Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Being your own general contractor will make your home build take longer

Why being your own general contractor will make your home build take longer.

If you ever drove past a custom home being constructed everyday on your way to work and thought that it seems to take a long time for contractors to build custom homes, try being your own general contractor when you want to build a custom home.

On average, when I see a homeowner general contract their own home it takes twice the time. Let me put that in perspective, the average custom home build that we take on spans about 9 months to 15 months. That means that when a homeowner generals it themselves it will take an average of 18 months to 30 months to build their house.

Timelines are important when building a custom home, if you take too much time to build a custom home you will be exposing the open structure to the elements longer then they were designed to be. Here are some of the issues that you will have with timelines if you make the mistake and try to do it yourself;

Booking sub-trades. When you are building your own custom home you will have trouble organizing sub-trades. Sub-trades are loyal to contractors because they bring them work year after year. This means that they will give their contractors the first call. If you the homeowner call and ask for electricians you will get them if the contractors don’t need them. Also what you will find is that the sub-trades won’t show up every day because they’ve gotten a call from a contractor to do a fix up or a short job for them. Also a large portion of sub-trades are one man shows or they have under 5 employees. These trades are very good at what they do but they as the owner of the business work on job-sites every day. This means that as a homeowner that doesn’t know their schedule or routine you will have trouble getting a hold of them. Don’t make the mistake in thinking that just because they have a cell phone that you will be able to reach them.

Paying of sub-trades. If you have ever seen bills submitted by sub-trades you would realize why they work for themselves. Their bills can be awful, hard to read, misspelled, handwritten with no copies and full of mathematical errors when it comes to charging taxes. It’s a fine line when paying sub-trades, if you negotiate too much with a sub-trade or refuse to pay some or all of their money that sub-trade will tell all other sub-trades that you wouldn’t pay. The construction industry is a small community and word travels fast. If you make the mistake with a sub-trade then you could be waiting and looking for sub-trades who will agree to work for you. I have seen some homeowners have to give large deposits up front to guarantee sub-trades will be paid. Sub-trades run their businesses on small amounts of money and if they have any fear of not being paid then they will not take on the job. Good sub-trades always have other work scheduled; never make the mistake of thinking that you are their only job.

Sourcing of materials and decisions. Nothing will drive sub-trades to leave a job more than a shortage of materials or unmade decisions. Since most homeowners don’t build houses on a regular basis, they have no idea in what order the sub-trades are suppose to be scheduled and what materials they will be required to supply. There are important decisions that general contractors make every day that keep a project moving. These decisions are made on prior history and years of making the same decisions over and over again. If you organize the sub-trades the wrong way it will cost you not just time but money. When you make decisions and don’t realize the consequences of them you can be forcing sub-trades to redo work they have already done. This will cost time and money.

Building department problems. General contractors regularly receive 1 week delays because of issues that arise when dealing with the local township building department. Homeowners go through a whole other level of scrutiny when dealing with the building department. What it comes down to is liability. With general contractors that the building department knows and have worked with before there is a level of trust, knowing their level of quality. With homeowners, building departments have to make sure that every single thing they do will meet code. This means that the building department will take longer to approve changes and will be stricter on inspections. The other thing that homeowners are not aware of is that township building inspectors make a lot of mistakes. General contractors are always discussing things with inspectors because they see an issue one way and the contractor has to point out what the wording in the code is. A lot of money can be wasted following a building inspectors every want and need instead of challenging them on it.

Mold. Modern building materials like floor joist are made with glue. Glue helps grow mold. Building envelopes when being framed and open to the weather are known to grow mold fairly well. This will cost the homeowner upwards of 10,000 dollars to have it properly removed and will delay the building process even longer. If you happen to end up with mold on a house inspection and it is placed in the townships file it could come back to haunt you in later years when you go to sell the house. The last thing a homeowner needs is trying to explain a mold warning on an old report to a perspective buyer.
These are only some of the issues that will arise if you try to be your own general contractor; I hope that I have given you some insight into the nightmare you can get yourself into if you try to be your own general contractor when you decide to build a custom home.

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.


  1. I don't think I would want to be my own general contractor. I don't know much about it. I'm sure it would take longer as well. Are there benefits to being your own general contractor?


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  4. “Do what you know best.”

    Rob Abbott,

    I firmly believe in your words. Hiring a general contractor is the best way to build a home. It is cost-effective as well as time-effective.

    Many home owners want to build their dream homes. They do not trust general contractors because they believe that general contractors will not be able to understand their dream. But, home owners should remember that general contractors build houses on a daily basis. It gives them experience. If you want to build your dream home, a general contractor can explain you the feasibility of your dream and also help you with new ideas.

    There are many tasks that are undertaken by the general contractor such as obtaining permits from the government, dealing with sub-contractors, securing good quality material, keeping the budget in check, etc. If a home owner assumes all these responsibilities, he/she will require more time in completing them. Also, it will become an unnecessary burden.

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