how to plan a shop fitout

What Does Fit Out Include?

"Fit-out" refers to the process of making an interior space ready for occupation. Commonly, when constructing commercial buildings, the spaces inside are left bare for the occupants to determine the level of refurbishment needed (or fitting out).

Ideally, fit-outs allow the business to plan and create how the establishment will look like.

In building preparation, fit-out refers to activities such as installing the floors, ceilings, partitions, and furnishings. In addition, building services such as cabling, wiring, internet connectivity, and communication arrangements may also fall under the fitting out process.

Fit Out vs. Renovation: What's the Difference?

Often, people confuse fit-outs with renovations, and most times, the two are used interchangeably. However, while they're closely related, both have specific purposes and procedures.

To easily understand these two terms, let's take the example of an office fit-out.

What Is An Office Fit-Out?

This involves taking a space and transforming it into a usable office setup. This means installing structural features like window placements, door fittings, heating, plumbing, and ventilation.

What Is An Office Renovation?

Office renovation has more to do with the interior design aspects of the Office. These are the features needed to give the space a professional look. Ideally, renovation is more about revamping a space to give it more aesthetics. This may include painting, adding better furniture, and including some décor items. Generally, an office renovation takes longer than a fit-out process.

Why Office Fit Out?

Investing your time and money in the present work is the business growth in future. So, think about its potential outcomes and how it can increase the value of your company. For example, according to a recent study, 88% of companies believe that their Office Fitouts positively impacted employees. Hence, you can say that Office Fitout might boost the productivity of your employees.

How much does Office Fit Out Cost?

what's the difference between fit out and renovation

Now, this one is hard to answer as the costs vary from region to region and space. Few Fit Outs require only cosmetic uplifts, while few requires structural development too. Even these vary based on the quality, furniture, space, etc., according to your requirement. But to get a rough figure in your mind, you can consider at least: Fit Out Costs (quoted by developers), along with the costs of installation and training cost, furniture cost, IT infrastructures. Also, keep a contingency budget of between 5 to 10% of the total project cost.

How much time does Office Fit-Out take?

This again depends upon the requirements of office space and on the developer's ability. Few projects wind up within one month, while few may take more than seven weeks.

What is Fit Out Construction?

Many terms are used in building and construction that many of you are unfamiliar with yet may need to know about – and one of them is "fit-out construction".

Here's what fit-out construction means:

The fit-out term refers to activities that need to make an interior space suitable for commercial occupation.

Generally, the occupant will be leasing space as a tenant from the developer or landlord. This term is commonly used about office developments where fit-out construction is performed by a tenant's contractor, as opposed to the landlord's construction company; the developer completes the base construction, and then the 'final' fit-out by the occupant.

The goal of fit-out is to ensure proper planning to execute and deliver projects in as short a time as possible. The term includes providing the necessary equipment for the buildings like interiors, decorations, and fittings.

A contractor working for a commercial space landlord will typically develop the first stage of a building's fit-out, a shell – the installation of the basic structure of the building. The "white box" or "shell" is for a new building, as well as for adapting a previous tenant space to make it ready for new tenants to look at and be ready to sign a lease.

From the outside, the building looks complete, while inside, there is a blank space with endless fit-out possibilities completed by design and build partner before the building can be occupied.

The shell construction is the concrete and metal frame of a weather-proof space, and it typically involves:

  • Base flooring
  • Standard white walls
  • Standard ceilings
  • HVAC
  • Plumbing
  • Restrooms
  • Elevator and stairs for evacuation
  • Adaptations to local building codes and constrictions

Tenants bring their interior contractor for a fit-out and their interior architect. The latter would plan the exact locations of walls and interior separations, door spaces and other important aspects of the overall space arrangements.

The next fit-out stage is known as a Cat A – bringing the rentable space up to a standard ready for occupation.

The interior architect, tenant, fit-out contractor, landlord, building engineer and local code reviewers all contribute greatly to getting the tenant space 100% move-in ready – activities typically referred to as TI or tenant improvements for the fit-out construction process.

The tenant(s) will arrange for their own chosen fit-out contractor to come in, and then the next stage can begin – Cat B, which is more focused on partitioning, flooring, decorating and similar works.

Custom finishing in the fit-out TI's will affect the cost and may include:

  • Lighting fixtures
  • Custom plumbing fixtures
  • Specialized flooring
  • Walls customization
  • Custom or extra doors
  • Customized windows or fixtures
  • Shelving
  • Customized ceilings

Your search for top fit-out construction companies ends right here – turn to Harbor Stone Construction Company. Rely on our fit-out contractors' expert knowledge and skills to help you build and customize your commercial space in Chester County, PA and Greater Philadelphia.

As a locally owned company providing Quality General Contracting Services at Harbor Stone, we have a reputation for completing projects that meet or exceed expectations on time and within budget.

