You’re planning a renovation – perhaps a kitchen, or a bathroom, or maybe you’re planning to finish your basement into useable living space. Should you hire a general contractor to do the work? Or should you hire all the various individual trades such as the drywaller, electrician, plumber, etc.? Surely it will be cheaper to hire the individuals, and manage the project yourself. Here’s what the general contractor will do for you:
1. Single point of contact
The General Contractor is the single point of contact during the entire construction process. This person will coordinate with the individual trades, suppliers, etc.
2. Project Management
The General Contractor (GC) creates a project schedule and notifies the trades and suppliers. More importantly, the GC handles changes to schedule which will inevitable occur. The GC will also arrange for building inspections (if there is a building permit for the project), and be on-site to meet the building inspector.
The General Contractor is the single point for accountability, and reduces the finger pointing. An unfortunate part of the construction process is that trades often blame someone else when things go wrong. The GC is responsible for dealing with these issues.
4. Knowledge and Experience
The General Contractor knows how the home is built, and knows the sequence of construction. The GC will also have an understanding of the building codes and other applicable legislation which governs the work that is being done.
5. Faster completion
Trades will give priority service to the General Contractor for whom they work on a regular basis. A homeowner acting as a general contractor will be on the bottom of the priority list for many trades.
6. Risk Management
The General Contractor will have appropriate liability insurance and workers compensation insurance to reduce exposure to risk should something unfortunate happen. Homeowners’ insurance may not offer sufficient protection during a construction project.
The General Contractor handles administrative duties. These include making sure subcontractors have liability insurance and WSIB insurance, and handling payments to sub trades and suppliers.
The General Contractor should be offering a comprehensive warranty of at least one year. If a pipe should leak, the GC will fix the pipe, repair the drywall, and repaint the area. If you’ve acted as your own general contractor, you will be calling the plumber, who will hopefully come back and repair the pipe. But, you’ll be left with a hole to fix and a wall to repaint at your own cost.
A GC can often get materials and labour at a lower price than the homeowner. Lower prices for labour and materials can partly off-set the management fee that is included in a General Contractor’s price.
10. Dealing with the unexpected
The larger the project, the greater the chance something will go wrong. An experienced General Contractor will be used to things going wrong, and will be used to dealing with the unexpected.
Part of the cost of hiring the general contractor is the additional knowledge and service they bring to the table. If all you’re doing is replacing your roof shingles, or changing the carpeting in the house, a general contractor will provide little value. For larger and more complex projects, the general contractor will earn his wage by providing value through knowledge and experience, project management, and after completion through the warranty period.