Project managing your own construction project. You think you’ve got what it takes? Here’s what you should consider before you embark on a complex project.
Organisation is key when it comes to project managing your own construction project, and when you’re embarking on a complex project you must keep track of everything. You need to find a system that works for you – making concise to-do lists is a great place to start. An organiser app for your phone such as Trello or Evernote means that you can keep your list at the end of your fingertips wherever you are. However, some people prefer a traditional excel spreadsheet or a good old-fashioned notebook and pen. Whichever method you choose, keeping a detailed schedule of the works you have going on is a must if you want to bring your project in on time and within budget. Make sure you plan months ahead and mark key dates for when contractors will be on-site and when materials will arrive.
Hiring a builder
Before you hire contractors for your project, you need to make sure they’re the right fit for you and the type of structure you are looking to build. If you’re building a specific type of structure with unusual requirements, do they have the specialist knowledge and experience required? It’s important to do your research and ask to see examples of their previous work before you bring them on board. Recommendations from friends and family can offer assurances of quality or you can ask to speak with previous homeowners they’ve worked with. When it comes to pricing up your project, make sure you get quotes from contractors in writing, otherwise, the price may be liable to change. Find and contact local contractors and tradesmen during the planning process and get them organised ready to start when you need them. In the run-up to your build, stay in regular communication with your contractors and share your works schedule with them. If they encounter delays – perhaps their previous project overruns or material delivery dates are postponed – you need to know as soon as possible as this will have a knock-on effect on the rest of your timetable. Once your project is up and running it’s important to keep the site clean and tidy and make it a safe environment for your contractors. A messy or uncomfortable workspace can lead to tensions which can threaten to derail or delay your project.
Quantifying building materials
From the outset, it’s important to find out exactly what your contractors will provide as part of their quote. Some builders will include materials in their price, but many contractors will expect you to have purchased these yourself, ready for when they need to begin their work. Hiring a quantity surveyor could be a good first step, as they will be able to tell you the amount and cost of the building materials that you need. Alternatively, a reputable building material retailer can offer a handy one-stop-shop for all your building needs. If you choose to source your building materials yourself, be aware of the time and research this will require – it really is a full-time job. Remember to ensure the products you purchase meet building specifications and if you’re thinking of buying online, always request samples before purchasing. Regardless of who procures your project’s building materials, you need to make sure your erf has adequate access for delivery trucks and cranes. If there’s not enough space to manoeuvre materials onto the site you could run up costly delays.
Setting a realistic budget
It’s easy to let your budget spiral out of control – there are plenty of horror stories of people who’ve overspent by tens of thousands. This doesn’t have to be the case if you’re realistic and set the right budget from the very beginning. Start by keeping track of your expenses and the dates payments are due in a spreadsheet. Make sure you budget for the unexpected. You should have a contingency sum of around 15-20% of your total budget to cover you, should disaster strike. There could be supplier delays, bad weather, structural problems or even ground issues, so you must be ready for any unexpected extra costs. Before you start the building process, you’ll need to decide what sort of finish you’re going for. The difference between the cheapest and most expensive materials can be huge and you may have to make a few sacrifices to bring your build in on budget. For example, it’s wiser to spend more money on the structure of the build, rather than the aesthetics that can be easily updated in the future.
Following the planning and building regulations
Anything you build on your property needs plans unless it is defined as “minor building work”. However, the Act states very clearly in Part A: General Principles and Requirements (this was previously Part A: Administration), that any structural building work that is defined as “minor building work” requires authorisation by your local authority’s building control officer before you can commence with any work. As long as you have made an application and have received the necessary permission from the local authority, you do not need plans. But the law is also very clear in terms of compliance with the regulations; minor building work must comply with the regulations. Ultimately it is up to the local authority to decide whether or not you need plans. Find out as early as possible from your local authority if you need to submit plans for the structure you have in mind. Do this before you start looking for contractors or estimating material requirements. If plans are required it is best to consult with an architect, specifically someone who is familiar with your specific municipality. Not only will the plans be drawn correctly, but it will also speed up the approval process. Most municipalities in Gauteng and the Western Cape offer eServices so building plans can be submitted electronically. The application can be done online for the City of Cape Town and the City of Joburg. Approval is granted by a building control inspector, who will carry out periodic site inspections to ensure regulations are being met. The local council will then inspect the building at the end of the project to ensure the conditions have been met.
If you intend to be an owner-builder or to contract out any type of building work we strongly recommended that you take out a public liability insurance policy. This covers you if a family member or member of the public is injured as a result of the building work. You could be liable because you own the property. No matter how organised and efficient you are things can still go wrong, so you need to arrange adequate protection to safeguard your project. Before your build begins you should purchase site insurance, which will cover risks including theft, fire and injury to workers. Make sure you take out a structural warranty at the start of your build too. The warranty provider will inspect your home throughout its construction to ensure regulations are met, and this will then cover the structure for 10 years if something goes wrong. It’s a good idea to take out warranties at the beginning of build works as you could end up paying five times more if you purchase after completion, as the provider won’t have been able to monitor the property’s construction.
Keeping the neighbours onside
If your property falls under the rules of an HOA or Body Corporate, you have to comply with their regulations. Consult with the relevant person on the committee immediately when you have decided to start planning the project. You want to waste valuable time planning a build that will not be allowed. Make sure you find out what your local municipality’s bylaws are. These specify how far from boundaries you are allowed to build. Contentious planning applications can sour relationships between you and your neighbours before the build has even begun, so it’s important to begin discussing your plans with surrounding homeowners as soon as possible. To prevent any animosity, regularly update your neighbours on the progress of your build and be sure to give them ample warning before any loud construction stages or large deliveries.
Hire a professional contractor
The success of the project is largely determined by how efficiently it is managed. If you have a full-time job or other commitments, it might not be possible for you to project manage your own construction project. Be realistic about your capabilities and the amount of time and energy you’re able to devote to project managing. If you’re time-poor and would prefer a more hands-off approach, you might consider hiring a specialist project manager to oversee the entirety of your build. This is a far less stressful road to your dream outcome but expect a hefty price tag. The other, much more affordable option is to choose a professional contractor who will project manage the entire process. A competent construction contractor will run the site and organise all the subcontractors. He will take care of all the planning and schedules and will require minimal involvement from you. All that will be needed is being reachable by phone and meeting on-site regularly to discuss progress.
Consider the role of construction project management carefully before taking on a complex renovation on your own
Renovating your home or office is exciting. But any type of construction is stressful – it’s construction! Think about the quality of your life over the duration of the project. Peace of mind is priceless. Hiring the cheapest contractor could cost you a lot more than just money. Project managing your own construction project is a serious commitment, that is likely to leave you frustrated.