Many homeowners want to act as their own general contractor, whether it’s a new construction from the ground up or a remodel of an existing structure. As the person paying the bills, you should always be informed about what’s going on with your project from start to finish. No one wants the nightmare of driving by the site one day after work to see how it’s going, only to find out no one has been there in weeks. That being said, if you choose your contractor carefully, you will have someone in charge you can trust, freeing you from micromanaging all the tiny details.
Not Always a Savings
Many companies specialize in one type of work, such as framing, but also act as general contractors for any outside work needing to be done, such as electrical wiring, plumbing and craftsman-type work like masonry and laying tile. Some people think they will save money by acting as their own general contractor, but without the right background, you can actually end up costing yourself money, if not in bad decisions, then possibly in drawing out the project weeks or months longer than it needs to go on.
Skill vs. Experience
People who want to act as their own contractors are often people who have the time and experience to do so — retirees, do-it-youselfers and those who know a lot of people in the home-building or home-improvement businesses. But sometimes a little knowledge can hurt you. You may have finished your own basement in 1983, but a few things may have changed since then. You may know a particular electrician you’ve always loved, but you might not know that he retired and his son took over under the same name, but doesn’t do the same kind of work. You may have heard that a certain countertop maker has an excellent reputation in the neighborhood for doing great work at rock-bottom prices, but you may not have heard the business will be going under any day now because his prices were a little too cheap.
Knowing the Secrets
Trust the professionals. They want you to have the benefit of that experience. They know who’s going to show up gung-ho about the new job — then disappear after two weeks because he’s gung-ho about a new job and will be back to finish yours … someday. They know who gets tons of calls because he does superior work and hates to turn anyone down, so he takes all the jobs, even though he couldn’t get to them in a year. They also know the subcontractors that are the most thorough, skilled and efficient – information that works in your favor in quality, time and money.
If you have the urge to act as your own general contractor, consider instead acting as a general contractor’s assistant. Hang around the construction site and see how the process works. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Watch what they do and bring up any concerns you have about the work — you may learn something new. And if anything doesn’t seem right, report back to your general contractor — he will take care of the problem for you, saving you the time and trouble of acting as your own general contractor.