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  1. #1
    Member
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    Nov 2005
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    25
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    Washington State
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    Kubota BX24

    Default Building a new house - need advice

    Hi all,

    My wife and I have decided to build a new house on the back half of our property.

    While I would like to use a general contractor, she would like me to act as the GC and subcontract all the labor to save some money.

    My question is, is this feasible for someone who has never built or had a house built before? If it is truly money saving, does anyone have any tips, advice, etc? I do have all summer off as I am a teacher so I am able to be onsite every day, so time is not a problem, it is more of an experience/knowledge problem.

    Thanks in advance,

    Joe

  2. #2
    Platinum Member
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    Nov 2005
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    Kansas
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    Mahindra 3215 4WD

    Default Re: Building a new house - need advice

    I will be doing the same thing in the spring. I have several friends who were their own contractor and saved thousands. You just have to be organized and have all the subs lined up and not be afraid to tell them how you want things done. If you are handy you can also do a lot of the work yourself. I would recommend you go to your local library and check out a book called "Be Your Own House Contractor". The author is Carl Heldmann. Pretty basic book, but I thought it provided a lot of good information. Good luck.

  3. #3
    Platinum Member
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    Aug 2003
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    644
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    New Hampshire
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    Kubota B2410 Bi-Speed Turn, R4's, Top 'N' Tilt, LA 352 Loader w/ Toothbar

    Default Re: Building a new house - need advice

    It depends on your pain threshold. The short answer to your question, is yes, its possible. I've done it twice, although I did more than GC, I did a significant portion of the work myself, both times. I grew up pounding nails with my father, so I had some relevant experience. However, it can be an incredibly frustrating thing to do.

    The potential problems are really two-fold. First, you describe yourself as inexperienced. Without experience, it can sometimes be difficult to know which sub is responsible for what, and to accurately specify exactly what you want done. You then need to have the ability to look at what has been done and accurately assess if it was done right, and to the correct spec. Order of things to be done can also be an issue for some.

    Second major issue is your place on the subs' pecking order. You WILL be at the bottom. If a tradesman (plumber, electrician, drywaller, etc) has a relationship with a GC, he will try to keep the GC happy first. That makes you low priority, and he'll show up not when he said he would, but rather when he has time between and around work he does for GC's that steadily feed his business.

    What this means is, for example, the plumber says he will be here next week. OK, then I'll get the electrician here the week after so he can wire the house and the boiler, the well pump, etc, at the same time. The week after that, I'll get the drywaller here. So you schedule. Guess what, the plumber didn't show until a week after he said he would. Now you need to push the electrician and the drywaller. Well, the electrician can't do it the following week, already committed. Now I have to push the drywaller back further ("What do you mean you have a big job and if you can't do it in three weeks, then I'll have to wait 6 or 7??"). Oh ya, I better call the painter, because now I won't be ready for him either. I wonder when the plumber is coming back to set the fixtures? Kind of a crude example, but you get the picture.

    Don't forget that since you aren't a regular customer, you probably aren't getting the most competitive price either, although bidding will help a little. Now try to get bids when you're not a GC and really don't understand what you are asking for and want. You'll be shocked by the fact that most won't even return your call asking for a bid.

    Like I said, you can do it, plenty have. But, show me someone who thinks it's easy to build a house, and I'll show you someone who's either never done it or hired a GC.
    Tim........Kubota B2410 HSDB

  4. #4
    Bronze Member
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    Jun 2006
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    92
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    ALABAMA
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    Kubota GL3240

    Default Re: Building a new house - need advice

    I thought seriously about contracting my own house. I have the knowledge and contacts to make it work, but in the end I went with a well established general contractor. My calculated savings just didn't justify the extra hassle of doing it myself, especially condsidering the buying power of our contractor. Our house is about 3 weeks from completion, and I haven't regretted my decision. Just make sure you choose a reputable contractor with some hard assets beside a pickup truck and a few tools.

  5. #5
    Gold Member Hootie's Avatar
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    SW ARK
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    Kubota BX2200, Kubota ZD 221, Kubota Grand L 5030 HSTC, Kubota RTV, Polaris 500ATP

    Default Re: Building a new house - need advice

    No one wants to hear this but when we decided to build I went with a GC that had general liability and workers compensation. Being in the insurance business, I have seen the worse case scenario's arise where workers get hurt and if it is bad enough, the homeowner gets stuck with medical bills and possible disability for a man hurt bad enough to not be able to work for a long time or the rest of his life. Yeah you can save money by being the GC but..........there are so many variables as listed above in addition to the one I just mentioned.
    Dang it boy (be careful)

  6. #6
    Super Member flusher's Avatar
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    Sacramento
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    Getting old. Sold the ranch. Sold the tractors. Moved back to the city.

    Default Re: Building a new house - need advice

    Quote Originally Posted by Torrak
    Hi all,

    My wife and I have decided to build a new house on the back half of our property.

    While I would like to use a general contractor, she would like me to act as the GC and subcontract all the labor to save some money.

    My question is, is this feasible for someone who has never built or had a house built before? If it is truly money saving, does anyone have any tips, advice, etc? I do have all summer off as I am a teacher so I am able to be onsite every day, so time is not a problem, it is more of an experience/knowledge problem.

    Thanks in advance,

    Joe
    I was in your situation 2 years ago. Thought being my own GC would save a bundle. And since I'm retired I could devote full time to the project.

