When the decorative finishes start to be fitted, a building site suddenly gives the clue that it might just be a home. That’s the stage we’re at on site with the one bedroom flat. But it has to be said that this is the time that project management is the most crucial. This is the phase when scheduling is really important because the contractors aren’t usually the ones to order the fit out, so they have no idea what they’re expecting to see. The tiles, flooring, bathroom suite, kitchen units and light fittings offer the main clues to the style of the property and at this point the contractor is often just following instructions. So if anything is wrong, he won’t know until its too late – and then rectifying it can be a problem!
This is a situation we’ve found ourselves in recently. The owners are so passionate about their flat that they want to be intimately involved with each item being fitted. I don’t have a problem with that, its actually a great collaborative process and if everyone is working together, it can be a really stimulating experience. But the minute people forget to share information, the whole process slows down and the knock on effect is that in this situation the kitchen, which was ready to be fitted this week, may now not be fitted for another 19 days.
I’d done drawings of the kitchen elevation so that the guys could order the correct number of units. Ordinarily I would do this, so that if I got it wrong I could just go back to my suppliers and say ‘oops.’ The guys decided they wanted to use a different supplier and ordered everything (except the work surface) in one hit without looking at delivery dates for the individual components. They didn’t tell us that they had tweaked the drawings and instead of ordering a freestanding cooker and an inset sink, they’d opted for an inset cooker and surface mounted hob with a belfast sink.
So why is this a problem? Surely this is just an issue of style? A freestanding cooker is slotted into a gap in the work surface – which gives you the width of the cooker more work surface to play with. Essentially you get a longer kitchen run at a lower price because you need less work surface. An inset cooker and surface mounted hob have work surface running between them, the work surface has to be cut to fit the hob, so it becomes a part of the cooker if you like. An inset sink needs an opening cut, but this can be done from a template, a belfast sink has to have an opening cut too, but because it stands on the unit below, it has to be in situ to be cut. We’ve had to return the work surface as the length I specified is now too short and the belfast sink is on back order and won’t arrive for 19 days. None of the kitchen can be fitted and connected up until that is on site.
I’m at a loss. I wasn’t involved in this and I wasn’t told that they’d changed the specification. The contractors are asking me what to do and the clients want to move in as soon as possible. I’ve suggested that they source another belfast sink supplier to see if they can improve the delivery date – but my question is this, if you’ve been told that with a short build time, long lead times for components can’t be factored in because there’s no time in the build to cover the wait, why would you not check the delivery dates when you place the order? If cost and time are the main criteria for the build, then every choice needs a ‘plan B.’ I’d said to the clients back in September you need to decide what is a fall back option and what is a deal breaker. Clearly they didn’t understand my meaning.
I’ve had to step back from this but I am frustrated by the situation that we’ve had forced upon us. The contractor asked me to guide this process because the clients were inexperienced, but because they’ve wanted to do this all themselves and haven’t listened to our advice, we can’t complete the job as planned. We’re just waiting to hear what happens next. You’ve heard me say before that the minute you make changes to the plan the costings will change, on this job they are now in the ‘pick a number’ category. All because they client didn’t want to listen to the workforce who have done this many times before.
I relate my work experiences to provide a ‘cautionary tale,’ to help you avoid the pitfalls in your own projects, but on every home improvement tv show there are clients who’ve never done building work before who think they know better than the ‘experts’. Why I should think I would be exempt from this I do not know, but I had thought that they would want to learn from the process, make as few mistakes as possible AND end up with a project that came in on time and on budget. I guess that’s not so important when you’ve invested your emotions in bricks and mortar. I have to say, I’ve learned a lot.
The clients sourced a new belfast sink. It is in, the work surface is in, but the drawer unit and washing machine were also delayed and so 19 days later, the kitchen is still not complete.