Inside a successful tenant improvement project

So you’re considering tenant improvements. Before you jump right in, ask yourself the following questions: What are you trying to accomplish? What’s your ultimate goal? Is it just to make things a little nicer for employees or guests? Or is it a total renovation and update? Does your plan meet the needs of the company? Does it enhance the flow of what you’re trying to accomplish in your facility?

Before answering, take a minute to think big picture, focusing on the overall project rather than a single aspect. Reflect upon the wish list you’ve likely compiled over the last six months to a year. You may be surprised at what can be accomplished if the project is managed well with the right partners.

For example, if a flooring replacement is the driving force of the change, it may be a good time to also consider:

  • Painting
  • Redoing baseboards
  • Installing new cabinetry
  • Modifying the size or layout of the office
  • Adding outlets to eliminate cords taped across the floor

Take a walk around your office, writing down everything you would like to change or modify. Then take a look at the potential budget. It may very well be that the budget doesn’t allow for you to tackle everything at once. But perhaps your wish list can be executed in organized phases. However, ultimately, it is often better to do everything in one fell swoop rather than piecemeal.

Be open to new ideas
Don’t get hung up on predetermined opinions. Before getting started, seek new ideas and advice from the professionals that know their products. Spend some time looking over what other organizations have done, both within and outside of your industry. What do you like about it? What about it inspires you?

This simple process often opens minds and creates a level of excitement around the project, especially when it comes to out-of-the-box ideas. You are not bound by what’s been done before in the organization. So open your mind to the possibilities readily available.

You may not be able to accomplish everything the way you want due to your building’s core and shell restrictions. But there’s good news. Today, there is an incredible range of solutions for transforming existing spaces—from flexible pods in large, open spaces to specialized, technology-enabled boardrooms.

Address Key Considerations

Color choices
Color schemes are vital, so carefully evaluate your options and seek professional advice when it comes to selecting shades for carpet, paint and other treatments. Offbeat designs and bright colors for floors and walls can seem like a good idea in the moment, but be aware that it is easy to go overboard. The last thing you want is to be sick of the look six months later and consider redoing the project.

A humorous and expensive example involves an individual who was an avid sports fan and decided to paint his offices in the colors of a local professional team. The end result was a visual onslaught that made the employees’ heads spin. In four months, he realized his mistake and ended up repainting everything—a costly mistake for a rash, while spirited, decision.

Lighting breathes life into any environment. It’s a fundamental aspect of aesthetics, productivity, safety and vision health. From a purely aesthetic standpoint, poor lighting can make the most beautiful furniture, flooring or paint job look dull and dingy. Often, adjusting the lighting, including natural light, is the simple answer to brightening up a space and giving it new life.

If cost is a concern, relamping is the best solution. It can give you the freedom to add new fixtures and styles, if the budget allows. Either way, don’t forget to integrate aspects like directional lighting and color temperature into your overall improvements plan. These are minor changes that are vital to the essence of your space.

Engineering & code
Have a set of plans prepared to best help explain your vision to the contractor. It will also speed up the pre-construction phase, including the city plan check and engineering reviews. Therefore, plan to get professional advice if your project is going to include more than just new flooring and painting. Anything else will require plans and city involvement. Don’t let this hinder you from proceeding with larger projects, but keep in mind the process and the extended timeframes involved.

Project management
An occupied spaces specialist is the driver that keeps a project’s momentum moving forward. That being said, a strong onsite team is crucial, beginning with the project manager or PM. This individual wears many important hats. They are your main contact, your mediator and your guiding force. Therefore, it is crucial to have someone who is knowledgeable in this business to guarantee a smooth project.

Along with the execution of the project, a PM will also know techniques to save you two crucial things: time and money. For example, a PM could share and provide the solution of using a lift system to elevate furniture off a carpeted surface by only about three-fourths of an inch in order to easily accommodate recarpeting. This approach can result in a savings of up to two-thirds of the original cost.

Schedule, timing & budget
You will naturally have expectations for the project’s timeline, but reflect and ask questions in order to ensure these expectations are realistic in relation to the scope. It’s probably not possible to paint a 25,000-square-foot office building in three days—unless you’re willing to bring in a crew of 20 painters. Realistic scheduling and logistics are key in allowing a project to run smoothly and within budget.

Timing is everything. When the lease is up for renewal, some landlords may open up access to funds set aside for space upgrades. A knowledgeable improvements project partner can be strategic in reviewing the lease and negotiating terms when reupping. Another benefit can be the identification of maintenance obligations that the landlord has not been meeting, even including major systems like HVAC.

Lastly, and possibly most importantly, don’t be afraid to talk frankly about budget. A value-oriented solutions provider should focus on generating optimum results within your available resources. Combined with an integrated view of the project, a provider with that perspective can guide you toward achieving every area of your wish list with the right products to reach the overall goal as efficiently and cost effectively as possible.

Realize your vision
Implementing a successful tenant improvement project has the potential to bring new life into existing spaces. A combination of collaboration and best practices can deliver on aesthetic and functional goals while also meeting schedules and living within budget parameters.

Bottom line. Keep an open mind. Engage with a trusted, value-oriented services partner that will help you realize your vision and at a lower cost than expected. The end result will be a more innovative, interesting and motivating environment that leaves a refreshed and positive impact on employees and visitors.


Dave Teper has over 20 years of experience in the flooring industry, including 10 years as a hands-on business owner running a floor covering installation company and crew. As General Manager of Tangram’s Flooring division, his key responsibilities include overseeing job estimates, purchasing, field management, installation, take-offs, vendor relations and contract approvals. Dave’s background also includes expertise in business analysis, as well as operations and financial management, with a priority on identifying, hiring and managing highly motivated and customer-focused professionals.

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