renovation project management

Renovation Project Management – 11 Pro Tips You Must Know (UK Guide)

Starting a renovation project is daunting, especially when you’ve invested your life savings in buying the property! You probably have a mortgage and expensive bills to pay, all putting pressure on you to finish the renovation and sell/rent it out ASAP.

In this guide, I’ll explain 11 key parts to successful renovation project management and help give you some of the basics to build upon no matter where you are in the project life-cycle.

Note: Due to the scale of renovation project management, I can only cover a few short topics in this article.

The first question is, ‘Do you have a project?’.

This might sound like an obvious question but think about it. A project is an activity which is a unique endeavour undertaken to meet a specific set of objectives, which can be expressed in terms of a benefit, output or outcome.

Example Projects:

  1. You have bought a house ready to rent out. You’ve got the keys but need to ensure the house meets the required regulations and legislation, as well as find a tenant and move them in.
  2. You have bought an uninhabitable house with no bathroom and no kitchen. It’s falling apart and needs a complete refurbishment from the ground up to get it ready to sell or let.

Two very different situations, but both are home improvement projects. You have a specific objective which is not business as usual.

In the following section, I will explain the three phases of a project and provide some useful tips and processes you can use to deliver your new project!

Project Start-Up

home reno project startup

To start your project, you will need to answer the following questions:

  • What’s the objective of the project?
  • What are the project timescales?
  • What’s the project budget?
  • What quality standards do I need to achieve?

You must define the project’s objective to determine precisely what you want. For example, with project number two, does the house only need to be habitable or a fully furnished house which is attractive to the high end of the market?

Once this question is answered, can you define the quality standards, e.g. budget finish and basics or high-end with modern appliances? From here, you can build the project budget and understand the project timescales.

1. Programme of Works

The programme of works is the lifeblood of a project. What are you going to do, and when are you going to do it? To build a programme, you need to identify the tasks required, the sequence and the duration.

I would use a simple Microsoft Excel spreadsheet unless you have software such as Microsoft Project. I can walk you through the steps required to make a programme.

Pro Tip: Give yourself breathing space. If you think an activity will take one week, likely, it will take two. Make your programme realistic!

2. Appointing Tradespeople

You may be excellent at DIY and can undertake all of the work yourself. However, at some point, you will need tradespeople for electrical certificates, gas certificates, boiler repairs/replacement etc.

If you need to appoint a tradesperson, I suggest using an online portal such as Rated People. They use a rating system so you can check feedback and select the best tradesperson(s) available. Then, use the tradesperson to get quotations and provide a scope of work. 

If you don’t know what work is required, then getting the tradesperson to build a scope of work gives you a template to obtain prices against. You can also use this scope to check each item and ensure it is required so you aren’t paying for unnecessary work.

When appointing tradespeople, you may need a contract if the value of the works is large enough. At a minimum, I email each tradesperson with the specific scope of works they have quoted, clarifying what is required and getting the timescales in writing.

Pro Tip: If you have a good relationship with the estate agent you bought the property from (assuming you bought through an agent), ask them who they recommend. A recommendation is invaluable.

3. Specifications

You must record the required specifications to ensure your project is delivered to your standard. For example, if the quality is basic, your specification may be ‘cheap, no-frills, white, hard-wearing’.

If the quality is high-end, your specification may be as follows; aluminium finish, stylish, and hard-wearing. It’s important to record your specification so your tradesperson knows exactly what you expect.

If you want more control, look to source the products yourself, passing them to the tradesperson for installation only.

Pro Tip: View new-build houses from large developers. You will see the latest designs and products which the market is demanding.

Project Execution

home reno project execution

Now that the project is in full swing, you will need to manage the process and ensure you are on track. Here are a few sections which will help you manage the delivery process.

4. Tracking Against Baseline

The baseline for your project should be the original programme of works and budget. Whenever you check progress, it should be against this baseline of what you originally said you would achieve and when!

Depending on the length of the project, you may wish to benchmark progress every day or every week. The more regular, the better, providing it adds value.

Start by reviewing what you planned to do that day or week. Has it been achieved? If not, you’re already behind schedule! Mark off how much has been completed and see how much is remaining.

If you are behind schedule, you will need to re-think. Will the activity which is delayed affect other activities? Could the whole programme of works be delayed? This is why you need to track against the baseline, to highlight if you are on track or way off.

You also need to track the budget. If you have completed 20% of the work, you can expect to have spent 20% of the budget. This isn’t always true, but it’s a good indication.

