General contractors can offer their clients a long list of services and expertise in order to improve a home or business space for them. These talented individuals often bring teams full of industry professionals to instantly upgrade or redesign a space, but that doesn’t mean that they are the right fit for your project. Sometimes going with a general contractor might not be the best approach for your renovations. In this article, we will explore when working with a general contractor probably isn’t your best option.
“I really want to get started on this renovation, but I’m feeling conflicted. Do we really need a general contractor for this project?”
“I’m not sure. Let’s talk through the project and what it will really entail. Maybe that will help us to decide.”
What is a General Contractor?
A general contractor is an individual who oversees a team of industry professionals that are focused on custom builds for your property. These individuals manage construction sites, work directly with vendors, manage scheduling, and in general, make sure that your home renovations are exactly what you want to see. With industry experience and expertise, your general contractor can make sure that your final renovation is the best that can be offered.
“Online, I read that general contractors are responsible for managing construction sites. Do you know anything about construction or managing teams?”
“Well, I did a great job managing all of the vendors for our wedding.”
“That is a good point. I bet that could really help!”
Reasons to Avoid Working with a General Contractor
Every project is different—and the homeowners behind these projects are all different too. When you take the time to determine whether or not you want to work with a general contractor, you will want to consider what they really offer and what you have to offer instead. Let’s explore some of the reasons that you might not need a general contractor at all.
“I don’t know. The more I read, the more I think that we might want to tackle this project ourselves.”
“If it really feels like we can handle it, I am certainly willing to give it a try. Let’s keep researching.”
You Have the Experience
By now, most of us know and understand that the DIY trend is taking the world by storm. While there is a fair bit of controversy surrounding DIY activities, the fact is that sometimes you really can do it yourself if you are willing to learn. If you have the skills that are necessary to tackle a big renovation project, you might just find that you would rather do it yourself.
“I just watched an hour-long video on installing tile—and I think that we can do it.”
“I’ve heard that installing tile isn’t all that bad, but what about the other tasks? We want more from our kitchen remodel than just new tile…”
“That’s a good point. I guess I really don’t know much about plumbing or moving sinks like we want to… Guess it’s time to learn more.”
Contractors and their teams rely on education and experience to bring about those mind-blowing renovations, but we will be the first to remind you that we learned at some point ourselves. We aren’t all born with the knowledge of how to carry out a remodel. We learn to do it, and there are some things that the average person can safely learn how to do as well if they are comfortable.
For some homeowners, DIY work can be a bit of a middle ground. Some people will take on the tasks that they know they can handle, then work with contractors to handle some of the more difficult parts like plumbing or electrical work. This can allow you to handle a good portion of the work yourself, then outsource the kind of tasks that might be too difficult or expensive to carry out on your own.
“What if we handled the tile and painting ourselves, but had a contractor install the cabinets and handle the plumbing?”
“That sounds like a great compromise!”
You Have the Free Time
Time is a huge factor when it comes to remodels, so if you have a lot of it, you might be able to save some money. It takes a lot of time and effort to manage different teams with different trades. As general contractors, we usually keep this kind of work in-house if we can—and it is still a pain to manage the scheduling for different teams. If you choose to take on the role of being your own general contractor, you will be responsible for managing and scheduling these teams to ensure that everything works out.
“I’ve been working less lately, which does open me up for more time to handle all of the scheduling. I think that this is one part I can manage.”
“If you think you can handle it, that is great news. It should save us some money too!”
Before you sign up to start directing your own teams, be sure to determine how much work is actually involved—and how many teams you actually need to do it correctly. For reference, the average kitchen or bathroom remodel can involve upwards of 9 different trades in total. This means that you might be responsible for scheduling and overseeing up to 9 teams for your one project. More importantly, a lot of these teams need to work in a specific order to effectively complete the project.
You Don’t Have a Timeline
Your timeline is one of the biggest factors that will determine whether or not you truly need to work with a general contractor. If you don’t mind how long a project will take, you will find that the needs for a general contractor aren’t truly there as long as you are willing to step up and take on a few roles yourself. A big benefit of working with a general contractor is that you can almost guarantee that the work will be done quickly and by a specific deadline. If you don’t have that need, you might be able to take on the challenge yourself.
