Being your own general contractor

Posted December 13, 2010 at 03:42 pm

The DIY'er . . . so, you want to be your own general contractor?

I applaud anyone that wants to undertake being his or her own general contractor for either home building or renovation. You just have to keep some things in mind before you go down this road.

To take on this arduous task you must be hands-on, have ample time, and be very well organized. The time you invest will far exceed the money you may save.

However, the most important task is doing your research and learning before you start actual construction. Think of it as follows. Let’s say your budget is $500,000 for building your home. Well, what if you were not building and had $500k to invest. Would you simply place it under your mattress or place it in your savings account earning ˝% interest? Probably not. You probably would consult financial advisors, investment bankers, CPA's, and trusted friends and others for some sage advice on what to do with the money.

So why on earth would you try to build your own home without doing thorough research on: design, energy performance, trade selection, product selection, safety, financing, legal issues, building code issues, and so on?

It can all be done, but protect your “investment”. Forge ahead only with the proper research. Realize that you have a lot of learning to do to get even close to what the industry professionals know.

You will save some money (maybe 8-12% of your budget) by being your own GC. But (and a BIG but) your time must be considered “worthless” because you cannot place a value on it. Why? Think of it this way. You must commit to spending about 4 hours a day on building issues. Designing the home can take several months, construction may take 5-9 months, making product selections, reviewing & selecting trades, learning how to make the home highly energy efficient,… will take many days… I think you get the point. By the time you do the math, you’ll see that your time has a disappointingly low value.

But again, it can be done and can be fun. And it can help you get that “little extra” in the home that you may otherwise not have been able to afford. Just make sure you don’t under-estimate the amount of time you must invest.

Tags:   building  contractors  materials  residential 



All good points. Certainly a commitment of time. The more you can surround yourself with "good people" the easier things will go. I found that clear, frequent communication is the key. You want to make sure YOUR expectations are understood. But always ask for the trades opinion. Their advice is invaluable
Comment by Caleb - posted on 12/29/2010 12:24 pm
Boy, I thought I would give it a try being my own GC. Much of what you said I did experience. I really didn't anticipate the time involved. It did cuase quite a bit of stress within our family. We did make it through, but I'm not sure I saved a lot of money in the long run. It took me about 2 months longer to build than anticipated. The key is to get good, trustworthy tradespeople.
Comment by Gary - posted on 12/28/2010 10:30 am

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