If your project is structural, you'll first need to have existing plans drawn up. A good project manager will have a list of architects they trust, and can recommend those that have experience in your specific project's design. You'll have to pay for the plans, of course, so do ask to see a portfolio of their previous works to see if their style appeals to you and your property. There are, thankfully, a great many websites these days that feature customer and clients reviews, (try Houzz, Which? or Trustpilot if you're unsure), and you can always put out a call to your own friends on social media, for personal recommendations. Remember your project manager can advise on the expense and logistics of each architects' plans, too, were they to go into construction.
THE DREADED PLANNING APPROVAL WAIT...!
When you're happy and have chosen the design, then your proposed plans will need to be submitted for planning approval. This almost always takes at least 8 weeks for the council to make a decision, and can often drag on for far longer. So prepare to be patient. These planning decisions can go back and forth a frustrating amount of time, but as long as your project managers have put in the proper research, hang in there! Some of the most extraordinary and bold renovations - even on listed buildings - have eventually been approved. And once you get that approved, then you're onto the next step...:
IT'S ALL IN THE DETAIL
Some people love the technical detail involved in fine tuning an architect's plan into a practical project. But most people... don't. Luckily, this is where a good project manager really comes into their own, as they can put together all the extensive paperwork that now comes into play: detailed and accurate construction drawings, engineering calculations, and party wall agreements. The first two are essential, of course, so that all constuction teams - from scaffolders to construction companies, to electricians and plumbers - are working to the same exact plans. And the party wall agreements mean you won't bump up against neighbours' complaints potentially halting your work just as you've gotten started!
GET YOUR QUOTES...
Now you can get an accurate quote on all the works. Do try and keep a contingency plan for unseen hurdles. The best laid plans of mice and workmen won't protect your project from a mains leak flooding a newly laid basement, or a hidden 1970s botch job needing a new steel beam. While your quotes will ideally cover everything needed to be done by each team on your project, every property is different, and unpredictable. Most unseen complications are minor and won't hold things up too much, but with older properties you can never be 100% sure what lies below and behind... So keep extra funds to one side for any unwelcome eventualities, prepare for the worst delays, but hope for the best! Patience, and mentally preparing for a marathon, rather than a sprint, will serve you well and make the whole process much easier for everyone.
THE FUN BIT!
Once the quotes have all been agreed, that's when the part most people look forward to begins! This is where we sit down with a client and work on all the nice stuff: the bathrooms, the tiles, your flooring, wall colours and coverings, cabinet making, kitchen design, lighting. This is where the vision in your head can really start to take shape and become a very real possibility. It will also take up a lot of the budget! So make sure you have money set aside for the actual decoration: many people get so carried away with the design of the new extension and its folding doors, for example, they forget they still need to pay for a kitchen to put in it!
AND... WE'RE OFF!
It's all been approved, you're happy with the design, you've costed and budgeted with a little to spare just in case (which you can then spend on a nice holiday if it isn't needed), and you allowed for a little extra time in case of unseen issues. Now you get to watch it all take shape! Be aware the look of a construction prject can be a little stressful if you haven't had a renovation project before. For example, if you're replacing a kitchen to build a new extension, and perhaps have moved up into another part of the house, the site of all your familiar fittings and cupboards being ripped out can feel quite scary! But hang in there... construction projects by their very nature have to strip back rooms and take away the very things that made them feel like a home, before you get to put them back together again in a much lovelier way! We know this can be the point a lot of clients can feel the most emotional, and a lot of reassurance that "this too shall pass" - which of course it does - goes a long way. And when the project finally starts to come together, as the light fittings go on, your chosen paint colours are on the walls, and finally - if this has been part of your project - your chosen furniture and fittings arrive... you'll realise that it has all, absolutely, been WORTH IT!
...AND AFTER THE PROJECT?
Good project managing doesn't end when the job is finished. Old and new buildings take time to fully settle, and especially in the UK, where we have such differing seasons and temperatures, while central heating can really affect new plaster, and you can get movement and cracking on stairs too as they move a lot in the first months. So expect the odd crack and shift as your property settles into its new shape. This is totally normal.