What are the Different Types of Fit-Outs?

Commercial fit-outs are classified into three major categories – Category A, Category B, and Shell-Core fit-outs. To make a more informed decision when fitting out a commercial space, you need to understand what each category involves:

Shell And Core Fit-Out

Here, the framework of the building is already in place, waiting for the fitting out process. From the outside, the envelope of the building may appear done; however, it's missing several components such as power, interior walls, lighting, and heating.

A shell and core fit-out allows a business to custom fit space to its specifications. This is suitable for large companies taking up a lot of space.

Category A Fit-Out

Category A fit-out is typically what is found in a commercial space that's ready for renting. This is a basic functional unit with utilities such as electrical wiring and plumbing fixtures already in place.

Usually, a Category A fit-out will involve installing features such as:

  • Electrical outlets
  • Raised access floors
  • HVAC systems
  • Fire protection systems
  • Toilets
  • Grid ceiling

The space is functional but lacks the secondary features of design that'll make it fit for its intended use. From this building phase, a business moves in and implements a Category B layout.

Category B Fit-Out

Category B fit-out is the layout that takes into account your business needs and image. This fit-out involves installing features and systems lacking in Category A. In other words, Category B is the aesthetic design fit-out phase where the space is made to be more specific to the business.

This phase may involve window treatments, adding furniture, installing the lighting, adding some flooring, partitioning, painting, and branding.

For best results, Category B should be inspired by the company's culture, work ethics, team size, and protocols. This is the stage to tap into your creativity and business style to create a compelling brand image.

Fit Out Construction Steps

For the project to run smoothly from its planning until the finishing touch, take a look at this breakdown of the step-by-step procedure to further guide you in working with a good fit-out company.

Pre-Construction Activities

Tasks involved in the pre-construction stage serve as the foundation of a successful construction project. The primary aim of this stage is to provide a reliable, complete, and accurate source of information for both the establishment owner and the service provider. Such information gives way for the project team to make precise decisions on schedule, cost, and quality of the services.

Site Inspection, Interior Design, And Space Plans

To understand the limitations of the project, these procedures in pre-construction will help carry out realistic schedules, costing, and planned structures of the property. Processes included in these procedures are site monitoring, waste management, review of existing facilities and site components, and study of building guidelines. This ensures that the project will be potentially safe and will be a successful vision before any work starts.

Here, design and space planning will also take place. As the design catches people's attention most, pay attention to its development as it's one of the greatest opportunities to influence and please the occupants of the establishment. Spaces should be properly divided and arranged for functional elements.

Design coordination meetings and consultants are done in this phase, with experts studying and evaluating the plan's feasibility on the project. There is also optimization of time and budget along the process as more specifications are made through these meetings.

Budget, Permits, And Licenses

To prevent loss of money, overpaying, cost overruns, and failing to complete the project, the project team and the clients should carefully consider estimating the possible fit-out construction cost.

These calculations are used to determine the project scope and feasibility within the available budget. Contractors also use them as bases when deciding to bid on the project. Commissioning, determining requirements, design team formation, design, bidding, and contract signing are some of the processes included in these activities.

To proceed with the construction process, mandatory permits and licenses are also needed. The requirements usually include building licenses, plumbing, electrical, water usage, fire management, and safety permits and many more.

Construction Activities

This is the stage in construction where the actual work will take place. A detailed program provided by the contractor is needed as it contains all time-frames for each process and the approvals.

Meetings, Monitoring, And Actual Work

Regular meetings can also be conducted to ensure clear communication among all parties regarding the condition of the construction process. Site progress and design perspective issues, including health, safety, and other concerns, will be discussed during these meet-ups to ensure that everything is going well.

The works of fit-out contractors in this phase include electrical, mechanical, cabling, plumbing, drainage, and sanitary and fire safety services. While the construction is in progress, appointed staff will frequent monitoring to ensure the project will reach completion on time.

Post-Construction Activities

Finally, the last step of fit-out construction is known as the handover or practical completion. This only means that the space is available and ready to be used by the occupants. Aside from the finishing touches, there must be a final inspection to settle the overall look and condition of the constructed project.

The fit-out company and the appointed project manager or coordinator shall provide minimal but sufficient information about the project, such as signed and sealed as-built drawings, snagging issues (if any), final payment fixes, warranty reviews, and operating manuals to provide instructions for the client. In addition, occupancy permits, testing and commissioning reports, final electrical inspection, and fire safety inspection certificates must be submitted both by the lessee and his contractor.

