Can I GC my own Kitchen? (And help with work plan)

melissat99June 1, 2013

Got a GC bid back on our kitchen reno plan and it is prohibitively expensive, so am considering saving money by GCing the process myself, and maybe doing some of the work (demo?). I don't have a ton of hands on experience, but have planned a kitchen before (had a contractor to do the physical work, but did all the planning and purchasing of cabinets/appliance/lights/tile). However this time I also have 2 small kids under foot, so time is a bit tighter.

So my question - is it reasonable to expect I can do this myself? I have also tried to come up with a work plan to lay out the steps so I can figure out what needs to happen when by whom - would love feedback on that (below.) Probable layout for the kitchen is in a previous post:


-Structural as needed for removal of furdowns / removal of pocket door
-Plumbing for new sink line
-Electrical for any new outlets / ceiling fixtures

-Remove all existing cabinets, appliances, fixtures, light fixtures
-Remove furdowns/soffits
-Remove flooring in kitchen & family room
-Strip wallpaper as needed (pantry area, eating nook)
-Remove molding as needed
-Remove areas of damaged drywall
-Remove pocket Door
-Remove electrical items on range wall

PLUMBING (*need exact location of prep sink*)
-Add drain lines to island

ELECTRICAL (*need detailed light plan*)
-Move light switches, etc. on range wall near new doorway
-Electrical upgrades including GFCIs, circuit for induction range (if needed), dedicated 240V for Speedoven, move oven outlet
-Add recessed lighting
-LIght boxes for island pendants

-Fix subfloor as needed
-Fix walls as needed (framing, drywall, etc.)
-Mud/tape/paint walls & ceiling
-Install new cabinets
-Lay flooring (Engineered Red Oak w/ Jacobean stain)
-Install appliances, sinks, faucets, light fixtures
-Tile Backsplash
-Molding / finish work
-Touch up Painting

Cabinets & Hardware
-Refrigerator. 36â Counter (or cabinet) depth French Door.
-36â Induction Cooktop
-42â Vent Hood
-Wall Oven
-Wall speed oven / microwave
Sinks & Faucets
-~30â cleanup sink, faucet, disposal
-Prep sink, faucet, disposal
-Recessed lights (need lighting plan)
-Island pendants? (2 or 3)
-Cleanup sink pendant
-Task lighting (under cabinets)
-Tile - probably 3x6 subway tile

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Sophie Wheeler

Without a LOT of extra time on your hands, like a very flexible job and a babysitter that you can dump the kids on at a moment's notice, then it will be VERY challengint to GC a reno. It's a full time job all by itself. And it will take a lot longer to do than hiring a GC will. Plus, you won't generally save all that much money. Subs don't give homeowners priority on either pricing or scheduling because you won't provide repeat business.

If you want to do this because you think it's challenging to do, and you have the time in your schedule to do it, then go ahead. But, given your description of your life, I think it would be more productive to keep saving and reduce the scope of the remodel until the two things meet.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2013 at 11:49AM
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My renovation sounds similar to you. I consider myself smarter than the average bear, and wouldn't do alot of that work myself. There are things that a GC sees everyday and will know the cheapest and best way to handle. Also, even the best intentions get misunderstood. Say you gave directions for electrical work that didn't pass inspection, who pays to resolve that?

I am working with an interior designer, who has a GC execute her work. I laid out to her the tasks I was willing to do, like purchase appliances, and gave her a budget for the rest of the work and materials. I would think that you could get the same type of arrangement with a GC or designer. I didn't want to risk misunderstanding cabinet measurements and such. A lot of people do their own demo, and then let the GC take over.

You may also find there are tasks where it is difficult to find the right talent, and you don't have the tools or skill to do it yourself. I also discovered that the GC my designer uses can install custom cabinets for about the same price as HD.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2013 at 12:18PM
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You could do it. You have experience, can put together lists, and presumably aren't completely blind to what looks and works well. For me the big question would be the one the others pointed out: Will I save (enough) money?

For you, you have another problem: You want it done fast. Trying to find and schedule independents who'll never get another piece of work from you is not the way to go about that. Hiring people you have no personal experience of definitely isn't. Buying materials from people you'll never order from again isn't conducive to the best service. For those you pay a contractor. And, as said, materials will cost you significantly more than a professional would purchase them for--unless you can find a way to get those prices.

BTW, have you looked OUTSIDE the kitchen design industry, with its tremendously jacked up prices? Any skilled, reliable handyman can do most of it himself and possibly even recommend dependable people for things that require special licensing, like plumbing and electrical. This is absolutely the way I would go: Hire a good man who'll work for a reasonable price and expect it to take longer.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2013 at 2:25PM
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Are you under a firm deadline, other than convenience in not living with and in a work site any longer than necessary?

Are you OK with setting up a minimalist kitchen function for the duration? (keep and move old fridge to another room, get some hotplates or portable induction cookers - at least one maybe two, MW, biggish toaster oven, rice cooker and washing your dishes in a PR sink - using a counter made of plywood on sawhorses?)

Could you get through the holidays with such a set-up?

It really depends on your tolerance for camping out in your own house and how frustrating you will find juggling children and tradesman (many of the same management/coping skills apply, but don't try shoving a pacifier at the electrician).

Whatever time frame you come up with, imagine how it would be if it took exactly twice as long. Would that throw larger family plans into a tailspin? Because that very well may come to pass.

Still, GCing one project, and your own at that where your won't have trouble communicating your ideas because they will all be in your own brain, seems like it is possible.

Are your kids and DH the flexible, roll-with-it types? Or does change destabilize them?

