Being Your Own General Contractor: Saving Your Money or Losing Your Sanity?

You are wondering how to create your dream room while getting the best value for your hard earned money. You can hire a re-modeler who will handle the entire job or you can decide to general contract the job yourself. How hard can that be?

A little organizing, a little scheduling, selecting and purchasing products, hiring someone to install it and you’re done.

If you are lucky, before you jump into this new endeavor, you talk with someone who has experienced the trials and tribulations of running their own project. First consider how much time and patience you are willing to contribute to the project. You can save money by being the general contractor, unless you consider your time to be money.

The general contractor, whether you or someone else, will spend a great deal of time on ordering, organizing and scheduling before the project begins and then continuously reorganizing while the job is underway. The carpenters, plumber, electrician, drywallers, painters, etc. all have to be scheduled at the proper time and in the proper sequence. Just one of these people canceling and needing to reschedule or one material delay will likely result in a massive rescheduling of everyone else. Often your contractor has an advantage when needing to reschedule subcontractors as he has a longstanding working relationship with them so they are more apt to cooperate with schedule changes.

Material delays are commonplace in the remodeling business. The subcontractors you are hiring will charge you if they show up to install all the plumbing fixtures and one has been delayed so they will have to come back another day. If one of the products is flawed and you purchased it, expect to be charged for the installation, the removal after it was found to be defective, and the installation of the new one when it comes in.

When there is a problem with the project for which you have hired a remodeling company, you make a phone call to them and they are responsible for resolving the problem to your satisfaction. If the new electric outlet just installed in your basement is not working, just call the remodeler. On the other hand, if you’re the general contractor, you have to handle the problem.

First you contact the electrician. He informs you that the outlet was working when he left last week and maybe the drywallers damaged something. He will come out and fix it in two weeks, but he’ll have to charge you since it was not his fault. You can try to have the drywaller pay for it, but if he claims he did not damage it and says the electrician messed up in the first place, you are stuck in the middle. Stuck in the middle means you will probably end up paying for the repair out of your pocket.

It now appears that the organizing and scheduling may not be quite as simple as you thought. If you are purchasing all the materials, have a plan in place as to how you are going to get them to your house. In addition, hiring someone to install products you purchased may be tricky. Some installers prefer to do their own purchasing and may not accept the job. Others may install customer supplied products,but this may affect their warranty. Still others may refuse to install certain brands. Also, don’t forget, if you are the general, it is up to you to pull permits and coordinate the proper inspections.

If you are determined to be the general contractor, you might want to go to your local library and do some studying. You may find your efforts to save money have resulted in a huge amount of your time, a lot of aggravation and may actually have ended up costing you more money. Being your own general contractor can be successful and rewarding, but you must be extremely well prepared, very organized and have the time to devote to the task. Approach this as a full-time job. If you do not stay on top of all aspects of the project your dream room could become a nightmare.