Things to Consider Before You Start a Fit-Out Project

what are the tips for a successful shop fitout (3)

Commercial fitting out requires a lot of planning and preparation. Therefore, before starting any project, consider the following important factors:

Comprehensive Price Estimate

Before conducting a commercial office fit-out project, confirm that the initial quote received from the interior design company is comprehensive and eliminate any additional expenses. Take time to review the quote, making sure it covers the following:

  • Design briefs
  • Technical plans
  • Building assessment
  • Project management
  • Material delivery
  • Construction

With a comprehensive quote, the company can budget for the whole project effectively and never fall victim to sudden increases in the final costs.

A Design That Matches The Branding

The new office design should match the company's brand colours, appearance, culture, values, and vision. In addition, it should be an extension of other marketing and advertising materials. That way, the clients get the same impression when they walk into the office, read the brochures, browse its website, or visit its social media pages.

Efficiency Of The Service System Designs

Design the fit-out so that different workplace systems operate efficiently to match the staff's needs (including reliable AC system for optimal office temperature, adequate lighting system, enough sockets, and so on).

Here are some systems to consider before finalizing the layout with the designer:

  • The type of data cabling required
  • Lighting and lux levels
  • Position of power outlets and switches
  • Number of data points required
  • Number of power outlets required
  • Air conditioning units
  • Air conditioning to server rooms and server racks
  • Ventilation, the position of mechanical registers, and return air grills

Talk to the employees to ensure you have all the crucial information about the commercial space.

Migrate It And Telecoms

Communication necessities such as the internet and telephone can greatly get disrupted when moving from one workplace to another. Depending on the business, any slight communication disruption may result in inconveniencing or losing several clients.

This can be avoided by hiring a reliable fit-out specialist to create a solid migration plan for the communication system. A seamless migration process ensures that clients can email, text, or call even when the business is moving into new offices.

Legal Compliance Of The New Space

The new design has to comply with all government requirements, which cover areas such as:

  • Fire alarm and extinguishers
  • Safe electrical setups
  • Ample working space
  • Efficient and comfortable working environment
  • Health and hygiene

Compliance with the above lowers the risk of illnesses, injuries, and accidents to the employees. The company also avoids unnecessary lawsuits.

Built-In Opportunity To Expand The Space

Though not always possible, it's important to design an office that'll allow more equipment and furniture to accommodate more clients as the business expands in the future. With room for expansion, the business avoids the need to relocate, saving more money.

Commercial Fit-Out Steps To Follow

The whole fit-out process may be daunting. It requires the input of both employees and construction and design experts. Utilize the following steps when fitting out a new business space:

Select The Fit-Out Team

Choose the right people within the business to manage and oversee the fit-out project. For this project, pick organized, creative, good with numbers, and able to make decisions. With the team:

  • Determine what will work in the workspace and what's right for the employees
  • Set and communicate the budget
  • Establish how much space is needed
  • Make contingency for future growth and expansion where necessary

Ideally, the team members should be from different company departments to ensure the fit-out project caters to everyone's needs in the new space.

Building Search And Appraisal

If the business has to choose between staying in the current building or moving somewhere else, consult widely to make a more beneficial choice. Staying could be more affordable, but moving out might offer more opportunities for future growth and expansion.

If looking for a new or more suitable commercial space, choose a highly recommended property agent to assist you.

Engage A Legal Team

This team will help you compare leases and start the negotiation process and be in charge of finalizing the old lease if the business is moving out. They will also take care of all other legal requirements of the project.

Choose A Relocation Or Fit Out Partner

Research, evaluate, and select the best relocation or fit-out company for the project. Since it's difficult to juggle multiple suppliers, ensure the selected fit-out partner can offer every service the business needs.

Design Development

Discuss with the office interior designer and finalize the design and scope of work for quoting. While at it, communicate all the needs, including branding and efficiency of operations.

Carry Out Pre-Construction Planning

The business still has to run even when the project will be taking place. Therefore, discuss and plan with the fit-out partner on how there will be minimal disruptions.

Start The Fit-Out Process

Once the fit-out process begins, maintain communication with the team so that any plan change can be implemented effectively.


If moving to a new place, the previous building management will most likely require the business to leave the space as it was initially. So, plan with your fit-out partner to have this implemented too.


When ready to move to the new Office, hire a reputable company to make the migration process as seamless as possible. That's why choosing an all-around fit-out company that can offer all the services, including migration, is important during the initial stages of the project.

Ongoing Maintenance

Once the business moves, ensure the fire systems, hydraulic systems, security systems, and so on are in excellent condition. Any necessary adjustment required after moving in can always take place during maintenance.


The chances are that if you're reading this, then surely you're ready for a change. Office Fit Out is all about how your business will change in the next five years. Hence, your workspace needs to imitate your present business value along with the promptness to adopt any changes soon.

You might need to check with these external influences before planning:

  • Fulfilment of Present Legislation
  • Following "Go Green" (don't just talk, but adapt it)
  • Health and Safety issues of your current workplace


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