Project Planning and Organization

An excerpt from PDRdesigns owner Paul Rugarber’s forthcoming book, Architecture to Construction and Everything in Between!


“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”
– Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

The planning of your house project can be the most fun or the most frustrating part, depending on how you approach it.  I plan to get you to see the fun in it, along with excitement and exhilaration about the prospect of seeing your dreams come to life.

It is important to think about what you want, but more importantly, you should examine and understand why you want it.  What emotions come into play with this project and how will the finished project make you feel?  The emotional component is absolutely crucial to the process – capture this and allow it to become your vision that drives you each day!  Dream a little, focus on those positive emotions, and get ready to believe in the possibilities!

There are two basic steps in the process.  The first is the Design Phase and the second is the Construction Phase.   We will briefly cover each of them and what you need to do, but first you need to know how to start and what to do to keep everything in order.

As you gather information, you will need a way to keep it organized so that you can find documents when you need them.  Purchase an accordion-style file folder that will hold lots of manila folders.  Label your main sections Design, Construction, Contracts, Permits, Interior, Exterior… the list can go on and on and will grow as the project evolves, but start with these.  Keep the documents together so you can always reference them; for example, you’ll be able to easily check what the contract is for a particular phase and what invoices have been paid.  Do not rely on others to keep track of all of this – do it yourself.  This will allow you to have a firm grasp on the project at all times.  Setting up a spreadsheet with this information is a great idea too.

The first item to consider with the design is what you are permitted to do within the constraints of your local zoning laws and regulations.  Are there height restrictions in your town or setbacks from property lines that will limit your project?  If you’re looking to build a new home, are there limits (such as environmental issues) to where on the property you can build? All of these questions should be answered in the planning portion of your project.  The best resource for answers is a local architect; due to their experience, they will be aware of the specific site requirements that the various towns in your area impose.

This is the fun part, and proper planning and design will lead to a successful project.  When I speak of “design,” I’m referring to combining all of the items that you want or need to incorporate into your project and turning them into real spaces by laying it all out on paper.  We may have great visions in our heads, but in order to explain to others what we would like, the design is just that – a vision, just a dream with nothing to back it up.  Remember: A picture is worth a thousand words!

If you need to get ideas, you can look at Pinterest, Houzz, or just Google Images to find examples of houses and details that you like.  Put them in your files and review them with your architect so they can get a feel for the type of house and level of detail that you are expecting.


Speak to your homeowners’ insurance company to understand what additional insurance you may need to provide during the project.  Typically a Builders’ Risk policy is needed to protect the home during construction, so be sure to understand what you need to do to maintain adequate coverage.  Many people don’t go to the trouble to understand the insurance ramifications until there is a problem – at which point it is usually too late.  Understand what contractors’ insurance covers and know where your insurance will need to fill in the gaps.

During the design process, you should be looking for a General Contractor.  Your architect will be able to guide you with recommendations.  The construction is the most complex and exciting part of the journey, where you finally get to watch as your vision materializes.  The General Contractor is a major piece of this puzzle and you must be comfortable with him as you will be entrusting him to build a quality project within your budget.  Make sure you like your contractor and trust him as this is a very personal process.  Keep track of all contracts, invoices, material selections, change orders, permits, inspections, etc. so that you can easily reference the documents you need.  Keeping your files organized will give you peace of mind during this sometimes hectic process.


Following these basic planning and organizing steps will start you on your journey to a fun and successful project!  Enjoy the trip, keep the destination in mind, and take lots of pictures along the way!

“You can design and create and build the most wonderful place in the world, but it takes people to make the dream a reality.”
– Walt Disney

If you are looking for more ideas, visit us at or email!

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