5 Ways Construction Projects Go Wrong – Not Seeing the “Small Pictures”

If you have been shopping around for contractors for your remodeling project, you must have come across some “big picture” contractors. Essentially, they promise they can deliver the bathroom you want as long as you “point and show” them the layout. “I have done so many projects; I get the big picture,” they’ll say. However, few contractors want you to think in “small pictures.” Let me explain.

You know what you want your remodeling project to look like. Maybe you’ve dreamed about it for years and carefully chosen each and every detail, from the tile to the fixtures to the trim. Translating that vision into reality involves many moving parts. It all starts with the construction document. A great construction document lays out the particulars of your vision, making sure every detail is addressed. Without a sufficiently detailed construction document, things could go wrong quickly.

A great construction document imagines the room from multiple angles and takes every last detail into account.

Elevations – the “Small Pictures”

It’s great to be able to show your contractor photos of your dream project, but a great construction document can save you time and money later. A floor plan alone simply won’t cut it. A great construction document should include multiple elevations (the “small pictures”). It should give not just a bird’s-eye view but snapshots from several different angles.

What will happen if an odd slant in the ceiling cuts off the ornate trim above the door? Would you rather cut off the trim or use lower profile trim? How much will the low-profile trim delay the project if it was not ordered up front? Where will the outlets be placed to be most convenient? Will the contractor need to order tile for the floor beneath a floating vanity? Where will the toilet paper holder be located? How high will the glass shower door be?

You can’t foresee these issues with a floor plan alone. You will for sure save time and money in change orders later by nailing down every last detail before work begins.

Every Detail Counts

No detail is too small for the construction document.

Sometimes homeowners decide to put off major decisions until the middle of the project. Choosing a bathroom vanity, for example, might seem like an innocuous choice. What happens, though, if you fall in love with a vanity that’s too tall to fit under the existing mirror? If the mirror is held on with industrial-grade adhesive, you could need expensive and time-consuming drywall work. What if, by the time you choose the vanity, they are on back order and it takes an extra four weeks? This gives the contractor an opportunity to pad the budget and the finish date unnecessarily. A two-day change could turn into five days, and hundreds of dollars into thousands.

Even changing the location of a towel bar, which requires wood blocking behind the wall, could spell a change order if it’s done too late in the project.

A great construction document even includes photos and model numbers for each finish item. This includes not only large items such as light fixtures and cabinets but also the shower rod, wood trim, the faucets and the shower pan. This helps ensure that each item will fit in its intended place and allows the homeowner to see all the items together in one place.

Some other considerations that you can build into your project with a great construction document include where to place the outlets so handheld personal hygiene appliances are conveniently located. (Are you left-handed or right-handed?) Will there be enough storage in the cabinets you’ve chosen?

Plan Now, Save Later

A contractor is not a designer. A designer is a professional whose mind is specially trained to consider each of these needs. Having a designer draw up detailed plans might seem time-consuming and expensive, but consider how much time, money and headache you could save throughout the construction.

Most construction jobs have change orders at some point; it is almost always more expensive to make changes once the work has begun. Spend a few hours up front putting all the details together to prevent headaches later. The idea is simple, it’s cheap to re-arrange a bathroom on paper, it’s expensive to move the toilet for even one inch.

Many homeowners and even design firms don’t see the value of a great construction document. As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. You wouldn’t buy a new car and then decide to switch the manual transmission for an automatic — and certainly not without considerable expense. It makes much more sense to put a lot of thought into the matter up front, to research and plan in great detail.

We’ve helped our clients execute successful remodeling projects with a nicely crafted construction document by great bay area designers. If you’re considering a remodeling project, ask us for a referral.

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