09 May Ask the Interior Designer: Should I be my own General Contractor?
Ask the Interior Designer:
I’m trying to save money: should I be my own general contractor?
If you can pull this off, you’re a better woman than I am.
Here’s the way I always look at it: general contractors are sequencing experts. They know who needs to be at the job site and when, and they have clout to get them there when they need them. For example, demolition occurs at the beginning of the project timeline. That’s a no brainer. But maybe then there’s some electrical that happens before any drywall goes up. Then the electrician goes away (for how many days, I never know) and the plumber does a thing or two. Then drywall people do some stuff. Then carpenters, flooring people, painters. Then plumbers come back, electricians come back, etc……
The general contractor knows that flow chart. But more importantly, the contractor also makes sure that the electrician makes time for your job on, say, day 2 and again on day 18 or whatever day he or she is needed. You usually need that electrician (or fill in the tradesperson) to be someone you’ve worked with over and over again to get them to prioritize you that way. If they can’t slip in and do the work on exactly the day when you need it done, they are holding up a lot of the other tradespeople and your project will take much longer and have all kinds of loose ends hanging out there. And you may not save money in the end because one tradesperson may point a finger at another if there’s an oversight, and how are you, as the “GC” going to know who to believe? So you may end up paying a tradesperson to correct something, and how will you know whose scope that was really supposed to fall under? When you hire a general contractor, there’s ONE NECK TO WRING, not to be too graphic about it. Even if in your day job you are a wonderful event planner or project manager, there are additional skill sets required here: construction knowledge and the clout with the tradespeople that I mentioned above, and that “buck stops here” liability aspect. I know there’s a big drive to save when pulling together a large scale design project. But if it were me, I’d sooner cut scope or delay work than be my own general contractor.
Amy’s Own Renovation, adding a mudroom to her home.
And when you are looking to finally take that plunge, give us a call. After we get through the schematic design phase, we’re happy to make introductions to general contractors with whom our clients have enjoyed working in the past. We have no vested interest in partnering with any particular company, but we’re happy to pass on names of folks we know who’ve been responsive, ethical, and paid attention to quality.