To track the budget in detail, you need to allocate a cost to each activity in your work programme. When an activity is complete, you can check whether it cost you more or less than you budgeted. How will you bring the remaining works under budget if it cost more?

Pro Tip: Use an Excel spreadsheet to calculate costs and progress automatically. You don’t want to be doing it manually every day.

5. Payments

You will need to pay the tradespeople as you progress through the project. Use the principles above to check how much work has been done and how much should be paid.

Generally, you should only pay for works which are 100% complete. If you have a contract with a builder, you may pay in stages or at the end.

Always ensure tradespeople are paid quickly. As I have learned, this builds trust and results in the tradesperson giving you a 5* service simply because they know they will get paid quickly!

Pro Tip: Use mobile banking. Many banking apps now allow you to pay people directly from your device. You can, therefore, pay them there and then!

6. Quality

If you are doing the work yourself, you may think the quality is top-notch, and it may be! If you aren’t sure, get someone to have a look. They may see things you don’t and help you deliver better-quality products.

If you’re using tradespeople, check their work as they go along. For example, with electrics and plumbing, the work is often hidden and can’t be seen.

Ensure you inspect the works before it gets covered up. You don’t want a leaky pipe causing damage just because of a quick job. You should do site inspections every day to track progress. On a larger project, weekly may be ok, but the more frequent, the better.

Take photos and record them for nostalgia, if nothing else! This shows the tradesperson that you’re on top of the job and know what’s happening.

The quality of the finish can make or break your project when trying to rent or sell a property, so make sure it’s as good as you expect.

Pro Tip: If you can’t do an inspection yourself, ask your tradesperson to use WhatsApp, you can then have a video call, and they can take you around the project.

7. Forward Thinking

Now that the project is in full swing don’t forget why you are doing the project in the first place! Focus on the desired result and always one step ahead.

Are the works almost finished, and will the property be ready to rent in 2 weeks? If so, start getting a letting agent involved and, if possible, start marketing it. Do you want to hold an open day for viewings? Get it booked in and ready to go, don’t wait for the project to be finished.

Planning is critical to project success. You must look ahead and see what needs to be done in one day, week, or month. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail”.

Pro Tip: Take regular breaks from day-to-day management to focus on plans. You may save one day during the project by working harder, but if you forget to plan for the future, you can easily cost yourself more.

Project Completion

home reno project completion

Now that your project is ending, you should start wrapping things up and closing the project down. This is an important phase for the reasons explained below.

8. Snagging

Snagging is a term used to describe the final review of the finished works before accepting handover and completion. For example, if you have just had a new kitchen installed, you would ‘Snag’ the kitchen to identify any areas where the quality isn’t up to standard. E.g. door handles are not screwed down, etc.

Snagging is important whenever an element of work is finished because the tradesperson is on-site waiting to get paid and wants to move on to the next job. They’re far more likely to rectify the issues if you take this approach.

If you pay the tradesperson without snagging the work and find an issue later, it might be hard to get them back to fix it!

Pro Tip: Walk around the finished works with the tradesperson, using the scope of works to check everything has been done and to your standards.

9. Accounts

When the project is nearing completion, and when it is complete, you will need to update your accounts with the final figures. This is a really important step as it will tell you whether you have delivered the project to budget or not!

You shouldn’t have surprises here, as your regular checks would have highlighted any forecasted overspending.

Pro Tip: If you’re under or over budget, check to see why. You can then refine your budgeting for the next project with realistic figures.

10. Programme Review

Throughout the project, you’ve been using your work programme to check progress to see if you are ahead. Now is the ideal time to rationalise what has happened and see whether you finished on time.

Similarly to your accounts, it’s a great time to see what went faster and what went slower than planned, giving you more information for the next project.

Pro Tip: When you have completed your programme of works, use the actual timescales involved to build a standard set of timescales. If you ever need to produce another programme of works, you have set durations for each activity based on real results!

11. Lessons Learnt

With the project finished, you should take time to reflect on the project and identify lessons learnt. For example, I learnt that paying a plumber is much better than doing it myself! It saves time, reduces issues and saves a lot of stress!

Think about what went well, what didn’t, what you would do differently on the next project, and how you would improve.

Pro Tip: Keep these lessons and refer to them when you start your next project. You never know what nuggets of information you have forgotten since.

Renovation Project Management – Final Thoughts

Thanks for reading this guide; I hope you find it useful. Renovation project management can be an easy job or a difficult job, and by implementing even just a few of the sections, I have described, it should become a lot easier.

For more great renovation tips, check out our ultimate guide to property refurbishment for landlords.