What does your Mama think? My own Mother GC'd the building of her house when she was in her 60's. I know I spent a lot of time on the phone with her as she vented about the days' progress (or lack thereof). I thought it was great that she did it, but I think if I had had doubts my doubts would have discouraged her and made it harder.

Also, get several more bids before you give up. The Official Kitchen Industry is awash in price gouging in some places because it is an emotional purchase, dealing with aspirations, expensive equipment most people only buy occasionally and mysterious systems (water, electricty and drains), etc. Also, try breaking it apart into sequential episodes to see if you can make it work that way.



    Bookmark   June 1, 2013 at 3:48PM
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We are doing our own after we recovered from the sticker shock bid from a GC. I realize they deserve to make money but the inflated prices on everything from flooring to granite plus their actual costs was more than we can afford. When their bid came in double what we told them our budget was they tried to help lower costs and suggested cutting out our granite. They said the granite was 10,000. After deciding to be our own GC and getting bids our granite cost for the exact same slabs still on hold for us at Pental was 6400 tax included. We have picked our cabinet maker and for the same amout the GC quoted us basically entry level modular cabinets we are getting hand made custom cabinets. We have our hardwood installer lined up and have a guy to move lights, electrical stuff and install appliances. We will gut the kitchen, clean up and paint our self. My husband is self employed and can be around a lot and I work 5 am till noon most days so we should be able to get a lot done. If you have the time to do it yourself you can save a lot of money.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2013 at 4:43PM
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I would not GC any room in a house for major renovation unless I had as much time as necessary and was doing all the work myself.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2013 at 4:43PM
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My reno wasn't quite as extensive as yours, but it was close, and I was basically the GC. It did take a lot of time, but I didn't mind and don't regret it.

Your main sub needs to be an excellent communicator and a true professional (In my case the main sub was my countertop fabricator who is also my cabinetmaker--he had to work around everyone else, and everyone had to continually work around him).

I say that I was "basically" the GC because my countertop/cabinetmaker also did my demo, installed my vent hood, and replaced all moulding that had to be torn out. And again, he was ultra professional, so he was sometimes in the role of GC.

But I did hire and contract my own KD, electrician, painter, plumber, tile layer, and window guy, as well as individually researching and purchasing all appliances including my vent hood.

I felt like I had a lot of control over the process, and I liked that.

I think if your subs are professional, you enjoy the process, and you have a good amount of time and flexibility in your schedule, you can be your own GC.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2013 at 5:45PM
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Thanks all for the feedback.

To address some of the issues, I do have a flexible job and decent short notice babysitting available. Kids and I are also the roll-with-it types, though DH will probably get very frustrated living in a construction site.

I also am already doing most of the planning, and wouldn't expect someone else to research or pick out materials for me (do GC's normally do that?)

So I guess what I need is a pseudo GC that is in between a handyman and the design/build take-care-of-everything where you pay a ridiculous premium.

And thank you for the prod to seek out additional bids. The GC we've been talking to has done work for other members of the family, and would be extremely easy to work with, he just may be out of our price range. So we will keep looking into it.

And as for the time pressure - no firm deadline, just the convenience factor of ideally getting the worst of the mess-making portion done before we are living in the house. And we do have the benefit of family in town (with enough beds for all of us), so we do have refuge from construction chaos if necessary.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2013 at 7:24PM
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Dh and I bought a fixer upper, gutted and rehabbed the entire thing with DH being our GC. We were lucky enough to have had a handyman type that was able to do a lot of the work and my Dh is incredibly handy himself. The handyman had to pull the permit because in our town you must live in the house for at least 6 months before you can pull your own permit. So the handyman had to show proof of insurance and purchase a bond before he could pull the permit. He also had to register/obtain a license with our town. We hired out the electrical, plumbing, painters, window installers,granite fabricators, and hvac. We also purchased all the needed materials and had them on site for our guy to work. It took us a total of about nine months to finish everything and we did have a few delays along the way. One was the electrician blowing us off for a month to come and finish the trim work and finish pulling electrical out to the second garage. We finally ended up calling my electrician cousin to come and finish up on the other guys permit, - I guess my whole point is yes you can do it but just be expecting some type of problem/delay to occur and you will be responsible for finding the solution. Is it a huge headache? yes. Will you regret being the gc at some point during the renovation? probably. In the end we did save money over hiring a GC - and I would do it again in a heartbeat. I am glad its over though.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2013 at 8:12PM
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We did it with subbing out the tile work, some plumbing, and all electrical. However... we had another house to live in, all kids are grown and out, DH is retired and VERY handy, and it took us 3 years. It's doable; but your situation is more difficult then mine. You COULD look at it like a giant adventure!

    Bookmark   June 1, 2013 at 8:44PM
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It's not just about being able to organize and coordinate things. A good GC should make sure things are done correctly per industry standards and make sure codes are met along the way. Those are things you might not even know as a layperson or be able to handle quickly as issues arise and the trades are waiting. You can't necessarily depend on the trades to cover this.

Finding a really good GC is like finding people good in the trades. I've worked with two on separate occasions/projects thinking that would solve some of the problems hiring independently. Both were a joke and very lax if they even knew what was going on. So all I ended up with in the end was paying a whole lot more and salarying some guy who called himself a GC and sent a couple low wage hacks in. Still major problems with the work. Paying for one you know can deliver* is well worth it, imo. Within reason, of course! lol

*Another thing is that what might look good on the surface wasn't necessarily done well underneath. Not sure how you get around that one.

This post was edited by snookums2 on Sun, Jun 2, 13 at 17:42

    Bookmark   June 1, 2013 at 10:30PM
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