The Seven Habits of Highly Productive Renovation: Habit 3 - First Things First

Part 1: Be Proactive
Part 2: Begin With an End in Mind

Habit 3: Put First Things First

Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize. Even on a simple kitchen renovation project there will be literally thousands of little decisions that will have to be made. It is important that you distinguish clearly between your wants and needs from Habit 1.

It is also important to think of things in the context of a timeline and literally put first things first.

There are general project requirements such as securing financing, hiring an architect to design and create drawings and hiring a general contractor that will build your project.

There will also be a set of decisions that have a sequential aspect in the construction flow. In the general timeline of your renovation project there will be certain things that HAVE to happen in order for other things to commence. We typically call these decision points the CRITICAL PATH, and within the Critical Path there are two subsets: DESIGN and then CONSTRUCTION.


Before construction actually starts you need to have a building permit in place. There are many design decisions that can be put off for later but you CAN'T build anything without the building permit. One way to put first things first is to identify all of the things you need to have in order to get a building permit. The two typical criteria are

Site Plan (showing setbacks and in some jurisdictions lot coverage and possible water run-off calculations). This will help determine the general size and shape of your addition. NOTE: Zoning and land use issues are typically related to the site plan and in some instances can be quite complex as with Historic Districts for example.

Architectural Drawings: showing structural information, energy calculations in some jurisdictions, and compliance with building code requirements.


After the permit is received and you have met other design milestones the Construction phase has its own set of critical path issues. For instance you can put off final decision of lighting sconces, but your kitchen cabinets will probably have a LEAD TIME and they will also need to be installed before the counters and your counters in turn will need to be installed before your plumber can finalize the sink installation.

Lead Time: is the time it takes to get something AFTER it has actually been ordered. Semi-Custom kitchen cabinets are a typical item with a 6-8 week lead time, but any product can be susceptible to long lead times. You want to identify these lead time issues early so they do not disrupt the workflow once construction begins.

We’ll get to Habit 4 “Think Win Win” in the next blog.