How to Help Your Clients Keep a Renovation Project on Schedule
Three pros on Houzz share their tried and tested tips for guiding clients to stick to a timeline
Contributing professionals: Claudia Dorsch of Claudia Dorsch Interior Design; Veronica Congdon of VC Design Architectural Services; Sarah Davies of Floella Interiors
For a smooth-running project, early communication is key, say our pros. “We advise clients to set aside time to engage with us fully and openly when starting a project,” Claudia Dorsch says. “The earlier they involve us in the process, the better. This helps us to plan our time accordingly and coordinate all works with everyone involved.”
These early meetings should really double down on design work, Veronica Congdon advises. “It’s best to explore lots of design options and be sure you’re proceeding to Planning with the right design that ticks all the boxes,” she says.
“If we have a clear idea from the beginning about exactly what we’re going to do, this eliminates finding out about additional works later on down the line, which always impedes and delays the project,” Claudia says. “We would never want to compromise the quality of a project because we’re trying to accommodate a lot more additional works.”
“If you have a tight deadline set by a client, it needs to be made very clear from the outset that decisions have to be made quickly to keep things moving and keep delays to a minimum,” Sarah Davies says. “I’d definitely get this in writing to the client – a simple email outlining the deadlines and decision process timescales.”
Claudia highlights the importance of creating a timeline of works at the start of a project. “This helps the client to see exactly what’s happening and when, dates of when items will be delivered, a schedule of when tradesmen will be on site, and a schedule of works for the builder,” she says.
For Sarah, it’s vital to anticipate potential impediments to a project’s timescale. “There are always going to be those unforeseeable delays on our end with suppliers, late deliveries, deliveries arriving wrong or damaged… the list is endless,” she says. “Managing these expectations is key. I will always quote a longer lead time to a client, as it’s better to deliver early than late.”
There are also times when it’s worth making a design decision that will slow a project down. “I think it’s important to talk to your client about what there may be leeway on,” Sarah says. “I’ve had clients fall in love with a curtain fabric, only to find it’s out of stock. Rather than take a compromise, I always ask them to consider whether it’s something they’re going to live with and enjoy for years to come.” If this is the case, Sarah thinks it’s worth adjusting the timeline to accommodate it.
Once a timeline has been established, constant communication is key to staying on track. “I always think it’s super-important to keep your client in the loop on as much as possible,” Sarah says. “I tend to keep an open message feed [in order] to go back and forth quickly with a client on updates and relevant info.
“I also then have a whole feed of info should I need to refer to this during the project,” she adds. “The more the client feels a part of the project without having to get into the nitty-gritty, the better.”
Sarah also stresses the importance of following up on emails you’ve sent to your client. “Emails can easily get missed and a designer saying to a client ‘I sent you that email a week ago for a decision and now we’re running late’ is not acceptable,” she says. “I feel it’s my job to keep a client pushed to make decisions to keep the project running on time, so I’ll chase on emails, calls and messages.”
As well as regular phone and email updates, Claudia recommends scheduling a recurring weekly meeting to keep the project going and the client engaged and interested.
If you’re using Houzz Pro, it’s worth checking out the particular tools that can help you with this. For example, you can share a daily log with your client and also schedule regular video meetings through the app.
To avoid Planning Permission delays, Veronica stresses the importance of correct form filling. “Be sure that all the mandatory forms are filled out, which lately includes Community Infrastructure Levies, Arboricultural Reports and lately even Biodiversity Reports, as well as flood risk assessments, no matter whether your extension impacts on these or not,” she says.
Veronica also recommends a similar strategy when it comes to Building Regulations. “The key is getting a Building Control Application in well before the builder is due to start,” she says. “You don’t want [the builders] tapping feet once there’s a big hole in the back of the house and the overheads are going through the roof.”
Following on from this, Veronica highlights the importance of early communication with other householders. “If the homeowners get objections from neighbours, a light study might need to be carried out by the Planning Department,” she explains. “So suddenly, a two-month process becomes four months, especially when consultants need to be appointed in haste.
“Party wall awards can also take up to eight weeks if contested, and these can only be put in place after structural engineers have done their designs,” Veronica adds. She advises that clients serve notices at the same time as Planning Consent, or shortly after if you’re prepared to proceed at risk.
What are the most common challenges you come up against when keeping a project on schedule? Share your thoughts in the Comments.