If you’ve never undertaken a home renovation or home building project, you may be surprised by the length of the project. Any kind of home construction requires a commitment to thoughtful design, attention to detail, and a purposeful process that doesn’t take shortcuts.

Of course, the length of a home renovation is dependent on the type of project you’re doing. A new deck is quicker than a kitchen remodel, which takes less time than a new addition or a new home build.

There are several factors that contribute to the time frame of your remodel or home construction project, and it can be very helpful to know what to expect before you begin the process. Let’s explore these factors.

Related reading: Should You Build or Renovate Your Ann Arbor Home?

How Long Does the Design Phase Take?

There’s a pre-production process of design pricing, organizing, securing the building permits, and having everything ready to go. As a result, the design phase typically takes about four months for small projects and about five months for medium projects.

When the designer presents you with the options and the drawings, it’s important to take at least a week or two to digest what you’ve been given, then come back and share your reactions. Because everyone’s busy and working, it can take a couple weeks simply to find a time on the calendar to get everyone in the same room.

Expect to go through multiple iterations of the design before you settle on the option that will be presented to the build team.

For a new home, this design process has a much longer time frame, and you should prepare for a minimum or six months for design. In fact, it’s common for a 2500-3000 square-foot home to take a year to design. There is so much detail to go over, which you never think about until you’re making the decisions: trim, doors, flooring details, the selection of every fixture and switch plate.

Related reading: What to Expect During the Design of Your Home

What to Expect During Construction

As with the design phase, the build process will vary based on the size and scope of the project:

  • A small deck can take as little as a week or two.
  • A kitchen or bathroom remodel takes four to five months, on average.
  • A larger addition is eight or nine months.
  • A new home up to 3,000 square feet can take 10 to 12 months.
  • Homes that are 5,000 square feet and very complex are usually 12 to 18 months.

Construction involves scores of variables that take time: there are various phases that can’t be started until others are completed. Building permits must be obtained before certain work can begin. Inspections must be arranged. There’s a good deal of coordinating multiple contractor schedules. And, inevitably, unexpected issues arise that require innovative solutions. All of these factors add time to a design-build project.

What Factors Can Slow Down a Design-build Project?

While we do everything we can to avoid slow-downs, some factors are beyond a builder’s control. Let’s look at a few situations that we try to mitigate as much as possible.


During construction, weather is always a factor. You can get slowed down mightily if the weather doesn’t cooperate. For exterior builds, the ideal building season in Southeast Michigan is April through November. We can do some building in the winter months, but it’s always the luck of the draw.

Prep work

Some design-build firms feel like the preparation is like adding a hat on top of a hat—sort of unnecessary and indulgent. But in fact, it’s that process that’s an insurance policy to make sure the build goes as planned, as intended, and smoothly.

While it adds to the costs of the project, it is a vital part of a successful effort. If there’s been inadequate preparation in the design phase, that lack of effort shows up in the build, resulting in setbacks, mistakes, and hesitations. A really well-organized and planned project goes smoothly once we start building.


Although clients are the most eager to see their home completed, they can often slow a project down. This is especially the case if a homeowner decides to make substantive changes to the design late in the process.

We once had a client who decided to switch from a one-story design to a two-story design. That change meant reconfiguring substantial areas of space onto a second floor, and then figuring the structure, figuring out where the staircase would go, and figuring out the elevations. Their decision delayed the project by several months.

What Can You Do?

Although there is much about the design-build time frame that can’t be changed, there are things you can do to keep the project from becoming extended. Follow these general guidelines for a more rewarding home renovation or home building experience.

Know what you want

Have as clear a set of requirements, wish list, and expectations as possible. If you have a comprehensive understanding of what you’re looking for, you can reduce design time by eliminating indecision or multiple rounds of revisions. General aesthetic sense, volume of spaces, types of spaces, what you would like to see in those spaces. The more legwork you’ve done beforehand, the easier it is for us to get on the same page and give you inspired, accurate feedback.

Chip in

Ask your contractor right at the beginning, “What are my responsibilities in this process and what do you need from me?” A lot of times, clients come to us and expect that we’re doing all the work and they’re just along for the ride. In fact, a design-build project is a partnership, and it involves a good amount of legwork and effort from the clients. If you’re ready and willing to contribute, the effort will go much more smoothly with less lag time.

Be present

Make yourself as available as possible during the build process, and to meet with team members to make sure things go well. Visit the site and look at the construction as it’s going on, so that if anything looks amiss you can address it quickly.

Don’t worry about being considered a nuisance if you show up at the job site. Instead, consider yourself as a vital member of the team and very welcome to participate in the process. The most successful projects are kind of a dance between the client and the contractor, both putting their best foot forward to ensure the project is as successful as possible.

Be honest about what you want

Don’t be afraid to dream with your designer. You may not be able to afford all that you want to do, but your design team is eager to provide inspired options that capture the spirit of your dreams. If you don’t share your entire wishlist, you may find it difficult to arrive at a design that you’re delighted with. And that means several more iterations of design work before moving forward with the build.

Success Story: Transforming a Drab Basement into a Warm Sanctuary

Be flexible

At the same time, be open-minded and flexible, and willing to compromise. The numbers add up quickly, and your design-build team is doing everything they can to deliver a result that will inspire and delight you for years to come. But not everything is always possible, and being rigid about your desires and expectations can mean that your designer or contractor must go back to the drawing board again and again.

Hire the right firm

Make sure you hire a firm that does adequate project preparation. Among other things, they should use a Gantt chart that schedules out the entire process—and does so in a way that is transparent to you. You should have access to the chart and be able to see everything, from beginning to end.

Don’t rush

Take the time that’s needed during the design phase. It’s natural to be anxious to get going on construction—your build team wants to get going, too, because that’s when they make money. But design can be a winding, circular path. It’s very iterative, and you want to spend your money well.

Once the build starts, then the clock is ticking and the goal is to get it done in a timely fashion. But during design, sometimes you just need those extra days or weeks to think about things a bit more carefully. Your design-build team will be fully prepared and ready to go on day one, and the builders will have a set of plans that are inspired, not rushed.

Get Started Now

Designing and building an inspired home takes time, but it is well worth it. Giraffe Design-Build understands the value of that time. We aim for efficiency, but we’ll never rush a job.

If you’re looking for a nuanced design that will make your house feel like a home, and a collaborative partner throughout the design and build process, we’ll guide you from start to finish. Let’s talk about how to make that happen for you!