So you want to renovate your home. You may think it’s just a matter of going to your local Home Depot to buy the tools and materials to do the work. Or perhaps, you may already know a few things about the construction industry and is overwhelmed with the amount of unknowns. You may not even know where to start asking questions, or who to ask the questions. Don’t worry. We are here to help with our construction sequence series of articles.
This is the renovation overview. In this article, our goal is to bring everyone up to the same level. After reading this article, you should be able to determine your project scope, and the parties involved so you can at least direct your question to the right professional. Without getting too much into the specifics of the different types of projects, lets categorize the scope into 4 different project types: Tiny, Small, Medium, and Large. These names are only for instructional purposes and they have no meaning in the construction industry. They do somewhat represent the cost of project, but more relevant to the amount of people involved.
Construction is complex in nature with lots of moving pieces. Let’s start with the basics. Every project needs to have someone who is funding the project (homeowner or bank), someone who makes decisions for the project (homeowner/client or strata), someone who is managing the project (homeowner or project manager), someone who has the knowledge to advise on the project (homeowner or consultant), someone who can provide the material for the project (homeowner or supplier), and someone who can construct the project (homeowner or contractor). We tried to avoid names like architects and contractors because on a smaller project, one person can take multiple roles. Notably a larger project can have multiple people working for 1 role together.
A tiny project is as small as it gets. It means the homeowner is acting as all roles mentioned above. We decide when work is required, come up with the money, go on youtube to find out how to do the work, then execute the work. This type of project should be very minor from patching the wall, painting, to re/re (remove and replace) fixtures at exact location. This type of projects legitimately do not require a permit from your authority having jurisdiction.
The term small project has been misused the most. This type of project should only involve the homeowner and the contractor. The scope typically involves interior alterations that does not alter structural load-bearing elements in the building. At this scale, the homeowner may be his own general contractor, but sub-contractors for electrical, plumbing, or gas will be required. Permits from authority is required, which means someone between the owner and the contractor needs to come up with the permit application drawings and documents. Since contractors are usually not very good at drafting, I’d advise the homeowner to do the drawings themselves. If you do not know how to draw, I’d advise getting a consultant who can draw. This can either be a draftsperson, a designer, or an architect.
When working with a contractor, it is very important to hire the right contractor for your job. Make sure to write a contract and determine who is responsible for which portion of the job. For example, after the drawings are done, who is going to deal with the city to obtain a building permit. Of course everything comes with a price if you want the contractor to do you bidding. However, an amateur homeowner at the city may not be able to answer all the questions the city may have. If you want to save money, one of the most important aspects is the purchase of material. Also, do not ever release more than 50% of the funding before the project is complete. There are too many horrifying stories about contractors disappearing.
If your project location is in a strata building, they become someone who makes decisions for the project. You need to obtain approval from the strata before you can do the work.
We consider medium sized project any jobs involving 3 parties. The owner, the contractor, and the consultant. This is the most basic composition for a proper renovation team. An owner would determine when work is required around the house. Homeowner would contact the consultant, whether a designer or an architect. They would communicate to determine the feasibility of the project. The consultant would sometimes even provide better solutions based on the homeowner’s requirements. This would happen in the early stage of the project where there is still room for change.
A good consultant always maintain a good relationship with several reputable contractors they have worked with in the past. They can obtain a few quotes from the good contractors he has worked with. The consultant can also create drawing documents and liaise with the authority having jurisdiction. Basically, the consultant is someone who has extensive construction knowledge who is acting on the homeowner’s behalf. So our renovation experience can be less stressful.
A large size project has a lot more going on. At this point, you will have multiple people working on one role. For example, a medium sized project may have the designer taking care of the aesthetics and the technical part of the construction. However, a large sized project is going to have the designer/architect as coordination consultant, while a structural engineer calculate load transfer. Then, they may have an envelope engineer to design the waterproofing membrane detail.
For contractors, you are going to have a general contractor with different sub-trade for formwork, concrete, framing, drywall, window, and masonry, etc. It may seem like the general contractor is not doing anything, but his role is actually controlling all the scheduling, deadlines, among other things. He needs to know exactly what is happening on site. Sometimes, that general contractor becomes the project manager.
These different project scopes and parties involved in a project can be very daunting and confusing. These examples entails the amount of people can be part of the project. When in doubt. Go back to the basics, Medium sized projects where the division of labour is clear among the owner, consultant, and contractor. So you can direct your question to the correct person.