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Being Your Own General Contractor: A Practical Guide for the Bold Builder

Oct 18, 2023 | Blog

So, you’re thinking about diving into the world of construction and taking on the challenge of being your own general contractor (GC) for a project. It’s not uncommon for individuals, especially those building their own homes, to contemplate this route. The benefits? Potentially saving money, having a hands-on approach, and experiencing the gratifying sense of accomplishment. But with these benefits come responsibilities. Let’s walk through the steps to become your own GC and whether it’s the right choice for you.

Understanding the Role of a General Contractor

First things first, what does a GC do? A general contractor is, in simple terms, the maestro of a construction project. They oversee the day-to-day operations, manage subcontractors, ensure the right materials are on-site when needed, and, crucially, they ensure everything stays on budget and on schedule.

Pros and Cons of Being Your Own GC


  • Cost Savings: By not hiring a GC, you might save a chunk of change which is typically 10-20% of the construction cost.
  • Control: You get to make all the decisions and have direct communication with everyone on site.
  • Flexibility: With direct control, you can adapt and change things more fluidly without having to go through a third party.


  • Time Consuming: This will not be a side gig. Being your own GC can be a full-time job.
  • Stressful: Any delays, problems, or cost overruns? They’re on you.
  • Potential Mistakes: Without experience, mistakes can be costly both in time and money.

Steps to Being Your Own General Contractor

  1. Educate Yourself: If you’re not from the construction industry, you’ll need to get a handle on the basics. Consider taking a construction management course or attending workshops. Books, online resources, and mentorships can also be valuable.
  2. Get the Necessary Permits: Every municipality has its own rules and regulations for construction. You’ll need to research, apply for, and obtain all the necessary permits before you even think about breaking ground.
  3. Budget and Financing: Establish a clear budget. Remember to account for overruns and unexpected expenses. If you’re financing the project, make sure your lender is on board with you being the GC.
  4. Design and Planning: If you’re not an architect, you’ll need to hire one. This is the blueprint of your project, and it’s crucial it’s done right.
  5. Hire Subcontractors: This can make or break your project. Find reputable subcontractors, get written quotes, and ensure everyone is clear on their responsibilities. It’s not just about going for the cheapest; quality is paramount.
  6. Order Materials: With the help of your architect and subcontractors, list out and source the materials you’ll need. Try to bulk order where possible to get discounts. Another option is to to order a kit that already contains all of the materials necessary for the build.
  7. Manage the Site: Your job will involve daily check-ins, resolving disputes, ensuring materials arrive on time, and that the work stays on schedule. Make a checklist and keep detailed records.
  8. Inspect and Review: Periodically review the work done. It’s easier to correct an error now than when the whole house is built. Also, some stages of construction might require municipal inspections.
  9. Final Walk-through: Once construction is complete, walk through the entire project, ensuring everything is as per your plan and there are no pending tasks.
  10. Celebrate: If you’ve made it through, pat yourself on the back. This is a significant achievement!

Tips for Success:

Being your own general contractor is not an easy task, but here are some tips to help you be successful.

  • Communication is Key: Ensure everyone knows what’s expected of them and when. Regular check-ins with your subcontractors are crucial.
  • Expect the Unexpected: Delays due to weather, materials not arriving on time, or subcontractors falling through are common. Factor in such unexpected hiccups.
  • Stay Organized: Keep all paperwork, receipts, and communication records. Consider using construction management software.
  • Safety First: Ensure your site is safe. You’re liable for any accidents that happen on site.

Final Thoughts

Being your own general contractor can be rewarding, but it’s not for the faint of heart. It requires a significant time commitment, a lot of patience, and a good dose of problem-solving. However, if you’re up for the challenge, it can be a great way to save money and have a direct hand in creating something truly your own.

If you’re on the fence, consider hiring a construction consultant or a part-time GC for guidance. It might be the middle ground you need to ensure your project is a success without becoming overwhelmed. Whatever route you choose, best of luck with your construction journey!