Home improvements are a big business, and according to Home Improvement Magazine, the market will see a 5% growth for the year in 2010. If you happen to be one homeowner who will be undertaking a major home improvement this year, you will have many decisions to make. One of your most important decisions should be about whether your hire a general contractor to oversee your project or function as the general contractor yourself.
Understanding what a general contractor is and does will help you make that decision. A general contractor oversees all of the services and materials needed to complete a construction job. This can be a huge job such as building an entire house, or it can be a smaller job, such as remodeling a room in your home. You can serve as your own general contractor for your project, but you must be ready to undertake all of the tasks that a general contractor does. And realize, the bigger and more complicated your construction job, the more things the general contractor will have to be able to handle. Let’s consider some of those jobs.
- A general contractor understands the required licensing, building permits and governmental regulations of each job. Contractors are familiar with the city, county and state regulations in order to meet code on each project. They know how to obtain necessary permits and schedule inspections. They also know how to protect the employees who are working on the site.
- A general contractor knows how to find and work with subcontractors, such as plumbers, electricians, and roofers. Subcontractors prefer to work with experienced contractors because they know that the contractor will schedule the jobs correctly, manage the budget correctly and not waste their time from poor decision making due to inexperience.
- A general contractor must know how to schedule the jobs and materials to be completed and arrive in the right time and in the right order and to know how to recognize if work has been done according to industry standards. Outside of major weather or supplier delays, he should be able to meet deadlines.
- A general contractor must be able to manage the budget wisely. He can usually get a better price from a subcontractor than a homeowner can, because the subcontractor knows that with a general contractor he will have future work. He is establishing a relationship.
- A general contractor must be available for onsite meetings at the beginning and end of the workday and be able to handle any questions that come up during the day.
- A general contractor will be able to give you guidance and ideas on your project or be able to refer you to the appropriate experts when needed.
Understanding the size and nature of your home improvement project will help you make an informed decision about whether or not you should assume the role of general contractor and will ultimately determine the success of your project.