Remodeling and new construction are expensive, but you can save about 25 percent of the total cost of the project by acting as your own general contractor. This task isn't for the faint of heart, and it requires a substantial time commitment on your part, but if you're knowledgeable in basic building methods, it might be the ticket for reducing expenses. Although you can depend upon quality subcontractors for some of the technical stages, you'll be running the show, and there are aspects you must handle in sequence.
Things You'll Need
- Building Permit
Clear your intentions with your banker if you're financing the project. Some lenders won't work with owner-builders because they're worried that you may not complete the project to professional standards. The lender may require a larger down payment, a copy of the blueprints, detailed expense data and a list of subcontractors, unless you have construction experience or licensing.
Meet with each of your subcontractors, go over the plans together and obtain bids. This is also the time to find out what the subcontractors' schedules are like, because they must arrange to work on your project in advance. Some of the subs may be in demand and can't get to your project when you're ready for them.
Submit building plans, pay permit fees and obtain building permits with the appropriate governmental agency in your area. Some building authorities require a wet signature from an engineer and won't issue the permits without it. A wet signature constitutes of a review of building plans by an engineer who supplies structural calculations and recommended building materials for key elements of the project. These steps require that you familiarize yourself with local building codes.
Set a tentative project schedule, but be prepared to change it. Construction projects are notorious for diverging from the original plan, because of weather issues, permit inspections, cost overages and sub-contractors that can't fit into your schedule.
Start the project and monitor the stages. Schedule inspection review and sign-off as stages of the building progresses. This entails contacting the building department and scheduling an inspection on specific stages, such as framing, plumbing, wiring and much more. Until you get official approval and sign-off on these stages, the project cannot continue.
Keep detailed records to ensure that you stay within budget. Change orders nearly always increase the cost of the project so use them sparingly, if at all.
Ask your subcontractors and material suppliers to sign lien releases as soon as you pay them in full. This prevents them from filing liens later on and your bank may require it as part of the lending contract.
Tips & Warnings
- Be flexible. Don't expect the project to proceed exactly as planned, because it won't. Small, and sometimes large, issues arise that require compromises and decisions during the construction phase.
- General contractors deal with suppliers and subcontractors full time. Acting as your own general contractor requires your presence onsite. If you have another job, you may not be around when the subcontractors need answers, which can slow down your project.
- "So...You Want to Build a House"; J.M. Gore; 2006
- "Should You be Your Own General Contractor?" Bankrate.com, Dana Dratch, November 12, 2004
- Photo Credit PhotoObjects.net/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images
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