Being your own GC?!

modgirlJanuary 28, 2013

I have been a frequent reader of this site as we've worked through various renovations of our 1965 home (new kitchen, 2 new baths, 3 walls down, etc. etc.).

We are now looking to do a 700 sf addition to include a master bedroom & bath, as well as mudroom & new living space.

Our quotes have been between $150k-$230k. These are still higher than I'd like to spend given our neighborhood & future resale (although if we do this, we'll be here for 20 years!!!).

I've been very, very involved in all of our other projects and wondering if it makes sense to get some quotes for each piece of this project - excavation, HVAC, electrical, framing, roofing and so on - to see if it's possible to act as my own GC.

Anyone have experience acting as their own GC for such a project? How'd it go? Were the savings worthwhile?

Many thanks for your opinions!

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Are you an unemployed masochist with OCD who is used to babysitting small children? That's pretty much the requirement. Lots of available time to spend on the details and playing referee between the trades. You will ALWAYS be the on who fixes the problems and makes the decisions. No one to say, "just fix it" to. YOU are the one who has to figure out how to "just fix it". And it will take longer and cost more than you think. You won't get the best prices from the trades or the suppliers being a one shot deal. And your schedule isn't a priority if a big builder calls the plumber who is working for you to come and work on his project. He'll give him repeat business. You won't. Yes, even with all of that, there can still be some savings, but not if you are prone to "while we are at it's" and "we're saving money, so let's upgrade". And if you actually sat down and gave the time that you spend doing all of this a dollar figure and compared it to how much you "saved", you'd be beyond depressed at how much it actually cost you.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2013 at 5:18PM
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Yup, that about sums it up.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2013 at 6:17PM
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There is(was?) a TV show called HomeTime several years ago, you can probably Google it.

That show(with host Dean Johnson) did an entire series on how to be your own GC and what is necessary to learn. There were about 7 or 8 episodes.

That is the best overview I have ever seen.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2013 at 8:21PM
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You do have to be available throughout the project but if you plan well and have someone you can trust to inspect the work,
DO IT! Find a small builder in your area that has been around a long time and ask him or her if they will share subcontractor references. Any one who builds a few homes a year or is otherwise not a high volume company will be glad to refer his people, especially now when they all need work desperatly! These small builders don't keep subs busy all the time and they are happy to see their people have work inbetween projects. Typically remodel projects get 25% added to subcontractor bills for the G.C. Just be smart! even though your subs are referrals, be diligent on contracts and ask to pay material suppliers directly and labor costs get paid after the work is done. My god $150k!! the average square foot price to build a home in this country is under $80 per square foot, do you live on the side of a mountain to get quotes this high?

    Bookmark   February 2, 2013 at 8:36PM
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80psf new to build? Where do you live? I can't and don't believe that is the average for the country.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 10:55AM
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Sophie Wheeler

You can get a builder grade house for that $80 SF. Here in rural MS. The poorest state in the nation. That's with the improved lot with the electrical, septic, and a driveway. A plain box though. And probably with less amenities than one of the "luxury" mobile homes on the market these days.

Anything else, or anywhere else, and your costs will rise. We set the bar for low end costs.

I just did a kitchen design for a luxury retirement home in a county away for a guy who is "hoping" to keep the costs to "under $200 psf". Right now, he's looking at $220 and looking for places to cut costs. And that's less than 30 miles that more rural build where you can get that $80 sf builder grade home.

And that's for new builds. Renovations cost MORE. Tying in old with the new always does.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 12:31PM
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If you have to ask for advice about being your own GC, you are not ready for the job. Save yourself and your project--hire an experienced GC and rejoice in the improvement in quality, the reduced construction time and interest on your home loan!

Good luck on your project.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 9:55PM
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I decided to be our GC. It is a huge job of course. You clearly have experience with the process. Research is your friend. Only you know if you have enough time and patience. I disagree with the comment that hiring a GC will give you better quality. Nobody will invest more of their time or be more of a stickler for quality than a motivated homeowner. Even my husband knows that if he has to ask if it's ok he may as well do it over.

Subs may be more expensive..but you will still save nearly 1/2 cost by being your own GC. Just know;

It will probably take a lot longer.
you will probably have a lot more headaches.
you will have to be tough (no softies for this job).

Go for it

    Bookmark   March 24, 2013 at 12:57PM
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I did it in 2000. Started with a pasture in late July and moved in the house in December 2000. You have to be super organized and stay on top of which sub does what first and make sure all materials are there in advance of the subs. We got lots of quotes and took our chances. Every sub did a great job except the concrete slab guy. Only mess up was he was gone a lot and told his 18 year old son how to do things. He put too big of holes for the footing and used way too much concrete. Sub wanted me to pay for the concrete that his son screwed up. I offered half.

Everything else went fine. Subs came on time and showed up when they were supposed to. Of course I am a detail oriented person so I kept things organized. Subs didn't seem to mind working for a

Now our new remodel in a different house in a different area of Oklahoma....southeastern a whole different story. We have great subs but they come when they want. Plumbing/Heat/Air guy is very prompt and even work weekends. Finding electricians was horrible. They said they had licenses and insurance...but didn't when we asked to see. Finally found one guy. It took 6 months to find him. He started in August and still hasn't finished though. Had to rewire almost everything. We have to wait on him to be free. He comes when promised though.

Advice: if you decide to do this, find your subs first and see if they are reliable and have insurance and licenses. Do your planning and homework carefully. Create schedules and timelines. Be available for questions. Have your lighting, appliances, etc already picked out because that part took me forever. Make sure your ideas are understood by the subs. Otherwise they will have to interpret your ideas and words. What you had envisioned may not turn out to be what they understood.

We built 2465 sf home for $123,000. We used really good products too. When we sold it last year, we sold the house for $275,000. Being our own GC saved us a bundle. We also did our own laminate countertops, painting, and landscaping.

Good luck, Peke.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2013 at 12:37PM
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