large iPad at home). We don’t know how our kitchen will look like yet, but we figured – we would use Lowe’s Latitude cabinets – and hence we can easily predict that it may look like on from their website catalog! Next we will create our main activities that we listed above:
We don’t yet know how long each activity will take precisely, but have a general idea. To settle on a new kitchen design we will probably spend a couple of days. Ordering and delivery typically takes another week, demolishing an existing one will not take more than a few days and finally – building and installation is about 1-2 weeks. Let’s update those dates and look at the activities in a form of a graph (or how it is called in Project Management: Gantt Chart):
When you use the app for your home project, you can double-tap of a task line – to visually edit its duration or move it along the timeline. In addition to main activities rough time estimate we also can have few assumptions that will help us to complete project faster and use resources more efficiently:
- Some activities cannot be started before other finished (like you can’t place an order before you settled on design; or you can’t start installation before you removed old cabinets)
- Some activities may be done simultaneous with the other (like you can start demolishing old cabinets while waiting for new ones to be delivered)
On a Gantt chart those links and overlaps are easily deflected. For one activity you may define one or more others, that are predecessors and may block its start or finish. Arrows on a chart will represent those dependencies.
NOTE: for each task or activity you have two time-related variables: Start / Finish timestamp as well as total Duration. Task may last for a week (e.g. from Monday to Monday), but actual time required to execute it may be just 4 hours. This means that those 4 hours can be spend any time between Start and Finish date/time. Here is full list of task/activity attributes you may employ for your planning:
Main activities are now in-place. We are ready to decompose them into smaller tasks. General rule-of-thumb is to go from larger activity to medium to small. Let’s break each of our four activities to a next level of tasks. For planning part – it is only few tasks (we decided to upgrade tiles, cabinets, walls colors and lights; plumbing fixtures will be also upgraded, but stay in same places -so no pipe relocation work required):
Ordering is more-less straightforward, but you need to remember about few things:
- Pay attention to every small detail when order – manager who is placing your order cannot read your mind. If you receive items not exactly as you need them – there will be extra time and headache for re-ordering or amending process
- Delivery time may be slightly different than you’ve been told – account for this potential issue
- Prepare place where items will be stored – make sure storage conditions meet items specs (not too humid, etc.)
- One piece you cannot order without floor cabinets in-place is a countertop. You may take time to find the proper slab and place it on hold, but actual measurements can only be done once floor (base) cabinets are installed and fixed.
When orders are placed – you pretty much know when items will arrive. So you can start demolishing the old kitchen. Remember that demolishing is not just removing and disposing wall and base cabinets! You will also need to remove heavy items (old countertops, appliances) and order their proper hauling and disposal. It may take time, effort and extra money! For appliances you may want to sync it with delivery of new ones. Most of suppliers offer options to remove and haul away old appliances (some offer to do it for-free).
Next phase is actual construction. You need to start from most dirty/dusty work. It make sense to start from leveling ceiling and walls (lots of sending involved). Next you may want to re-enforce your floor plywood with cement board. Painting of ceiling and walls goes next. Then installing tiles. Last you will need to install a baseboard and paint it.
Now it is time for cabinets. It make sense to start from wall cabinets since it is easier to install them without bottom place blocked by base cabinets. In some cases you need to prepend wall cabinets installation with a lights wiring (for under-cabinet lights) and a ventilation duct work (for cooktop exhaust). Next – base cabinets. As with wall cabinets, you will first need to make sure all plumbing and appliances wiring and rough-ins are in-place.
When base cabinets installed and leveled – it is time to call a granite guys – to perform measurements for a countertop. Hopefully you already selected a slab and all they need is to do a cutting…
Last step of planning is to set costs for items that either needs to be purchased or contractor services with labor costs.
Step 3: Assignments
Plan is ready – now it is time to execute it. First part of execution is to make an assignment. Each task should be assigned to a person or company, responsible for its execution.
Step 4: project execution
Once assign, you will need to track the progress of execution and it helps when you use the app for your home project. When change progress, say from 0 to 50% you may also automatically update actual time, money and materials spent during the task. Or change them manually if they are not directly correlate with completion percent:
The best view to see a task completion percent is Gantt chart. It will display individual task completion as well as entire groups (based on their children tasks and sub-groups). In addition to completion you also need to control your budget (money spent on items and labor costs) and time (e.g. to be sure – you are “on schedule”)!
Step 5: Completion and punchlist
At the end of each construction project that involves contractors (whether it is a building of a new home or just a kitchen upgrade) there is one important phase – punchlist. Punchlist is a contractual way of a project owner to tell contractors what is not done right and have it fixed. Typically punchlist includes an owner walk with a contractor and recording of (hopefully) minor defects and imperfections to be done. Critical part is – to document them all with as much details as possible along with photo illustrations.
We hope you now have a kitchen of your dreams! And we hope we helped you by enabling you to use app for your home project!