Why Remodeling in Phases is a Bad Idea

I often meet clients who want the do their projects in phases. This seems like a great idea on paper, but in reality it will cost you all three forms of remodeling capital; time, stress and money.

Take for example thinking on a 2 bathroom remodel. The basic idea is that the contractor would come in and do one bathroom at a time, thereby never leaving the clients and their family without a fully functioning bathroom. Makes sense right? In reality however this model has many flaws.

1. Economy of scale. This is an important concept in remodeling. Typically, the larger the project gets the costs of the individual items go down as a percentage. In other words if the flooring guy charges $3.00 a square foot to install 1000 sf of oak hardwood, he is not going to do a 40 sf patch job for $120. It’s simply not worth his time and when you break a job into small pieces you end up paying “a la carte” type pricing. This concept extends throughout most of the trades with a few exceptions.

2. Shelf Life- The day that the seal gets broken at the start of any project the clock starts ticking. No different than the loaf of bread in your cabinet, at some point it’s going to get stale. This staleness takes on many different forms but one of the main ones is in the form of attitude. Let’s say that bathroom #1 in our example has been completed from start to finish, demo to paint and now we are starting all over again. During the next parade of workers and subcontractors you will notice a drop. A drop in their shoulders, a drop in their attitude and always a drop in the order and cleanliness of the job. In simple terms they are tired of being there. The job is no longer fresh and new and their internal clock is telling them that they should be done with this job and be somewhere else. All in all this adds up to a decline in quality for the next phase. Happy workers produce better work.

You the clients are also tired of having us around. What started out as so new and exciting has now become an endurance race and living among plumbers and carpenters and painters et al has worn down your nerves and is affecting the rest of your life in negative ways.

3. Lower Margins- If we are going to be on a job for 4 months we don’t want to just do 2 bathrooms. That kind of job is taking us away from much more profitable work with higher margins so many time we will just pass.

Dishington Construction recently completed a 3 phase remodel over the course of 14 months and I swore I would never do it again. There were times when I felt like Cool Hand Luke digging the same hole over and over again and it simply was hard on my psyche.

In conclusion, rather than phasing projects consider postponing the project until you can afford the whole enchilada or find other creative ways to do the everything at once. Thereby saving you time, money and a whole lotta additional stress.

Nathan Dishington

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