Sunday, May 1, 2011

Why being your own general contractor can cost you!

The problems with being your own general contractor.

When thinking about taking on a large renovation or project there are some things you need to know before you try to general the job on your own.

  • First things first, insurance. If you don't have a general contractor your going to have to make sure that your insurance company will cover you if there is damaged caused by you or the trades that you hire, this usually comes with a fee and can be a real headache if something does happen.
  • You have to check every trade person you hire to make sure that they have the proper insurance, not just the insurance to protect your property but that they are wsib covered. If your trades are not covered by insurance or wsib (workers safety insurance board) then if one them gets hurt at your home they will not be covered for there lost time or medical bills, they could end up suing there employer and you to make them hole again.
  • Something that most home owners don't understand about hiring there own trades is that without a general contractor if someone gets hurt or killed you are the general contractor. This means that under Ontario law you are liable. This means that if you witnessed say someone working on the roof without any safety lines on and they fell off the roof and died you could be charged with criminal negligence causing death or even man slaughter. You could do up to 20 years in prison and or face large fines.
  • Dealing with trades will be difficult because you only represent a finite amount of money. This means that you are only one job out of many they are doing. This means that when a contractor calls a trade he has more pull with him because he can generate work all year long for that trade were you can only generate a one time job.
  • If you don't keep up with all the new building methods and products you could end up using out dated products or methods. Also you could end up not understanding what the trades are doing and end up wasting money on things you do not need or want.
  • When you are scheduling trades you are going to have to make yourself available to them most of the time they are on your property. Your time you have to put a value on, if it means taking time off work, there will be days when trades don't show up because of emergency calls or scheduling conflicts.
  • Warranties are enforced by general contractor's, when contractor's buy materials they understand the warranties and where they can get the product fixed or replaced, home owners are left to do this themselves. This can cost you money and more time lost.
  • Trades will take instructions from the home owner, so if the home owner tells the trade that he is worried about the cost the trade will help lower the cost by using cheaper less reliable products. Home owners don't realize that by complaining about costs they can be putting themselves at financial risk with sub standard equipment.
  • The actual hiring of trades can be a difficult process, where do you find them, how do you know they are reliable and that they have a high standard of work. If you think that you can call them in for an interview you will be lucky to have them show up.
  • What do you do about permits? Do you apply for everything in your name? Contractor’s will do all this for you, if you have to do this you will have to meet with building inspectors and you will have to take responsibility for all there work. With electricians you can't call for inspections, you have to rely on them for this.
  • If you have problems with trades bills and you do not pay them you could end up in court or with a lean on your home. General contractor's get quotes, even if there is no quote they will know what fair market value is and can force trades to stick to them.
  • General Contractor's employ people to do the general labour things that are required in a site, things such as cleaning up. This might sound like a simple thing but when you have multiple trades in your home at one time not everything will be cleaned up like you think it should. It will fall to the home owner to do the clean up and removal of waste. This can be a safety issue as well, because drywallers will not work in an area that has not been prepared for them, especially if they are walking around on drywall stilts. Things such as signage to warn people of hazards in the site are your responsibility and installing temporary railings and stairs are also up to you.
  • General Contractor's know in what order trades should be aloud to install in a home. If a home owner gets the order wrong he could end up having one trade remove another trades work and have to get the first trade back again to redo his work. This will cause you money and time. It also causes ill will with the trades as they all believe they should be in a job first.

These are just SOME of the issues that you will run into if you make the choice to general the job on your own. So please before taking this route, sit down and consider the money you could waste, the time you would waste and the stress you will go through. If you do the numbers you will probably come to the realization that it will cost you the same amount or less to get a contractor and will allow you the free time to enjoy the renovating process without all the stress and headaches.
If you want a quote or need some advice you can reach me at

Rob Abbott
Village Builders Inc.


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  2. The first point is very true. In fact risk assessment for a contractor like a builder is also referred to as builders risk insurance and can offer you a lot of peace of mind.

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