It can be tempting to tackle home remodeling projects yourself to save money, whether by doing the work subcontractors would otherwise do or by being your own general contractor and hiring subs. The question may not be, can you be your own GC, but should you? Here’s what you need to know.
Benefits of do-It-yourself general contracting
The primary benefit of being your own GC is saving money. General contractors charge, on average, about 20 percent of the project’s cost. Total the cost of your materials, subcontractor charges, permits, and equipment rentals. A GC will charge you an additional amount equaling to about 20 percent of that sum.
Benefits of hiring a general contractor
General contractors have years of experience and know-how. Many start out working in a particular trade and build knowledge and relationships with people in other trades. They learn what they can do and what they need to hire others to do. They learn the timing needed between phases of a job: when a foundation is dry, when the framing carpenters will be done, and when the electrician and plumber should start work. A general contractor can foresee bottlenecks in the project that could slow the completion. GCs have built a reputation with building supply chains and may pay less for materials than you will.
In short, a general contractor coordinates the job with a holistic view that someone with limited experience does not have. Sure, hiring a GC costs more, but you are paying for expertise and knowledge that can make or break the job’s success. And using a GC can make an already stressful process less so.
What to consider
If you’re considering acting as your own GC, first ask yourself the following questions.
- Do you have the knowledge and expertise to know the phases of the job, how they fit together and the timing of each?
- Do you know how to obtain the required governmental permits and inspections, or will there be a learning curve?
- Do you have a network of subcontractors to call upon? If the subs don’t know you, they may not be in a timely fashion? Do you know how to recognize if they are doing a good job?
- Does the project need to be completed quickly?
If you have little or no do-it-yourself construction experience, it’s best to hire a general contractor.
If you have building skills and experience, you may be able to tackle a remodel job that uses those skills. Just know your limits and do not bite off more than you can chew.
If you have an extensive construction background, roll up your sleeves and get to work!