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Should You Be Your Own General Contractor?

blog / September 1, 2018

Should You Be Your Own General Contractor?

I’ve recently heard advertisements for companies offering to assist you in being your own General Contractor. I’ve also worked with a lot of clients who I know would be great General Contractors on their own.  Yet, I still come away from the advertisement shaking my head at the frustration that clients are going to walk into in trying to manager their own custom building or renovation project. My reasons for advising against individual project management are more than just for my personal financial gain.

Proven Subcontractors

General contractor
I’ll be the first to admit that as a project manager I am only as good as my worst subcontractor.  This is why it is important to have subs on your team that are proven to get the job done right. Often my custom home building clients will ask me to price out bids with other subcontractors.  I have to remind them the value of working with someone that will get it done, and someone that knows my system as a project manager. Every time I hire a new subcontractor I am holding my breath that they will get the job done right.  I also hold the cards to my subcontractors financial growth by sending them repeat business. By trying to run your own project management you are in essence asking each subcontractor give you the best pricing, the best quality, the best timeline, and you will never give them anything more than this one job.  Good luck with those expectations.


Whether you are doing a cost plus project or using fixed pricing at some point you will wonder why you are paying a project manager to do nothing more than make a call or two.  If only it were that easy. I like to use the example of moving an outlet six inches in the kitchen backsplash right at the end of the project. Coronation has to bee completed between the electrician, the drywall crew, possibly the painter, then you can bring back your tile guy to wrap it up.  Your electrician won’t want to send back a guy for 1 hour worth of work right away. Your drywall contractor has to send one specialist to install the drywall, one to install the tape, and likely one to sand it. Odds are your tile guy wasn’t standing there waiting for the last 3-4 days while the other work was being completed.  So when you do call your tile contractor back they are likely working on another project. So for something that may appear to be an hour worth of work, you are looking at 1-2 weeks worth of calls and coordination. You may be thinking, why not just call a handyman at that point. For full permitted jobs another electrician cannot make the repair.  You could have another drywall crew come in for the repairs, but then you are adding costs to your project rather than using the warranty that your original drywall crew provided. As for your tile contractor, they are not as easy to find today. Labor, as we all know it, is scarce and only going to get worse. Issues happen like this from the day you start your plan set development to the day you are completed with your warranty repairs.  It makes a General Contractor job well worth it to save you time. 

Communication part 2

Naperville Home Renovation
The real problem with owners being the general contractor for their own project is, subcontractors do not want to talk to the owner.  My subcontractors love working with me because I take all of the communication out of their hands. I love working with my subcontractors because they take the tools out of my hands, thank goodness for my clients.  Most subcontractors want to work, send in an invoice and get paid. They do not want to spend hours talking to you about the way they are supposed to do their job. This is why a lot of contractors do not work on remodeling projects, so they can avoid client interaction.  Most of the subcontractors that I work with that excel in communication and have no problem talking with homeowners are the ones that are the most expensive. The reality is, you cannot always afford to hire the most expensive subcontractors for every trade. Your general contractor will know what buttons to push and what communication to have with the subcontractor to get the job done in an efficient manner.


Subcontractors, custom home builders
When potential clients come to me touting that they have all of the selection items picked out and on site for a project I cringe a bit.  Yes, it is less work for me, but the odds are something they purchased isn’t going to work. Either the amount was wrong, or the the wrong plumbing supplier were purchased or the product they used is something I don’t recommend.  When it comes to custom renovation and building projects in my Naperville market I have a team of suppliers that are just as important as my subcontractors. They help facilitate the selections, make sure the product works for the project, get the material on site and provide fair pricing.  This helps you avoid hours of wasted time and effort trying to search for the lowest pricing. Value your time by using your general contractor’s proven team, rather than trying to reinvent the wheel.

Do you have questions about a project of your own?


Yes, you can be your own general contractor.  Yes, there are some weeks that you can watch your project and only put in 10-15 hours a week.  However, I ask you how much is your time worth? If you are personally a $75/Hour person, why would you hesitate to pay a general contractor $50-$100K to run your custom build home that will take more than 12 months worth of time and effort?  $75 * 15 * 52 weeks = $58,500.00. If you have a kitchen renovation and you want it done right and within 8 weeks, $75.00 * 15 * 8 = $9,000.00. Let’s say you have a lower budget for your kitchen and end up paying only $5,000.00 for the general contractor, you are then getting expert work for $41.67 an hour.  Often what gets lost in translation between clients and general contractors is the reality of what they are paying for. You are paying for an expert to manage your project and oversee all of the details to make sure you have the perfect home and then warranty the product. That doesn’t account for the operational expenses that your general contractor has to account for on the backend, which you in essence get for free.   I hate to pull the math card out, but often I think clients forget to value general contractors time and expertise simply because they see a big commission on their estimate.
I’ll get off of my high horse now.  As always, I appreciate you reading and educating yourself on the custom building and remodeling industry.  If you are looking for questions about how you can custom build or remodel a home of your own, please call me 847-602-7641 or email