Picking and Planning Home Improvement Projects

If you’re trying to decide on which home improvement you need to make, it’s important to cover all the angles in your planning.

By finding the most appropriate project, you can make sure that you spend your time and money productively on one that’s going to address an important problem in your household. Frittering away time and money on sundry projects when a home has specific needs is a good way to ensure that you don’t have the resources to take care of the big things when they happen.

When choosing a home improvement project, consider the following criteria:

– Can I do this? Let’s face it, not all of us are Mr. Handy. When choosing a home project, consider your ability in the skills that the project will require. If it’s something bigger than you can handle, you should instead call in a professional – or come back to the project later when your budget allows.

– Budget. Most of us don’t have bottomless bank accounts, so undertaking projects we can afford is important. Make sure you understand all the costs involved before getting involved with a home improvement project.

– Safety. Projects related to home safety should get your first priority. If you’re living in an older home, you may have carcinogens from old asbestos insulation or cladding, or there may be lead-based paint present. Removing the presence of these illness-causing substances is very important, and should be done by a professional.

Less dramatic safety threats include malfunctioning fire safety equipment, unstable steps or stairs, a leaky roof, bad wiring, loose handrails, slippery floors etc. These needs should be at the top of your priority list for home repair.

– Comfort. This is a key concern for homes, as the average Australian spends a large portion of his or her time inside. Making your home as comfortable as possible is an important quality of life issue. So if you have a leaky tap, noisy appliances or flooring that could benefit from carpet, those home projects need to move to the front of the line.

By understanding which home improvement projects need attention first, you can choose a project that isn’t a distraction from more pressing matters, and improve the quality of life at your home. Assess the impact on you, you family and your lifestyle before beginning, and don’t start until you have your desired outcome in mind.

Simple Modern Kitchen Home Improvement Project

Many families today are spending more time together in the kitchen. With more emphasis on good healthy cooking, more families use this time to be together and bond. If you spend a lot of time in the kitchen, then this simple modern kitchen home improvement project might be just what you are looking for. Many homes are bought today because of what the kitchen looks like. Size of the kitchen is very important if you do a lot of cooking and especially if the whole family is involved in the process. There are some fairly simple upgrades you can do to make your kitchen home improvement project not only simple and fun, but will make it a more modern and comfortable space to cook in.

Sometimes a simple thing like moving a picture can give a room a whole new look, so look around your kitchen and see what kind of changes you would like to do for your kitchen home improvement project. Do not tackle a project that might be too much for you. Save that for a contractor to bid out at a later date. One kitchen home improvement project that is fairly simple, is to add tiles to a counter that may be just old counter top. You will need to take up the old counter top and if necessary replace the wood with new wood. You can now select the tile and grout you would like to use and believe me, there are many choices available so this could be a lot of fun. The next faze to your kitchen home improvement project would be to use spacers and lie the tiles down on the glued wood. You can get books and tips that can walk you through each step of this process.

The next kitchen home improvement project might be to add a center island in the middle of the kitchen. If you already have one, you may want to tile it to match the counter tops. There are so many gadgets today that make life easier in the kitchen, but you will need to visit a building supply store or a specialty store that focuses on kitchens and kitchen supplies. You can get different things that hang from the ceiling, in which you can hang pots and pans, and or utensils. It’s all about convenience, so when planning your kitchen home improvement project, keep that in mind.

If your appliances are old and in need of updating, you can replace them for another kitchen home improvement project. There are many options today in this field of appliances. You can choose from electric to gas, and even wood. They come in different sizes and colors now, so you can match your tiles if you want to. Since you have completed these other jobs, you might want to replace the flooring if it needs it, for one of your last kitchen home improvement projects. Once you have finished, you will be proud to say that you did it by yourself, and it will be so beautiful, you will want to spend more time in the kitchen. You may want to reward yourself with one final kitchen home improvement project of a small television you can install under the cupboard. Just imagine, you and the family can enjoy a ballgame, or the news as you fix your meal.

Construction Management – Performance Management of Build Time

This is primarily written about the Australian residential construction market.

What is Construction Management?

To understand how to manage something we must first identify what it is. The four main tenants of construction management are time, budget, quality and safety. Additional items that are also a central responsibility of construction management are regulatory compliance, supply chain management and reporting.

This article focuses on the management of construction time; in later posts I will discuss the other essential elements.

