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Reasons a Remodeling Project Takes Longer than Expected – and How to Plan For Them

Why Remodeling Projects Take Longer than Expected


I occasionally get accused of being a remodeling expert. And, okay, I guess I am getting a little more comfortable with it.

I had been approached a few months back by a fellow blogger who does some writing for a fairly recognizable consumer website. She gave me this prompt, “What 5 Things on a Project Take Longer than Expected?

While I still haven’t determined if she was looking for answers like “drywall” or “flooring” or some other phase of a gut/remodel project, my instinct was to provide these – a list of general, overarching, areas. I feel, they apply to any project, any size, and no matter who’s performing the project, a homeowner or a pro. Hope it helps.

5 Reasons a Remodeling Project Takes Longer than Expected

1. Planning.

Developing a design is a  time- and labor-intensive activity (and rightly it should be). Bigger the expectations, longer it takes to plan.

How to plan for Planning – Even busy individuals should try to set aside 1/2 an hour a day (minimum) in the weeks leading up to a project to do research, to check research, and to prepare themselves (mentally) for what is to come.

2. Preparing Logistically (Different than “Prep”).

Making temporary accommodations, creating a work zone and/or a staging area as well as simply clearing the project zone of unnecessary or valuable items always seems to be done just last minute.

How to plan for Preparing Logistically – If working with a pro make sure this phase of construction is clearly addressed in the contract’s scope of work. If you are performing a project yourself, simple plan to do this phase. Add some time in a project timeline to accomplish this activity.

3. Discovery.

To this point, our project has pretty much only existed on paper. (I must credit my partner Barry Morgan for identifying this phase of a project … by name.) Discovery is the phase of a project, which may or may not include demolition, where the physical work involved in the project actually begins.

How to plan for Discovery – Decisions here can have a big impact on the rest of the phases that follow, so let time have its way here. It is here where the “While we’re at it … ” seems sometimes to creep in. (Shout to a recent post by @SLSConstruction for that one). Again, just make sure it happens … before the hammer or sawdust of new work starts aflying.

4. Prep.

I’ve heard it said that 75% of any job (or task) is prep. Logic would then have that prep should take about 75% of the (project’s) time. More work before the work, I know, and I am sorry. This may also include product ordering and delivery and applies mainly to each of the individual tasks within a project.

How to plan for Prep – This might sound unreasonable, but as a homeowner, do whatever is humanly and reasonably possible to understand fully what goes into all portions of all tasks within the scope of the project being performed. (This is especially beneficial for the individual(s) actually doing the work.  Ha!)

5. Finishing.

I have also heard it said, “It’s easy to start and hard to finish.” Finishing here does not mean something like “Finish Carpentry” but instead it means “Finishing the Project.”  Projects, we know, take time. And time just moves slower at the end of any project.

How to plan for Finishing – Know that no matter how efficiently a project has run, there is always going to be a list of outstanding items at the end, a punch list. Don’t trip at the finish line, plan for it … and be patient.  Get it done and don’t forget to budget for clean up.


Any project you (okay, I) undertake almost invariably takes longer than you expect. Famous time eaters include, among other things, not coming up with the right tool or right material at the right time, not having enough of the right material at the right time, and the infamous totally unforeseeable surprise.

It is interesting to see that at least 3 of the 5 “activities” I’ve listed happen near the beginning of the project NOT at the end. Sure projects take time, but if everyone involved can be flexible with dates, it can help minimize the stress that can come with missed deadlines. As my wife would say, “You lived with it that way for six years, what’s the big deal about another six days?” Smart lady and Happy Remodeling!

For the curious, these pics where taken from our closet to master bath project, done by my wife’s partner, who I sometimes call the Other Man. For more on How to Plan for a Remodeling Project, a nice simple overview from ~jb

What might you add or change? Do you have any “unforeseeable surprises” you might want to share?

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