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Acting As Your Own General Contractor When Building Your Dream Home
By Robert Kempe
This article is intended for the DIY (Do It Yourself) home builder; however,
it is very useful information for the new home buyer to understand what processes
you can monitor even if you are not acting as the general contractor and
hiring a general contractor. For the inexperienced DIY home builder, acting
as a general contractor is one of the most stressful things anyone can undertake.
After that statement, you ask yourself Why would anyone really want
to be the general contractor for their new home? Well the number one
reason is to save money, and in our society its all about the money
isnt it? It doesnt necessarily mean that you are building the
home (but with this approach sweat equity has a whole new meaning), you are
only managing the sub-contractors.
Successful general contactors are either born good, or have been trained
to be good. You, as your own general contractor, do not have the time to
be as good as a contractor who makes their living building homes. For this
reason, I will give you some guidelines to help you out and feel a bit more
comfortable managing your new dream home as your own general contractor:
Define Your Project; I have published an article on very effective
ways to decide on a dream home floor plan. I recommend that you read that
along with this article. The article is called Home Floor Plan Designing
for Your Future Home by Robert Kempe. Once you have decided on the floor
plan and all the associated up front planning projects, such as finding the
right plot of land, gathering information on building codes and permits,
having signed construction drawings, etc. you have to apply for the building
permits. With the homework of gathering all this information prior the
application process and having your construction drawings drawn to comply
with city, county and state codes this process is just a paper work issue.
If you have not properly done this entire process prior to the application,
this will slow your time frame down considerably. Most DYI builders wait
for the building permit application to find out what is needed. Make it easier
on yourself and do it first.
Execution of the Project; Now that you have a clearly defined project
you can get accurate quotes from the contractors. The construction disciplines
you will need are as follows: Electricians, Plumbers, HVAC (Heating Ventilation
Air Conditioning), Framers, Concrete, Drywall, Finishers, Painters, Roofers,
Siding, Landscaping, Windows and Doors, Garage door. Etc. Keep in mind that
most contractors will have multiple disciplines and will try to combine them
as much as possible either with their own work force or they may hire out
subcontractors as well. This is how you execute the project. Do your homework
on the contractors that you will want to work with on your home. Ask people
who you know that have recently built homes who they have used as contractors.
Actually any resource on contractor evaluation is helpful. Have them evaluate
the experience. With this process you can then get three to five contractor
references from trusted resources without involving any salesmen. Have a
set of construction plans ready for each of the contractors that you are
going to have bid from the list you have generated. Make sure that all the
disciplines will be bid upon.
Deciding who to hire as your subcontractors; You do not always have
to take the lowest bid! You want the contractor that is the most qualified
and most prepared to build your home. It is highly suggested that each of
the contractors break down the categories and itemize how they arrived at
their price. This is best done by communicating this up front before receiving
their price. Once you have all this information, evaluate the prices according
to their breakdown. Rate the contractor on their responses on a scale of
1-10 with 10 being the highest rank. If the bids are close then its
a matter of what contractor you favor the most. If there is a large gap in
the prices, you need to determine why. This is where your breakdown of the
work performed and the associated prices can help you determine this. This
is also where you find out which contractors are the most serious and most
qualified and which contractors are easier to work with. This might lead
you to conclude that the best contractor isnt always the lowest price.
You get what you pay for!
Managing the Subcontractors You thought deciding who to hire as your
subcontractor was difficult, try managing them! This is where most of the
stress and sweat equity occurs. I have been a construction project
manager for 15+ years and honestly, every time I am assigned a new project
the fear of the unknown working relationships with each of the subs is a
major concern. I feel your pain! To help you in your management, have a schedule
ready during the bidding war between contractors. Have this presented at
the time you present the construction drawings. In fact, have three schedules!
What this will generate is three different prices from each contractor. Use
this as part of your evaluation as mentioned in the previous paragraph. Your
long schedule, medium schedule and short schedule will generate different
responses. You want this information up front so that when it comes time
to sign a contact with the subs, you can put in clauses that if they do not
hold the schedule there are financial burdens placed on them. This will protect
you from mismanagement on their part.
After all the schedules and contracts are agreed upon, you become more than
the customer, now you are the boss. Everyday you need to communicate with
the subs and get an updated detailed report on what, where, when, how and
why they are on or off schedule. Manage the project by the schedule. Keep
in mind that the schedule will change if you decide to change your scope
of work by issuing change orders (example: changing the cupboard or cabinet
size, the flooring, or appliance). Keep in mind that during this time, this
is a small business and your profit is represented by how close you come
to your original agreed upon costs associated with the schedule after the
contract signing. We could talk about management all day long. In fact there
are training courses on this subject that cost thousands of dollars. Hopefully
this bit of information will get you on the right track and help make a smooth
transition from concept to actually building your dream home. Remember this
rule of thumb, the more you prepare the better you will be when handling
the bumps in the road. Gathering information prior to needing it will actually
save you more money, time and stress than you can probably calculate.
If you find this information useful you should visit the site
om/ where you will find lots of interesting articles related to this
topic provided by Robert Kempe.
I have 15+ years in industrial construction and industrial engineered
manufacturing as a project manager and a part time home inspector. Through
my experience in construction and management and my unique prospective in
the home industry, I have been able to simplify and make sense of home building
and designing in what looks to be a complete chaotic project and decision
making process. My articles will guide you through the most difficult decisions
and make it a positive uplifting experience.