Ask an Architect, Custom Residential
How Long Should My Remodel Process Take?
When you're considering remodeling your house, one of the most unfamiliar aspects is how long it will take from the moment you hire an architect until the moment it is all done and you’re relaxing in your new home. Don't worry, we are here to help with this illustrated post on the process!
August 25, 2015
All of you here in Seattle have seen the towering cranes and the seemingly endless construction sites around this beautiful city. It is boomtown right now, and consequently, things are busy! That means that scheduling out your project takes careful preparation to properly plan your life and ensure that things happen in a reasonable amount of time. I’ve written before about how long it takes to truly plan a remodel, but I wanted to go into more detail to illustrate what you should expect when thinking about remodeling your home.
I’ve built a generic project schedule for a typical remodel we see here: a second-story addition to a house in Seattle. Assume that the lot is normal (no steep slopes or crazy wetlands… seriously watch for frogs - they can trip you up), that there is no General Contractor selected, and that it will require a full permit review. I've shown a contract signing date of September 1, 2015 so you can understand roughly when things happen after that. This assumes a pretty normal and not overly-aggressive schedule, and should help you understand the different items in play.
First we'll measure the house, then run through a general analysis (pre-design) of the site, and then dive into Schematic Design. If you want to know more about that process you can check out my recap here.
Once we complete Schematic Design, we’ll use our Schematic Pricing set to get an update on where we are in terms of cost. We’ll define and tweak the scope, and then move ahead selecting a General Contractor, and clarifying the scope of work. Note that sometimes the “value engineering” portion can take much longer than the one week allotted here, as it involves a long process of weighing the pros and cons of what you include in your remodel to meet your budget. Here's some additional thoughts on finding that contractor.
Now, we dive into the permit set. These days, even calling for a permit intake appointment in Seattle can mean that you don’t get an appointment for 2 months. (Remember all those building cranes? Yeah, they’re slowing things down at the city). There’s a lot that happens here, and even after we submit, there will be corrections and some time spent processing that. This length of time is a big variable, and it is best to leave a lot of slop here to plan for the unexpected.
After we submit for permit, we will actually dive into pulling together the construction documents to wrap up supplemental details needed by the contractor. It is at this phase that we’ll typically finalize a lot of the interior finishes and details. Once we get the final permit corrections, we’ll wrap them into this set and then issue the final set of construction documents.
When construction begins, we are almost nine months from the signing of the contract. Add another six months for construction (that is a big variable depending on your scope of work, as it could easily be nine months or more), and you’re looking at least 15 months for your total project duration.
The other factor to consider, of course, is when your design team can start. We are divided into teams here, with each team having different availability for their project load. Some teams are almost six months out at this point, while others still have some availability in a few months. It changes weekly, of course, so being able to lock things in with our clients earlier on helps us plan ahead and feel confident with the schedule.
From my conversations with clients, there’s unfortunately a clear misunderstanding about how long this process takes. (Things don't happen as quickly as you see on TV!) I hear easily 75% of the time when talking to someone about their project, that they’d like to be done in no more than 12 months (often even four or six months). As you can see from the diagrams above, that timeline is very challenging, or impossible for a project with full permit review. We’re always happy to walk you through options to expedite the schedule, but if you go into it knowing how long things should take if done properly, you’ll be able to manage your expectations and come out with a better project. And, of course, when you work with us, we’ll give you a tailored schedule to help you move forward.