Since I mentioned that I am the general contractor on our renovation and that we are living in during the process, I have received many questions, been met with surprise and, I am pretty sure, some people think I am nuts. Not you all, you get it – or you already figured out I am a little nutty!
Hey, it is not like I said I need surgery & I going to be my own surgeon. Being your own renovation general contractor is totally do-able. Do-able and advisable, in my opinion. Removing your own appendix, not so much.
If you are at all a DIY’er, a type A or a bit freaky about having control, GC is the role for you. It fits me to a “T”.
(images shared here are Befores” & “Durings”)
What is a general contractor? Simplest terms the team captain or director on a construction project. Depending on the person, they could be hands on or simply lining up, scheduling & managing the sub-contractors (the tradespeople who actually do the work).
A GC can get anywhere from 10% to 30% of the total cost of the project. This fee should exclude materials. That’s a lot of moola for something you are eminently capable of doing yourself.
This ‘isn’t my first rodeo’, as they say. Well, it would be my first rodeo, but is not my first renovation. I have worn my hard hat before on several smaller renovations and built one house from scratch. So I have a lot of advice & tips for you.
Let’s get to it, ’cause if you are like me at all, you want your project started yesterday!
Tips & Advice on being your own General Contractor
- Collect names & contact info for tradespeople now, even if your project is no where on the horizon. Anyone you know who is having work done ask for their opinion on the tradespeople they used. If it is good, get the contact info. Save it in a file. When you are ready to start a project you will have a running start. Gather at least 3 names/#s for each trade – plumbing, electric, framing etc.
- Plan, re-plan & plan again so you know what you want to achieve. It may change, be impossible or cost prohibitive, but don’t rely on anyone else to tell you what should be done in your house. Do your homework so you can articulate your plan to the tradespeople you interview & hire. Photos are a plus. Pinterest is your BFF in this regard. Create inspiration boards and secret boards. Follow mine here.
- Interview & get estimates from at least 3 tradespeople for each aspect of the renovation. Price shouldn’t be the deciding factor, but you may be surprised how widely the numbers can vary. Hint: guys with shiny trucks, polo shirts with the name of their company & clip boards charge more – but you knew that!
- Choose people who get your overall vision and who you won’t mind having around for extended periods of time ~ ’cause you will have them as ‘guests’ for the duration.
- Contact your municipality & see what types of projects need permits. Decide whether you or your tradespeople will pull the necessary paperwork.
- Keep building your contact list. Once you choose a tradesperson for a particular job ask them if they know of anyone who does the next thing on your list. They will suggest good people that they would be happy to work along side. You are building a team, so the better suited your players are the better the ‘plays’ will be.
- Understand you are building a team and that YOU are the captain. Not the plumber, not the electrician YOU. Be the leader. Call the plays. Compliment when the job is well done and respectfully let them know if it is not to your liking. And provide good snacks once in a while. A batch of cookies ( if you have a kitchen ) or even just a case of water goes a long way to fostering a good working relationship.
- Keep the communication flowing & open. Let them know the good, the bad & the change of plans right away. But try not to change plans – it costs you money. At the end of each work day, ask what is the next step, what can be expected to be accomplished in the following days. Renovation is a dance & everyone needs to be in sync. You are the choreographer, so you direct the movement.
- Understand your tradespeople are not exclusive to you. They will be balancing other jobs. It is the nature of the business. Know this going in and make sure you have enough going on so that each day is productive, even if one trade does not show up. That being said, there should be no unexpected absences. Daily communication prevents this in most cases.
- Inspect the work daily – duh!
- Pick up your own supplies when possible. Their time is your $ so if you can make a run to Home Depot or such do it.
In conjunction with the above tips – in order to be the best GC possible, have the most cost effective renovation & ensure that your plan is followed – my advice is to live in the house while you are renovating.
This is when I usually get the look like I am nuts. Sure living in a construction zone is a bit challenging. But the pluses in the long run far out way the temporary minuses.
Like my smart husband says – don’t project your current state of affairs into the future. The plaster dust will be wiped away and your vision will shine through.
And if you are living in the house it will all happen faster, cheaper & the way you want it.
For a short period of ‘pain’ there will be a lot of ‘gain’. You can do it! We are again – with 2 teenage girls & a dog this time.
Living in during a renovation builds character & builds a house right!
So proud of the troopers my kids are & Emmett too, and SO pleased with all our progress.
So there is my 2 cents on being your own general contractor – ok, maybe more like 2 dollars – I had a lot to say.
Bottom line – YOU can do it & you will be happy you did!
** Kelly **