To manage the timely construction of any project you must ensure that all items are properly planned for, including materials, future labour requirements, regulatory and compliance requirements and construction difficulties identified and mitigated, amongst many other things. I am going to concentrate on measures of timely performance, and discuss their positives and negatives.

Construction Time Measurement Strategies

There are many methods of measuring construction performance, and they vary significantly in approach and emphasis:

Stage Timeframe

Reporting periodically (usually monthly) on duration taken from the start of a stage of construction to the end of the stage (e.g. frame, brickwork, fit out, etc.). These are averaged for each stage across all jobs where that construction stage has been completed, in that period.

This allows comparison across multiple supervisors, but is very simplistic as it assumes all contracts should take the same duration in the same stage. It is also prone to significant ups and downs due to the low number of contracts stage completions within a period (anything below seven stage completions makes the statistical average dubious). The other downside to this is that at a monthly average you don’t get the opportunity to resolve problems, you only report on them. It is a good reporting strategy for quarterly, half yearly and yearly supervisor performance charts, and to see the overall average movements across all the supervisors.

Progress Markers

This is about placing a theoretical weight against specific milestone tasks in the contracts construction program, and therefore, recording the completion of these tasks during a time-frame, rewards the supervisor of the job. This can be reported per contract, per supervisor or per construction manager.

As a relatively common strategy it aims at weighting different elements of the construction program and links reward accordingly. It is normally a numeric value associated with each milestone, and therefore easy to statistically analyse to identify figures such as sum of value per week and average weekly value for lifetime of a contract. The downside to the weighted markers approach is that it rewards progress on a small subset of the tasks, and therefore progress might be made such that the numbers look good, however significant other works may be left languishing and the numbers won’t tell you this story.

Baseline Markers

Laying down an ideal world expectation of the construction programme (baseline), allows for comparison at any point in the programme of current forecast against the baseline laid down at the beginning. You are then able to state whether you are ahead or behind the baseline, and give this a numeric value.

This is normally a base measure, which other statistics are gleamed from. Important things to consider are, ‘how realistic is the baseline?’, ‘does the baseline duration adjust with contract complexity and size?’ and ‘do delays outside the control of the construction team get adjusted into the baseline?’ You can also see slippage from the baseline, so that you can easily identify areas of construction issue to be improved. The down side of this is that it consists of a singular number recorded at a point in time against a contract, and therefore is difficult to use to identify trends and averages.

Days of Work Achieved per Period

This measures progress per week against the contract, by measuring the forecast number of days to completion at the beginning of the reporting cycle and then comparing against the same state at the end of the reporting cycle. This gives the metric of days of progress achieved per period, which is a measure of how much closer are you to the end of the project. It allows the complete construction programme to be performance managed, as forgetting items or delaying them will eventually push out the forecast and hence will reduce the number of days progress per period. The issues with this metric is that it can go negative in short periods, and that the construction programme forecast needs a level of accuracy, that can only be achieved with complex project management systems.

Revenue Achieved

At the end of the day, revenue needs to be achieved, and a very common metric is the measure of revenue achieved per period. This is an easy state to collect, and concentrates the supervisors on the important numbers.

The downside to revenue, is that it becomes a numbers game, pushing claims into different periods depending on requirements. This is then very visible to the client, when they check their home against the claim, but the roof isn’t on! Also the inverse happens where a supervisor might delay a claim by a day or two to smooth out for a bad month coming up, messing with important cash flow.

Actual vs Target vs Forecast

None of the performance measures above have included any target setting, and there is no measure of performance against targets. Targets are typically used to get team members to set realistic expectations and manage themselves towards them; a very powerful motivator! This process of target setting can be done on any of the above metrics (and others), but is a very powerful tool when comparing last periods’ target versus actual, then planning for the next week by creating targets from the forecasts (with minor adjustments agreed between the manager and the supervisor).

A powerful tool, but it requires good processes to ensure it works successfully. The method works best when interim reporting is available to the construction team so that they can measure their own tracking against the targets set for themselves.

Conclusion

I have highlighted some of the more common strategies for used construction time performance management, which hopefully gives you a taster of the different methods available. There is no ‘one size fits all’, but it is important to evaluate how to performance manage the most important part of the home builders process; the construction.

In the next article I will be discussing Supplier Performance Management. What metrics are available and how they can be utilised?