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How to Be Your Own General Contractor: Tips from the Pros

Jun 20, 2024 | Blog

Building your own house can be a rewarding endeavor, especially if you decide to act as your own general contractor (GC). While it’s not an easy task, with the right approach, anyone can manage it successfully. Here are some insights and practical tips to help you navigate the process of being your own GC.

Getting Started: The Basics

Taking on the role of a general contractor means you’ll be responsible for overseeing the entire construction project, from start to finish. This includes everything from initial planning and securing permits to hiring subcontractors and managing the work schedule. The key is to understand the scope of work and know when to bring in professionals.

Finding Subcontractors

One of the most critical aspects of being your own GC is finding reliable subcontractors. You’ll need a range of specialists, including those for grading, excavation, footings, framing, roofing, electrical, plumbing, and mechanical work. Here’s how to go about it:

  • Leverage Industry Contacts: If you have experience in the construction industry, use your contacts to get recommendations for trustworthy subs.
  • Online Search: Look for local contractors online. Most legitimate businesses have websites that detail their services and past projects.
  • Material Supply Houses: Visit local material supply houses and ask for recommendations. These suppliers often have longstanding relationships with reputable contractors and can provide valuable referrals.

Building Your Team

Once you have a list of potential subcontractors, solicit multiple bids for each job. This will help you find the best fit for your budget. Keep in mind that while some companies offer pre-packaged building kits, it might be more cost-effective to purchase materials yourself and hire subs for the labor. Companies often bundle materials and labor to maximize their profit, so handling the labor separately can save you money.

Avoiding Costly Mistakes

Avoiding costly mistakes is crucial to keeping your project on budget. Here are some strategies to help you stay on track:

  • Do Your Research: Spend time researching and getting referrals. Talk to multiple suppliers and contractors to get recommendations. If you keep hearing the same names, those are likely the ones you should consider.
  • Check Credentials: Ensure that the subcontractors you hire are licensed, insured, and have good reviews from previous clients. This helps mitigate the risk of poor workmanship.

Managing the Project

Effective project management is essential when acting as your own GC. Here are some tips to help you keep everything running smoothly:

  • Create a Detailed Schedule: Plan the work schedule carefully and ensure there’s minimal downtime between tasks. For instance, have your plumbers ready to start before your electricians finish.
  • Coordinate Overlapping Work: Sometimes, subs might need to work simultaneously in the same space. While this can be challenging, it’s often necessary to keep the project on schedule.

Final Tips and Advice

Being your own general contractor can save you a significant amount of money, but it’s important to be prepared for the challenges. Here are a few final tips:

  • Ask for Help: Don’t be afraid to seek advice. Reach out to experienced GCs or industry professionals if you have questions or need guidance.
  • Be Firm but Fair: Managing subcontractors requires a balance of firmness and fairness. Make sure the work meets your standards and address any issues promptly.
  • Stay Organized: Keep detailed records of all contracts, bids, schedules, and communications. Staying organized will help you manage the project more efficiently.

Acting as your own general contractor is a challenging but rewarding task. With thorough planning, diligent research, and effective management, you can successfully build your own home and save money in the process. Good luck!