Playing General Contractor

Playing General Contractor

Playing general contractor on a home reno project can be a very big undertaking, but it can also save you a ton of money. Especially today, when all of the prices of home improvement materials and services have sky-rocketed. General Contractors are in high demand and as a result they are strapped for time. Their costs have gone up leaving the homeowner to think before hiring.

Have you ever considered acting as your own general contractor? We’ve done quite a bit of renovations in our farmhouse and my husband has acted as our GC through most of the projects. Currently, we have two open reno jobs. One is a bedroom reno for our oldest daughter which is small in comparison to the 12’x13’ room addition we’ve created in the front of our home.

The room addition required digging a new foundation and thus slightly disturbing the home’s existing foundation (which had been there for 130 years). The added cost of securing our original foundation was a bummer, but we had purposely buffered our budget prior to breaking ground. When living in an original farmhouse, you quickly learn to accept that everything will inevitably cost more!

*(Word to the wise – don’t start a reno project in an older home until you have saved enough to include buffering costs)

Playing General Contractor

We, of course, had to hire an architect for this project. Architects can be pricey. Unfortunately, most towns’ Planning and Zoning departments require official architectural plans when digging and adding a foundation, so there was really no way around this part of the process/budget. Once the plans were drawn, we were able to start mocking up an execution plan.

This wasn’t our first time to this rodeo, so note we had a great team lined up for every piece of this reno puzzle. We also have a very trusted and well-regarded handyman (whom has become a friend) that we always bounce our ideas off of before we start a project. My husband is also very handy, so that has helped us with the knowledge of construction, dimensions, renovation lingo, etc.

Playing General Contractor


Playing General Contractor – Is It Possible?

The answer to this question is simply, “yes”. Anyone can play general contractor, especially to their own renovation projects. Understand that we aren’t trying to minimize the role of a hired, professional General Contractor. However, if the homeowner needs to save a bit of money and really feels the need to hold the reigns on their own home reno project, then anything is possible. It takes patience, organization and good communication skills.

It is important to recognize, however, when hiring a professional contactor may be necessary. If you are someone that works very long hours with little flexibility, then the added cost of a GC is worth every penny. A big part of acting as your own GC is always being available and home. Concerns, issues and changes are ever-arising, so it is helpful (and most the time necessary) to be available in order for the project to keep moving forward.

*If you’ve never done this before it may be best to utilize a General Contractor with broad-spectrum experience, know-how capabilities and contacts.

Playing General Contractor

What Comes Next?

Good interview skills are a must. One of the things that has made us capable of executing GC responsibilities is that we have a handful of good workers that we’ve used time and time again and, most importantly, that we trust. After meeting with home workers over and over, it is easy to start to get the hang of what feels right and what feels icky. Remember that you will be paying them, so have a nice confidence about you when conducting a meet-and-greet.

A good team can be built after good interviewing tactics. It is always essential to get more than one opinion. When available (this can be time-consuming and can push off the start-date), shoot to get three approaches. They will all come with different monetary amounts, but go with the person that feels right and gets your work.

*We have found many times that there are plenty of workers that make the cost higher due to the age of our home and/or the area in which we live.

Playing General Contractor

Sourcing the right folks – construction workers, painters, plumbers, electricians, masons – is key. Most likely, this process can take time, but it is worth “measuring twice and cutting once” when choosing your people, trust us! With the right team, anything is possible.

It’s kind of like pulling together your own medical team for your personal health. One doctor can’t do it all. You need to have specialty doctors that can assist when a problem arises in their known areas of the body. Having someone behind you that understand the entire house anatomy (whether old or new) is also crucial.

Playing General Contractor – How To

Playing General Contractor

Now that you’ve got your people (somewhat) lined up, begin with making a decent plan and timeline. Most of the time, budget directs how the plan will work. Maybe you are waiting on a bonus from work and that dictates when you will have access to the full renovation funds. Think ahead, plan ahead.

*Know that the plans will be ever-changing.

Consult your local lumber yard to help determine different materials and cost. They may also be able to recommend trusted workers, since they have experience in dealing with them through other customers and themselves. Shop around on price. This can be time-consuming but can really save you money.

*Note that your local lumber yard may be able to match pricing.

Unfortunately, workers have many open jobs, so out of the gate tell yourself that they may not be working on your project consecutive days. A lot of times, the process may require days of rest. For example, a painter will sheetrock, then tape. Once the taping is finished, the glue will need to dry, therefore leaving time before the sanding phase.

*Understand how each part of the process works so you can follow along confidently with the team of workers.  Educating yourself ahead of time is our best advice!

Staying on top of items, tasks and workers is fundamental. Make sure to stay organized and you will discover how much you will learn through each step of the process. Record keeping and organization can make all of the difference!

*Get yourself set up with a good notebook and folder to keep everything in a central place and at the ready if you’re going to be playing general contractor!

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