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Hiring a construction manager vs. GC

Posted by pipdog (My Page) on
Mon, Feb 24, 14 at 12:41

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?


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Hiring a construction manager vs. GC

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.


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RE: Hiring a construction manager vs. GC

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?


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RE: Hiring a construction manager vs. GC

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.


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RE: Hiring a construction manager vs. GC

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.


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RE: Hiring a construction manager vs. GC

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.


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RE: Hiring a construction manager vs. GC

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!


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RE: Hiring a construction manager vs. GC

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.


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RE: Hiring a construction manager vs. GC

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 ;)


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RE: Hiring a construction manager vs. GC

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!


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RE: Hiring a construction manager vs. GC

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.


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RE: Hiring a construction manager vs. GC

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


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RE: Hiring a construction manager vs. GC

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.


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RE: Hiring a construction manager vs. GC

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.


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RE: Hiring a construction manager vs. GC

" ... 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!!!


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RE: Hiring a construction manager vs. GC

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.


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RE: Hiring a construction manager vs. GC

  • Posted by ctycdm 10b/Sunset 24 (My Page) on
    Mon, Feb 24, 14 at 22:45

" 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


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RE: Hiring a construction manager vs. GC

"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.


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RE: Hiring a construction manager vs. GC

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.


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