The Anatomy of a Building Project: How long does it take to build a new home or remodel an existing one?
It is refreshing when a client approaches us about helping them with a project and they’ve done their homework and understand what is involved to get a project from concept/idea stage to constructed/moving-in stage. It’s refreshing, but unfortunately, not very common.
I would like to shed some light on the process here with the hope it will help those that are about to embark on a construction project and perhaps don’t have prior experience, or have been told something that is inaccurate by their hairstylist, or brother’s girlfriend’s brother who happened to build their deck at the summer cabin back in high-school….
How long should a Construction Project take?
The short answer is: it depends.
It depends on many variables; however, I would offer that there are some good rules of thumb to follow to help answer this question for your unique circumstances.
Although each project timeline varies according to the overall size of the project, complexities of the approval process, design details, and other requirements of the project, as well as many other influences such as site work, weather conditions, material and contractor availability, the local market conditions, etc., I find we can get a pretty good idea of a general timeline by following a standard process of “date reverse engineering”. For example, if a Homeowner would like the completion of their home for Thanksgiving or Christmas or Chinese New Year or their daughter’s wedding, I start with that as our completion date and go backwards from there.
Knowing the approximate times for each stage of the project, one can arrive at a rough start date that will be somewhat realistic. It may not be what was originally expected or hoped for, but it will be based on your Builder’s local knowledge and experience. Keep in mind some aspects of a construction project lay outside the control or influence of your builder.
For starters, how long does it take for the Authorities to review and approve the project? This can be something as simple as a quick meeting, to a lengthy review process by several different departments within your Municipality or other local/regional Government where you’re required to obtain several different permits. Development permit, Building permit, Gas permit, Plumbing permit, and Fireplace permit are examples of the types of permits required from project to project
You can inquire at your Municipality or local Government and ask how long they are finding their current backlog is. I find they provide a pretty accurate estimate of how long your application will take to work its way through their system. And I find local Governments quite happy to help in this regard. I find a fair number of clients that approach us are not aware that permits/approvals are required for the work they would like to complete.
Your project may require the approval of a Strata and the time this takes can vary depending on the nature of the work you intend to undertake. Every Strata is unique and Strata approval can vary quite a bit, from being as simple as a quick meeting where you show them your plans and identify the scope of work, to quite a time-consuming process of having your application reviewed at an Annual General Meeting.
Another Variable is Design:
Design can sometimes take as long as the Construction phase of a project. A lot of Homeowners associate “Architect” with Design of their project. And there certainly are times when an Architect is the only designer involved. However, often an Architect is one of a team of many that make up the design team. Design teams can include: an Interior Designer, Builder, Structural Engineer, Envelope Consultant, Environmental Consultant, Geotechnical Engineer, Civil Engineer, Electrical Engineer, or Mechanical Engineer, depending on the nature of your specific project. And coordinating all these players through the course of a project takes time - sometimes a lot of time.
This can vary wildly depending upon project details, influences of weather, availability of materials, sub-trades, engineers, and other supply chain influences.
There is no set time that it takes to build a home because of the variables that are involved. However, it’s not unusual for a modest custom home to take 12 to 16 months to build, (actual construction time). Larger homes can take a couple years or more.
Remodels, if they don’t involve changing the building footprint, or exterior can often be done in less than a year of actual on-site construction. Add in approvals and design, and it’s not unusual for a year to elapse from the initial inquiry with your Builder to handing over the keys to your new remodel.
It’s never too early to speak with your Builder or Designer about your next project.
Close out/Post Occupancy Service:
You’re moved in and occupying your new home or remodel and have cleaned up the dishes from Christmas dinner. There may be a few things you notice while occupying the premises for those first few months that need attention at the 6-month post occupancy service visit. We may have to adjust a door latch or the timer on your landscape watering system. Six months is a good time to have to get to know your new place. Take note of anything requiring attention and have us address it at that time.
To outline an example timeframe: Keeping in mind you are probably busy with your life outside of this new demand on your time that you call a new home or a remodel. It all takes time….