“You know, we have been wanting to renovate the house on the property that your father left us. No one is living there, so it might be a good opportunity to manage the renovations yourself. It isn’t like we need it handled right now.”
“That’s a really good point. Maybe I can try my vendor management skills on a property that wouldn’t potentially leave us without a working kitchen for several months…”
An open timeline allows you to explore what managing the project and vendors will be like. Unfortunately, it generally doesn’t work well for major renovations if you are actually living in the property. Unless you have a spare kitchen or an abundance of bathrooms, you might find yourself getting annoyed when the renovations take longer because you are working with completely different teams.
The good news is that if you do have an open timeline, you really can embrace a wonderful learning opportunity. Some people choose this approach simply to learn more about the process and get the experience, particularly if you are looking to start flipping homes. Of course, if you want a quick and easy renovation, general contractors are always just one phone call away.
You Want to Save Money
Most of us like saving money and hate to feel like we are overpaying. While it is pretty clear why people work with general contractors, some people just flat-out do not like the pricing that comes with working with a general contractor—and there is a reason for it. With a general contractor, you will always end up paying a markup on everything that you do.
“If we work with this general contractor, we are going to end up spending upwards of $50,000 on our remodel, and that just feels like a lot.”
“Well, when we work with a general contractor, what are we really paying for aside from the actual service?”
“Apparently all general contractors have a markup. That hardly seems fair, and I’m not sure that I want to spend the extra money on it.”
A lot of people hear the term “markup” and assume that it is inherently bad. We look at a markup and think about stores that are overcharging for products and services—and that is frustrating. But, it isn’t the same as the markup that you might expect while working with a general contractor.
The markup that comes with a general contractor is composed of two main focuses: payment and guarantee. A part of the markup goes directly to overhead costs like paying the workers for their services, keeping the office running, and maintaining the tools that allow us to do our work. In fact, a big contributing factor to your costs is actually directly returned to you in the form of the supplies that you choose— and our markup exists outside of this.
“Looking at the itemized breakdown, I guess the majority of the cost actually is the supplies…”
“We really can’t blame the team for wanting to be paid just because we love marble a little too much.”
Beyond payment, that markup also comes with a guarantee. The markup means that we can guarantee our services if something goes wrong. While we always put our best foot forward and provide exceptional service, it is possible that after the work is done, you might find a crack in a piece of tile or a countertop. With our markup, we are able to guarantee that if there is a product failure, we can come back and fix it at no additional cost.
You Can’t Let Go of Control
Some people love to be in control, and few people know and understand that better than a general contractor. You don’t end up working as a general contractor if you don’t like leadership and being in control of a lot of moving pieces. But, these traits aren’t specific to general contractors. You might have them too, and it might be a good reason to avoid working with a general contractor.
“I asked to be included on every piece of correspondence surrounding our renovation.”
“I also asked for daily written updates and for them to match their schedule with mine so I can make sure that everything is going well while they work.”
“Shouldn’t we just trust them to do their job? They are the experts.”
“I don’t want anything happening in our home that I don’t know about.”
We understand that having a strange team of contractors in your home can feel a bit invasive, and it can even be a little unnerving. Watching someone rip apart a piece of your home and hoping that they put it back together correctly is a fairly significant exercise in trust—and that just isn’t for everyone. If you are the kind of person who constantly needs to be in control, it might be better to take on the task yourself.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to be in control of a site, but it might not mix well with a general contractor. If your team feels like they are being micromanaged or that you are slowing down their progress, it can create a conflict. Contractors have—and do—walk off job sites all the time because of the behavior or homeowners. Sometimes the best option is just to stay in control yourself the entire time.
Home renovations are exciting, and there are a lot of ways to see them through. A general contractor can make the process easier and might offer you a more succinct schedule, but you might not need that. Before you make the decision to work with a contractor or manage your site yourself, be sure to consider what really comes with both options. Plenty of people oversee their own renovations, but the ones that go in unprepared can end up paying more to a contractor when things don’t work out. Find the solution that feels best for you, and you will enjoy a great remodel!