Can You Handle Being Your Own General Contractor?

Can You Handle Being Your Own General Contractor?
  • Opening Intro -

    You're skilled enough to handle many of the tasks needed to get done around your home, but not everything.

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Certain electrical projects and plumbing jobs you can handle, but major rewiring and the rerouting of pipes are just not your thing. Besides, you know that if you don’t handle things correctly, you could botch the job, perhaps putting your family at risk.

Home Improvement Project

A home improvement project awaits and you feel confident that you can do much of the work, but you know that you’ll need to hire an electrician, a plumber and a woodsmith to do jobs you won’t be doing yourself. With most home improvement projects, the homeowner hires a general contractor who oversees the project. However, should you be your own general contractor and forego the services of a professional?

That answer depends on several things including your ability to hire subcontractors, knowledge of building codes and legal requirements as well as the time you’ll need to oversee a labor intensive project. You’ll need to take some time off from work to supervise, which means you may not have enough time available. However, if you do have the time and believe that you can be your own general contractor, then go ahead and take the reins of your project, keeping in mind the following considerations:

Supplies – You may be able to save in general contractor fees, but will those savings be offset by higher supply fees? General contractors are well connected and can often land discounts and building supply stores and other shops, discounts not available to most homeowners. However, if you’re able to present yourself as a general contractor, then you may be able to realize the same savings. Explore your options for acquiring discounted materials near your home.

Subcontractors – The general contractor is in charge of hiring subcontractors which means he is likely already familiar with their skillsets. If you have worked with an electrician and plumber in the past, then you have two of the three people you need for your job. A woodworker may be a bit more of a challenge to find. Ask other contractors for their recommendations; thoroughly review candidates and check their references. Some subcontractors require licensing; ask for licenses and make sure each person is current.

Insurance – Subcontractors may have their own insurance, but will their insurance coverage be enough? Each person will need workers compensation and you may need to supply employers liability insurance. They’ll also need comprehensive general liablity insurance. Contact your homeowners insurance company ask your agent what coverage is needed. You may be able to secure a short term policy to cover your workers and anyone else who sets foot on your property.

Permits and Fees – General contractors handle all permits and pay all fees. You need to be in touch with your local government to ensure that you’re following building codes and pay related fees. Larger projects may require approval of the building department, whose members will want to see your plans. You may need to hire a draftsman to supply what you need. Contact your town’s building department to find out what is required of you.

As with any project, you’ll need to have enough money on hand to get the work done. Speak with your banker about taking out a loan, perhaps a home equity loan, an equity line of credit or a personal loan to cover your expenses. Consider working with a real estate agent to determine how you can best maximize value from your home renovation project.

Resources

Bankrate.com; Should you be your own General Contractor?; Dana Dratch; Nov. 23, 2004

HUDPemco.com: Subcontractor Insurance Requirements

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Categories: Contractors

About Author

Matthew C. Keegan

Matt Keegan is a freelance writer and editor as well as publisher of "Auto Trends Magazine", an online publication. Matt covers campus, consumer, business and financial topics on various websites and weblogs, and has been published in the "Houston Chronicle", "Sam's Club Magazine" and "Wisconsin Golfer".