1. Initial Contact, Interview & Determining a Fit: 1-4 weeks
This is the first phase where you have an interview with your Builder over the phone to discuss the project in general, you’ll likely want to interview 2 or 3 companies before you decide to move forward with your project. I feel it’s imperative there be a “fit” between Homeowner and Builder. You’ll know when you find your fit.
Topics for discussion at this point include; your desired completion date and anticipated start date to determine whether there is a fit for you. In our process, If we mutually decide we are fit to work together, we then proceed to the next step of meeting with you in person to discuss the project details.
2. Meeting with Homeowner & Site Visit: 1 week
This phase is where we review topics such as:
Design, who is going to look after design, do you want us to provide Design/Build services? Several clients have mentioned to us how convenient they found it to have us provide both design and build services. One person to talk to - a true one-stop shop.
Project Budget: if we are designing for you, we need to understand where the goalposts are on the budget front in order to design to your budget. It’s a good idea to have put some thought to this prior to meeting.
Maybe you already have drawings/design completed? If so, we can discuss the project details and review drawings together.
A visit to the site and confirming the scope of the project that you’d like us to look after for you. Do you want us to handle obtaining required permits and approvals? Are you going to look after that?
Once we have those details confirmed, we can enter into a formal relationship and sign an agreement to work together which covers off all the details of your unique circumstances.
3. Design/Pricing/Planning: 1–18 months
In this next stage, the project, your ideas and those of your designer come to life. Proper planning and design takes shape through an iterative process with you. This stage of a project can be quick if it’s a small remodel, and it can take many months if it’s a completely new home build. During this phase, we take the design and have sub-trades and suppliers provide pricing on the various aspects of the project. Given the many individuals involved in this phase, the timeline can vary quite a bit.
Obtaining pricing from the supply chain can take a considerable amount of time. This is especially true during times when the economy is growing and the supply chain is seeing high demand.
4. Obtaining a Building Permit, Development Permit, Strata Approval: Typically, 2-6 months
This is the stage where a building permit is applied for and (if required) an application for development approval is sent to your local Government. Your project may be in a Strata, in which case you will require Strata approval to proceed. Several factors are taken into consideration such as:
How this project can/will affect your neighbours
Further, a city planner could visit the proposed site to evaluate:
Location and height of the proposed building
Condition of the landscaping
Condition of parking in the immediate area
This stage can be fairly quick for a small project, and lengthy for larger more complex projects.
5. Procurement/Engaging Subcontractors: 1-2 months
In this stage, subcontractors and suppliers are engaged to contribute to the building project. Materials availability is confirmed, and on occasion design specifications are changed in response to long lead times being quoted for some materials to help shorten the project schedule.
6. Construction Process: 2-24 months (depending on whether it’s a small remodel or a large custom home)
This is the main event, the time when all the ideas, planning, design, sourcing of components, suppliers, subtrades come together one by one to culminate in a finished product. The construction phase is crudely broken down into site work, foundation, framing, waterproofing, rough-in, finishing interior/exterior), and landscaping.
A final note. There is no set time that it takes to build a home because of the variables that are involved. However, it’s not unusual for a modest custom home to take 12 to 16 months to build, (actual construction time). It’s not unheard of for larger homes to take a couple years or more. Add in the approval and design phase, and you can see how a project can take longer than maybe initially thought.
Remodels, if they don’t involve changing the building footprint, or the exterior, can often be done in less than a year of actual on-site construction. Add in approvals and design, and it’s not unusual for a year to elapse from the initial inquiry with your Builder to handing over the keys on a significant remodel.
It’s never too early to speak with your Builder or Designer about your next project, and if you’re curious about how long it will take to complete the project you’re planning, please give me a call.
The Municipality of Whistler: https://www.whistler.ca/business/land-use-and-development/building/building-permits
Whether you are building a new home or remodelling, the guidelines found in this article are very useful to both. Have a look at one of my associates’ processes laid out here: http://makdesignbuild.com/mak-design/9-things-to-know-before-you-remodel/