Hiring a construction manager vs. GC

PipdogFebruary 24, 2014

For our next kitchen remodel, we are thinking of hiring a project/construction manager instead of a general contractor. Since this is our fourth kitchen remodel (two DIY, one large one where we had a GC) and the remodel involves no moving of walls or addition of space, just changing out appliances, cabinets, counters and fixtures, we don't feel like a GC is necessary to run this project and are exploring the idea of a project manager (a licensed general contractor who has a lesser role in the project).

The idea would be for the project manager to help us obtain permits, assist with managing the schedule and provide guidance and consultation along the way. We would pay the subs directly and there would be little to no markup on the cost (we have already located our cabinet maker and have a crew lined up to do the demo and have a list of plumbers and electricians).

Has anyone used a project manager? If so, what are the advantages/disadvantages? What sort of questions should I be asking the project manager as we begin the interview process?

Also, my impression is that their fee is a flat fee and typically based on a percentage of the total cost of the remodel. Is that assumption correct?

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
GauchoGordo1993

Whoever pulls the permit is legally responsible for the work in it's entirety. So from the construction manager's perspective, it would be unwise to pull the permit and then allow someone else to select, manage, & pay subs to do the work because he would be accepting much risk without comensurate control over the outcome.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 3:40PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
sjhockeyfan325

Whoever pulls the permit is legally responsible for the work in it's entirety

I don't think that's true where I live. The person responsible is the one you signed the contract with. What about pulling the permit makes the person "legally responsible" - is there a law to that effect in your state?

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 4:34PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
GauchoGordo1993

For example, if the building inspector identifies a problem, then it's incumbent upon whoever pulled the permit to resolve the problem and not doing so will result in penalties. Or if work is started buth the permit isn't closed by final inspection within the alotted time period, then whoever pulled the permit will be resposible for penalities.

Bottom line, the permitting agency (usually the city) will not make any effort to determine who's truly responsible for a problem - they will simply assume that whoever pulled the permit is responsible. Hence pulling a permit is tantamount to accepting responsibility for the work.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 4:53PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
live_wire_oak

No licensed GC will accept a construction manager role. You pulled all of the cherries out of the pie. You might get a retired guy whose license has expired, but you're asking him to assume all of the responsibility of a GC, but with none of the pay. CM only works on large commercial contracts, not small residential ones.

And yes, whomever pulls the permit is who is legally responsible to make things correct on site. You can't ask someone to do that and not compensate them for the liability.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 5:18PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Pipdog

We have discussed pulling the permit in our name. We only need an electrical permit to upgrade the electrical panel and our trusted electrician has offered to help us with pulling that permit. It is unclear to us if we need other permits as this is a very small scale remodel -- no moving of plumbing or walls, just new cabs, undercounter lights, appliances, fixtures, etc. That would be something the CM could advise on, but we are not asking him to assume liability w/r/t permits.

live_wire_oak, my parents had a licensed contractor handle the construction of their home as a construction manager role. They paid all the subs directly. It was a large home, so his fee was substantial, but it was a win-win for both of them -- they got to maintain control of the project and pay less for the subs, and the manager got paid a hefty flat fee for just basically being "middle management" and making sure the subs were doing their job properly and that everything proceeded smoothly.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 7:22PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
gabbythecat

We were the GCs of record - my dh qualified for that role as a result of his experience as an officer in the US Navy. The building permit was in our name, although electrical and HVAC got their own permits. We paid our carpenter to supervise the subs when he was on site, and also to serve as a consultant for us. We hired and scheduled the subs, found our own vendors, etc. We saved a bundle of money that way and also maintained a high degree of control over our project. It was a massive amount of work; I was on call and ready to trouble shoot anything that happened for the entire project.

I don't know that I would recommend this route to others, except due to the nature of our home - a log home, where we wanted unlimited options for subs and vendors - it worked better than being limited by the options a GC would offer. Of course, we saved a lot of money, which was nice!

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 7:38PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Trebruchet

pipdog:

This won't work in Florida. There are big fat signs in all the building departments warning homeowners against pulling their own permits. In some locations if you pull your own permits, you can't sell or rent for a year or you'll be charged with unlicensed contracting (Punta Gorda).

If my name's on a permit, the job will be done my way and you're gonna pay me. Well.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 7:55PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
GauchoGordo1993

We had an informal contract with an unlicensed carpenter that I trust. He provided the contact information for the various subs. I paid him and he paid the subs. I pulled the permit and managed the day-day work. Project turned out great and we saved ~30% vs the GC quotes I got.

Of course this only works if all parties involved are fair, reasonable, and trustworthy, so it's not for everyone ;)

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 8:10PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
cookncarpenter

It must be different from state to state, and semantics come into play. I've been a licensed general contractor in California for over 30 years, and over 90% of my projects are done based on actual net cost plus a percentage or fixed fee. This is very typical for high end custom builders in our area, especially for complete custom homes from the ground up.
If that makes me a project manager, I'm fine with that title, I think it sounds more important than G.C. anyway!

