“Do I need a renovation project manager?” – Consider these 8 questions first

There are many big questions you need to ask when you start a renovation.

“How much is a renovation going to cost?”

“What if something goes wrong?”

“Can I live in?”

How much does an architect cost?”

“How much does an extension cost?”

“How do I find a reliable contractor?”

…you catch our drift.

But in this post we want to answer the question “Does my renovation need a project manager?” because financially they can be a BIG investment and they're not always necessary provided you have the right tools and organisation skills to manage a build yourself.


First up, why we chose NOT to hire a renovation project manager

We considered hiring a renovation project manager very early on in our project. It was during conversations with our architect when the concept was up for discussion. He offered us an option to have the house designed - and project managed - by him.

Truthfully, we didn’t even realise it was a thing until we saw his quotation and the line 'project manage development' with a sharp-intake-of-breath figure next to it, included in his proposal.

In the end we decided to go it alone, and we’re stronger from it. It wasn’t without its difficulties given Fi was working from home for the bulk of the work and had to juggle Skype calls with walls being knocked down (!) But with careful planning and keeping a hold of budgets we managed it all well enough ourselves.

If you're considering it though, here are the questions you need to ask yourself first which could save you a lot of money in management fees if you decide to go it alone like we did.

If you're curious about how we did it in more depth, we share everything from the exact tools and a step-by-step on how we budgeted, designed, worked with contractors and more in our house renovation course.

The questions to ask yourself if you’re considering a renovation project manager…

Question 1: How big and complicated is your renovation?

Our renovation was a reasonable size, every room needed doing and there were core things like the kitchen and the bathroom to refurbish. It was a sizeable project but could have been bigger had we have wanted to extend. We decided quite early on to reduce the scale of our renovation by turning down an extension mainly due to financial reasons which we wrote about in this post. Thankfully the structural work was kept to a minimum (just a couple of walls that needed to come down) and we didn’t do anything like swapping rooms around. If you do have a build that is more complicated such as a double storey extension, you’re remodelling the house (changing the layout quite drastically) then it might be worth considering a project manager if you don’t have much time on you hands to control everything… which leads us on to…

Question 2: How much time do you have for this renovation?

Thankfully Fi was working a 3 day week and working at home (always on site) at the time of our house renovation. This meant that she was able assist with decisions, catching things quickly when they went awry.

Ultimately, the thing you need to ask yourself is, are you going to be there at (virtually) the drop of a hat if your builder has a question?

If you aren’t going to have a little bit of flexibility to take calls during work hours to keep the communication fast and frequent with your contractors then a house renovation project manager could be an option to explore.

In our house renovation online course we share a whole module around finding the right contractors you can communicate well with including handy checklists and printables for you and your contractors to work through day by day – to help you juggle renovation, family, work, and spare time commitments. We both worked full time when our bathroom was being renovated and it was helpful items like this that were invaluable for strengthening communications with contractors.

Question 3: What does your contractor say?

It’s worth discussing with your builders whether the project would benefit from a project manager or not. After all, the builder is going to be working very closely with them.

When we asked our builders this question their answer was “we don’t usually work with project managers, we work directly with the client”. However it does depend on the experience, skillset and preference of the builder. It’s worth also noting that during a renovation, there’s a whole host of decisions that need to come from you that a project manager would still not be able to answer on your behalf.

Question 4: Are you happy with the project manager being in control?

Throughout any renovation there will be lots of contractor questions that need answering, would you be comfortable with a project manager handling these? Placement of plug sockets, design queries, how high you want the window to come down to, are you comfortable having someone else being in control of transferring this information?

If not, then you become a bottleneck and this could slow down the project. It might also make you feel a bit more stressed out being less ‘hands on’ or with minimal ‘insight’. Renovations are fast paced and exciting, but also quite risky projects (financially) – especially if you’re renovating a ‘forever home’. We say, jump at the opportunity to be as hands on as you can and enjoy shaping your dream home yourself. You can absolutely do it yourself – we’re not going to lie, it’s stressful so that’s why we created our online renovation course - to do a lot of the thinking ahead of time.

Question 6: Do you have a time limit?

If you have the misfortune to need the renovation over the line by a certain time, you might benefit from some help to steer things. If you’re due to have a baby for example, and there aren’t enough hours in the day to get the renovation work complete in the time frame you need, think about other means.

Whether you hire a project manager or not, setting milestones and deadlines to rally the contractors around will only benefit your renovation (provided they are realistic timeframes!).

Question 7: Are you doing this project with someone else? Like a partner perhaps? If so, are you both going to pull your weight with your complementary skills?

We were fortunate to have plenty of experience in projects, planning, problem solving, budgeting, with keen design eye and attention to detail. All things we go into great depth on throughout the How to Renovate a House online course. Consider it though. Are you doing this alone or with someone else? How will you split your responsibilities? This will inform which (if any) external contractors/project manager you need to hire.

Question 8: Are you prepared to give up your evenings and weekends?

Sometimes going into a big project, like renovating a house, you can be a bit over-optimistic about how long things take. Seriously trust us. Even choosing something as menial as plug sockets took us a whole evening to get the best deal! We think it’s totally possibly to manage a renovation if you are in full time work – yes it would be more of a challenge but there are things you can do to speed up your decisions and the way you’re planning your project. Something we offer within the course is a complete shopping guide (including some discounts) on where to shop and get the best deals for your reno.

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What to do now?

We hope this Q&A post has helped you decide whether hiring a project manager for your house renovation is for you. If you haven’t yet, get our free Survivor’s Guide to Renovating. It includes real tips on what to expect and how to navigate the dust, sweat and tears a renovation throws at you. Don’t miss it :)