How to Talk to Clients About Renovation Timelines

by Fran Donegan

How to set realistic expectations on your client renovation timelines

renovation timeline

A speedy construction schedule might seem like the key to happy clients, but realistic expectations may actually be more important in getting to the finish line. Sweeten often hears questions and concerns about construction schedules, so we’re sharing what we’ve learned so you, the contractor, can help clients better understand the moving pieces in a renovation. Sweeten has also shared with blog readers the most common renovation delays and the actions they can take to be prepared.

Sweeten matches general contractors with high-quality home renovation projects, vetted for readiness, and appropriate budget. Contractors pay only when they win a project. Budgets start at $15,000 and average over $100,000.

The Start Date Gamble

POSSIBLE ISSUE

In an ideal world, everything would be on-site before work starts. But who has room to store a new kitchen for two months before demolition begins? 

SOLUTION 

Starting a project before everything is delivered is a risk that everyone takes. Help your client see this as a reasonable gamble. One that comes with the benefit of speed and the risk of future delay. Make sure you’re both comfortable with the same bet: that project progress and material delivery will depend on each other down the road.

Talk to Clients about Major Renovation Milestones

POSSIBLE ISSUE

Clients often ask, “When will this project be done?”  That question can be tough to answer before the work starts. 

SOLUTION 

Guide your client to think about major milestones in the project, like:

  • Target start –Will approvals, design decisions, and other prep needs (like temporary accommodations) affect the date?
  • Demolition — How long will it take and what might be hidden under floors and behind walls?
  • Electrical, plumbing, and specialized trades — Will you need to work with someone else’s schedule and availability?
  • Inspections — Will progress pause for inspections?
  • Finish work — Will materials be available on time?

It’s always helpful for clients to hear how long a project generally takes from start to finish, so feel free to estimate by days or weeks. But keeping the focus on start date range, major milestones, and potential variables will help your client feel more prepared for what is to come.

Handling Client Expectations for Renovation Surprises

POSSIBLE ISSUE

You won’t know what’s behind the walls until you’re hired and work can begin.

SOLUTION 

Discuss with the homeowner the worst-case scenario based on the building’s age and history. Will there be issues with the electrical, plumbing, or structure? Let them know if they should prepare for contingencies in their budget. You won’t be able to price out every possible surprise but communicate with the homeowner how you will problem-solve when hurdles arise.

Fitting Subcontractors, Crew, and Inspector Schedules into Client Timelines

POSSIBLE ISSUE

Sweeten clients are often surprised by downtime once the project starts. They think of a project as moving in a straight line. Also, they may believe you have total control over the crew.

SOLUTION 

Make sure they aren’t wondering where your crew is! 

  • Help them understand that some steps depend on sub or vendor scheduling.
  • Talk to them about how inspections need to be scheduled and then wait for the inspector.
  • Explain that you may need to wait for a more skilled worker to complete a specific step.
  • Make it clear that there may be days where no work is happening and that this is a natural part of the process.

POSSIBLE ISSUE

We also often hear that a crew started late in the day, or left the site early. This can be a big pain point, especially if your client thinks the project isn’t moving fast enough. 

SOLUTION 

You can get out ahead of this. Make sure your client knows that you are focused on progress, but that you also have to balance:

  • The logical sequence of work
  • Availability of materials
  • Individual crewmember health and family issues
  • Commitments to other projects

This doesn’t mean the project isn’t a priority, it’s simply how you run a business.

We hope this guide gave you some useful pointers on talking about client renovation timelines!

Check out the rest of Sweeten’s Contractor content series: 

How to Include Profit & Overhead Costs in Renovation Project Estimates

The Virtual Site Visit: Win (Safely) with Sweeten

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