If Home Remodeling Was Like a Software Project


Contractor and Client

Home Owner: So, how long will it take to remodel my house?

Contractor: Are you sure you want the new floors, the medieval jousting arena, the ice rink, and the indoor petting zoo?

Home Owner: Absolutely!

Contractor: I don't know, I've never built some of those things before.

Home Owner: Are you saying it's not feasible?

Contractor: Nothing's impossible, we can figure it out. I just can't estimate it accurately.

Home Owner: ... but you've remodeled homes before, right?

Contractor: Yes, but-

Home Owner: So, how long will it take?

Contractor: I can only guess right now so anywhere from, say, six months to three years. We'll have a better idea as we make progress. In fact, I'd prefer to do this all in small pieces so you can give us feedback each week to make sure we're building everything right and refine our long-term estimates.

Home Owner: Sounds great!

Fast forward three months...

Home Owner: So how's it coming?

Contractor: Well, when we demolished the old floors we found the wiring and plumbing was not up to code. The electrical wires were a tangled mess and all the wrong gauge. The plumbing was leaking and made from materials that were banned in the 1980s.

Home Owner: Ha ha! Yeah I remember we had to cut some corners when we originally built the house in 1976. We had a tight deadline and budget so we hired some amateurs under the table and hoped for the best. That was a long time ago. Good times... great music. But hey it got us where we are today!

Contractor: I'm surprised the house didn't burn down from an electrical fire.

Home Owner: Anyway, are you still on schedule?

Contractor: What schedule?

Home Owner: You said you could get this done in six months.

Contractor: No, I said I was guessing it could take anywhere from-

Home Owner: I remember what you said. I'm putting the home on the market three months from now because you said back then you could have it done in that time.

Contractor: I said no such-

Home Owner: It's okay, it's okay. Calm down. Just tell me how much progress you've made so far.

Contractor: That's it; we've spent all our time fixing the electric and plumbing. We haven't done anything else yet. You would know this if you attended my weekly meetings.

Home Owner: Sorry I'm too busy for those weekly meetings of yours. You're the expert anyway. You haven't even started the petting zoo yet?

Contractor: No.

Home Owner: That's unacceptable. I'm really disappointed in you. I should fire you right now but I'm too short on time to hire a new lead contractor. I guess I have no choice to hire some additional sub-contractors to get this done in time.

Contractor: I really don't think that will help. It will take me a few weeks to get them up to speed on the blueprints. Also the house is so small we'd be constantly bumping into each other.

Home Owner: Sorry, pal. I'm giving you more manpower, make it happen!

Fast forward three more months...

Home Owner: Wow, you look tired.

Contractor: Yup. We've been working 80-hour weeks. I haven't seen my kids in the past two months. The new sub-contractors you hired didn't know how to use a nail gun so I had to-

Home Owner: Are you finished?

Contractor: Finished what?

Home Owner: The whole project?

Contractor: No, of course not.

Home Owner: What you do you mean?! We go on the market next week! What isn't done yet?

Contractor: We installed the new floors and designed the barn for the indoor petting zoo.

Home Owner: Designed? You haven't built the petting zoo yet?

Contractor: No, we just designed the barn so far. It's complicated because of the conveyor belt system you wanted to automatically haul away the sheep droppings. Didn't you get my email with the blueprints?

Home Owner: I get a lot of email. What about the ice rink and the jousting arena?

Contractor: We haven't started those yet.

Home Owner: What?! I can't believe this... what am I gonna do?!

Contractor: I told you that-

Home Owner: Wait, you said you did the new floors, right?

Contractor: Yes, we finished them last night.

Home Owner: Great, you're fired.

Contractor: What?!

Home Owner: We'll just have to cut out those extra things. I need to get this home on the market now.

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