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 8:31PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
PRO
Sophie Wheeler

A GC with enough sense to BE a GC is either busy with jobs right now AS a GC, or he's not competent enough to be in demand by people who know enough to not hire him. Who wants an incompetent heading up a project at their house? This isn't 2010 when you had experienced tradesmen taking on second jobs as pizza delivery guys. Most of those guys weren't good enough businessmen to survive. The good guys did survive, and theyve hired back all of the old failed guys as subs on their jobs. So, even the marginally competent contractors are pretty busy right now. Doesn't leave anything but the druggie dregs or the half dead over the hill old dogs who couldn't learn new tricks who are ''looking'' for work.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 8:42PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
jellytoast

Homeowners can pull permits in California. We did it on our own remodels.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 8:48PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Pipdog

ctycdm, thanks for sharing your experience. We've spoken to several people that have done large scale renovations or built homes in our area and many of them have had that same arrangement with their construction or project manager. I personally like the idea as it allows for the homeowner to have a greater level of involvement and control. I don't follow the assumption that those who choose to be project managers are failed general contractors because that's the exact opposite conclusion we've reached -- it's a beneficial arrangement for both homeowner and the licensed contractor.

jellytoast, thanks, we did it too on our last remodel. I like the idea of being here when the inspector comes over to make sure my subs are doing things properly. It makes sense for it to be in the homeowner's names.

gladys1924, thanks for sharing your experience. sounds like it worked out well for you -- we are looking at a similar arrangement, and as Gaucho points out, having someone you trust on site is key.

Trebruchet, we're not in FL so that's not an issue - the permit will be in our name.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 10:09PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Trebruchet

jellytoast:

You can pull your own permits in Florida. You just can't sell or rent your house for a year after Certificate of Occupancy is issued after you do in some areas.

This is anti-flipping legislation.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 10:10PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
jellytoast

" ... Doesn't leave anything but the druggie dregs or the half dead over the hill old dogs who couldn't learn new tricks who are ''looking'' for work."

Come on!!!

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 10:19PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
gabbythecat

pipdog - yes. Having someone you trust onsite is key. Turns out that our construction manager/foreman wasn't someone we could trust. Grrrr! So if you go this route, check references!!! Also, since it's a bit of an unusual deal - not the "normal" GC thing - get a solid contract and make sure both of you (owner builder and manager) are clear on expectations.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 10:25PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
cookncarpenter

" I personally like the idea as it allows for the homeowner to have a greater level of involvement and control. I don't follow the assumption that those who choose to be project managers are failed general contractors because that's the exact opposite conclusion we've reached -- it's a beneficial arrangement for both homeowner and the licensed contractor."
I Totally agree... and as I said, it must be a regional thing, because the best of the best G.C.'s around here, with the best reputations, and most experience almost always use some version of a cost plus a fee basis. What it comes down to, is the contractor you hire is more important than the type of contract you agree on.

This post was edited by ctycdm on Tue, Feb 25, 14 at 8:59

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 10:45PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Pipdog

"What it comes down to, is the contractor you hire is more important than the type of contract you agree on."

so true, ctycdm. We are taking our time with this remodel to select the best fit. Our last contractor was not a good fit for us (although he did get the project done in 5 weeks, as promised), but it was a struggle working with him.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2014 at 11:37AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
zeebee

For our last renovation we had a construction manager, who helped us hire trades (we paid them directly) and was supposed to coordinate timing on the job. He was useless; unlike a GC who has a stable of tradespeople whom he uses regularly, our guy was lost when, for example, our HVAC contractor went AWOL. We had to do all the legwork on finding, interviewing and hiring a new sub; CM just wrung his hands. He also happened to be very bad at coordination, both scheduling the trades and telling us when we needed to have things done (tile on site, fixtures on site, etc). It was a disaster.

One of our non-negotiables for the current renovation was going with a GC over a CM. We were willing to pay the GC markup to have one person be the go-to for coordination, problems and solutions. We also like that our GC does have backups; when he gave us his first bid and both the plumbing and flooring numbers seemed a little high, he agreed and was able to bring in other pros he'd worked with whose numbers were easier to swallow.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2014 at 4:24PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Kitchen layout, updated
Revised layout:
edwardshome
New Layout Help Please
Here's a first go of a new layout. We eat many meals...
sebandninasmom
Faucet Finish
So, I've done many searches, and read dozens of GW...
Carrie B
How to deal with high contractor bids based on your location?
In a way, I'm echoing what beachem is saying about...
andyscott
10 cm gap between cabinets and steel - help!
Hi all, Our kitchen designers have messed up their...
waytonc
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™