Letters of Organize on a pinboard

Dream Big, Plan Well, Work Hard And Smile Always…

A big building project, eh?  That’s super-exciting and you should definitely dream big (we do!).

But, it can also be a bit of a roller-coaster and remember what you’re told before you ride – to take off your flip flops, empty your change, zip your phone away or give your bag to someone who’s not riding – in other words, plan before you get on for the ride, because once you’re on, it’s much more difficult to sort things out!

Your home improvement project is not the place to practise your spontaneity and planning the hell out of it will not ruin your creativity.  In fact, it’ll save it, giving you the time and breathing space you’ll need to make the smart decisions, before the dust descends….

So (and we can’t stress this enough), plan, plan and plan again.

  1. Start With Why

What’s your why (and when, how, where and what)?  You should dig deep and get to ‘know thyself’ (and what really makes thy tick).

Ask yourself the following:

  • why are you doing this project?
  • what do you want from your finished house?
  • what do you need from a home? What will you need in a few years?
  • have houses in your area done similar works? (take a look, knock on doors, search the planning authority’s website, ask your neighbours, bug local estate agents);
  • can you use your permitted development rights or will you need planning permission? Check any planning history on your home and ask around – you can find out a lot;
  • what’s your realistic budget (always include a contingency – there will be changes and surprises – we’ve never worked on a project where the client didn’t change a thing);
  • what’s your timescale – are there any absolutes here? are you hosting Christmas this year in your gorgeous but yet-to-be built kitchen extension (and do you need that pressure??);
  • define your ‘must haves’ (needs) vs. your ‘like to haves’ (wants) vs. your ‘would be lovely ifs’ (dreams);
  • how busy are you at work? Do you have the time to devote to a  project (and the decisions and monitoring necessary) or are you willing to allow anyone else to take decisions on your behalf?


  1. Get Your Sh*t Together (and find a place to put it)!

Collect and organise your ideas.  A great design for your home starts with the collection of your ideas and time and effort put in early will reap rewards for your project.

Our earlier post ‘Control Yourself’ has loads of advice on how to collect, organise, edit and share these ideas.  The more effectively you can communicate these, the more likely your home will end up just how you envisaged it.  Take time to visit showrooms, get samples, look online.  If you see a beautifully finished house for sale, go and see it – have a good nose around.


  1. Should I Stay Or Should I Go Now?

You know the next line – “If I go there will be trouble, If I stay it will be double”.  Heed these words.  If your project is relatively substantial but you’re considering staying in the house during the project, think hard about that.  If you need to stay (because of budget) this could put some serious pressures on you (and the team) during the build.  Of course, this all depends on the extent of the project, but talk to your team and builder to see what’s do-able.

If you think you will be staying, do plan how that will actually work.  What will you do when the water’s turned off – are friends lined up to offer a warm shower?  If you usually work from home, do you need to consider renting a space for the period of the build?

There will inevitably be logistical problems for a building team having to work around you – it’s not always easy to do!  This will probably add to the cost and time, at least to some extent, so bear that in mind.

And don’t underestimate the amount of dust there’ll be.  It gets everywhere, so if you’re staying, do make sure that, at least, you’ll have the chances to stay/eat/shower elsewhere now and again.

If you’re moving out, make sure you’ve properly budgeted for this.  If you’ve got pets – are they allowed in your rental? And if it’s a short term let, what are the options if the programme slips and the project takes longer?  If the project’s increased in time due to your changes (or indecision?) you can really put immense pressure on the builders by moving back in during certain stages.


  1. Don’t Be A Scope Creep

‘Scope creep’ is incredibly common, but if you do your homework and set the scope of works in as much detail as you can early on, you can avoid a lot of this.

The ‘scope’ is, essentially, the shopping list of works and services making up your project.  This is what your building team will price and it’s always easier to price and programme for planned works.

If changes increase the scope once the project is underway, you may have cost and time increases and you must monitor these closely to stay on top of them.  You should expect your team to have a robust approval process in place so all parties are as aware as possible of the effect of changes.  We’ll go into more detail on this topic in the coming weeks, but just bear these in mind – it’s more reason to uber-plan in the early stages – you really do avoid problems later.

  1. Decision Machine

That’s what you’ll need to be.  Detailed decisions will be needed, and at times thick and fast!  But, you know what they say – never make a big decision when you’re angry or need to pee.

You’ll want time to make your decisions.  If you’ve planned well, collected images and shared ideas early on, your decision making will be easier, reducing any rash decisions you may regret later.

Your project team should timetable which decisions are needed by when but, even with that, if you leave them to the last moment they obviously become more urgent.  Worse, if you make a decision late, this may be a change and affect the time and cost.  Most good builders and project teams will try to accommodate this, but it’s not always possible.  And if you do this often through the project, they’ll cut you less slack – they’re human too!

We hope that’s given you lots of things to think about and ways to plan your perfect, well-organised project!

Next week, we’re going to cover the Project Team, how it’s made up and what to expect from them.  If you can’t wait to start your project, get in touch – we’d love to hear your big plans!


The Charter Projects’ Team.

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