Is your home in need of remodeling? Or are you planning on upgrading your kitchen or a bathroom? If the answer to either of these questions is yes, some of you may have considered whether you should hire a general contractor to do the work or try and manage the project yourself. While there is no right or wrong answer to this question, you should at least know the pros and cons to each choice before making a final decision. With the home improvement classes at your local Lowes or Home Depot, it may be very feasible for someone with no experience to try and tackle a home improvement project. There are also many videos and articles on the internet that can help you along the way. But for those without the time and patience to try this (or take on the risk of doing so), hiring a general contractor may be your best bet.
General Contractor vs. Specialty Contractor
A specialty contractor is a person who is licensed to perform a single job. Examples of these types of jobs include plumbing, electrical work, roofing, etc. Sometimes these professionals are also referred to as subcontractors. General contractors, on the other hand, are usually hired to oversee larger projects that require two or more different specialties. For instance, if a general contractor were to bid on a job that only required plumbing, he/she would have to hold a license for that specialty. However, if a homeowner is having their bathroom completely remodeled, a general contractor could bid on this job as it would likely include carpentry, plumbing, and electrical work. In this instance, the general contractor could then either do all of the work himself, or hire out subcontractors to assist him in their areas of expertise.
Acting as Project Manager
As a homeowner, even if you do not have a general contractor license, it is still possible for you to either do the work yourself or act as a project manager over one or more subcontractors. This is known as an “owner builder” and there are specific rules to follow if you are not licensed and want to perform the work yourself. Some of these rules include ensuring the work is performed prior to the sale of your home, residing in the home for at least 12 months prior to the completion of the work, and not having done this type of work yourself on more than two homes in any three-year period. For more details on being an owner builder, you can visit the California Department of Consumer Affairs Contractors State License Board.
One of the top advantages of acting as your own project manager is that you can save on the money that you would pay a general contractor. In our bathroom example from above, you may find that it could be less expense to hire an individual carpenter, plumber, and electrician for your project, especially if the general contractor was going to do the same and not do any of the work himself. Another advantage is that you can get the hands on experience that comes with being involved on a daily basis with the project. By working directly with the subcontractors, you can learn what they are doing and use this to your advantage for any future projects you may take on. However, if you are not the hands-on type or do not plan on doing many remodels, this may not be something that is in your best interest. Finally, you will obviously have more control over how the project is coming along. You will have the freedom and ability to fire subcontractors who are not holding up their end of the bargain. Ideally, your general contractor would be doing the same thing, but if you did not do your due diligence in hiring the best general contractor, you never know how many projects they have going on at once or how closely they are paying attention to what’s going on with your project.
Hiring a General Contractor
There are many reasons why hiring a general contractor may be advantageous to the average homeowner. A good general contractor has years of experience and should know how to get the job done as quickly and efficiently as possible. They know how to coordinate what work needs to be done in what order and to schedule the subcontractors accordingly. Also, they will know what building codes they need to follow and how to pull the necessary permits. A licensed contractor will have insurance in the case of an accident involving damage to the property or an individual. If you don’t hire a general contractor and don’t know what you are doing, you may be liable for any damages or injuries as a result of the work. Aside from the liability aspect, general contractors can warranty their work. Therefore, if something goes wrong within the period of the warranty, any good general contractor will come back and resolve whatever went wrong.
Should You Hire a General Contractor?
Most people who own a home want to make sure that any work performed on it is done right and that it looks amazing when it’s finished. Depending on your comfort level with do-it-yourself projects, you may be perfectly capable of managing a small project yourself. Obviously, the larger the scope of the project, the more there is to consider and the higher a chance there is of something going wrong. Especially if you do not plan on doing much work to your home over the years, it may not be worth your time and effort learning to manage a project yourself. Although it is possible to save money by doing this, you could increase the time it takes to finish and maybe even the overall cost if something goes wrong. For most Ventura County residents, I would probably recommend that you spend the little bit of extra money and hire a general contractor. However, if you don’t have a specific timeline on when you need your project complete and you have the patience and confidence to manage a project yourself, it can be a great way to gain a little bit of experience for any future work that you may want to do on your home.