    After reading a bunch of stuff about doing the GC work myself, I began to have second thoughts. Without a contractor's license, I could not get the best prices on material and could not get a break on CA sales tax. Also there's the problem of working with subs. You're the new kid on the block and so are at or near the end of the line when it comes to getting work done on your jobsite per your schedule.

    Fortunately, I found a manufactured home from Golden Pacific with nearly the same design and floorspace as the one that I planned to stick-build myself. GP worked with me on a few design changes and I signed the contract. Going this route I had the costs potted so there would be no unpleasant surprises during construction/installation.

    Figure I saved at least 9 months going with the manufactured home and avoided a lot of anxiety and frustration. And the manufactured home cost about $78 per sf installed (including a poured concrete permanent foundation). I doubt that I could have done much better being my own GC and probably would have done considerably worse considering my inexperience.

    My neighbor, who is in the construction business, had his new home stick built the same time as mine was being built in the factory and installed on my jobsite. He was too busy to be his own GC so he hired that job out. Even with his contacts in the industry, he had a lot of trouble getting subs to show up on his jobsite when scheduled. Took him nearly a year to get his 2500 sf home built.

    My advice--forget about the self-GC approach unless you're really masochistic.

  7. #7
    Bronze Member wilkesland's Avatar
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    Nov 2005
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    Wilkes county, North Carolina
    Tractor
    MF 1260

    Default Re: Building a new house - need advice

    Quote Originally Posted by Torrak
    Hi all,

    My wife and I have decided to build a new house on the back half of our property.

    While I would like to use a general contractor, she would like me to act as the GC and subcontract all the labor to save some money.

    My question is, is this feasible for someone who has never built or had a house built before? If it is truly money saving, does anyone have any tips, advice, etc? I do have all summer off as I am a teacher so I am able to be onsite every day, so time is not a problem, it is more of an experience/knowledge problem.

    Thanks in advance,

    Joe
    As others have said, it depends on your pain threshold. The poster that said you will be at the bottom of the priority list is correct. You will also be the referee when the inevitable error occurs and the plumber or whoever says the electrician caused him extra work, the electrician of course denys it and says the plumber should have known. You will also be the chief interpreter of the plans, when the drawing doesn't quite match the physical situation you have.

    We moved into our new house this spring and we elected to go the custom manufactured house route. Our house is a two story with a walk out basement and in no way has that modular look. I retired two years ago after 33 years in the engineering and construction business, and decided the remainder of my life was/is too short to put up with the hassle of being a GC. We purchased a used mobile home and lived on the property while the house was being built. It was aggravating enough being on the job site every day without being the GC. Going the modular route saved us a ton of money, and me a ton of extra aggravation, and I am happy reasonably happy with the quality. I guess I should add that some significant portions of the work, like finishing the basement and building the wrap around porches I kept out of the builders' scope for me to do myself. For this work, I will do most of the work, hiring someone for specific tasks - like roofing the back porch which will be a good 25 feet above grade.

    Having said all that, you can do it - it ain't rocket science. But if you have a low tolerance for schedule delay and conflict management, you should think twice or three times before proceeding.

    Barry

  8. #8
    Super Star Member EddieWalker's Avatar
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    Tyler, Texas
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    Several, all used and abused.

    Default Re: Building a new house - need advice

    I'm a general contractor, and I've built a few homes, but mostly i do remodels. I've found I can make good money comeing in to finish off jobs, or parts of a job that the sub started and never finished, or when the homeowner gets so desperate for somebody to show up, they'll hire me. A guy who does the same thing over and over again, day in and day out is gonna be able to do it faster and cheaper than I can. Especially sheetrock. My appeal is that I'll show up and get it done. It justs costs more.

    Another thing I've seen more than once was realy shoddy work. When the house it all going to gether, the homeowner rarely knows what to look at. They are usually ovewhelmed by what's next and paying bills. I've been told it's the most stressfull thing you can do to your marriage.

    On one job I was called in to seal the windows. Their framer had put them all in, but there was some gaps. Some gaps were bigger than others, and the half round windows were in sqaure openings!!! When I got there, I realized that the crew they had in there had never framed anything before. They even forgot to nail in all the studs!!!

    The homeowner spent thousands for the work that had been done, plus the price of lumber that was cut and didn't fit. Than one day they didn't show up again. After a week of not being able to get in touch with these guys, they started calling around for somebody else to finish off there home. They called me after 6 or 7 other guys who had been there and gave them some conflicting advice. One said something, another said something else, and the home owner didn't know left from right anymore.

    If you decide to do it, don't expect to save any money. Do it because it's something you want to do. The other posts are dead on in what you should expect in hiring subs. They make there living off of a few regular contractors and your just a bonus to them. Also realize that there is a huge number of guys in the trades that are drunks, addicts and gamblers. For whatever reason, the gamblers seem to be the most unreliable, but that's just my experience. hahaha

    Eddie

  9. #9
    Gold Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
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    444
    Location
    Nottingham, N.H.
    Tractor
    2009 MF 1531 TLB

    Default Re: Building a new house - need advice

    My modular home dealer was my gc. It was a smart move as the foundation contractor poured the foundation to low at one end. The modular home company made a wooden kneewall to fix mistake, but now the house had to be put on with crane, instead of being rolled on. The foundation contractor paid for the crane. It worked out as we needed less fill to cover foundation as kneewall has vinyl siding and windows. My neighbor was his own contractor and builder, he was on a construction loan. His bank got nervous because it took so long to build,he still picks away at it, and he started years ago. plowking

  10. #10
    Super Member buckeyefarmer's Avatar
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    MD
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    Kubota L3940 L5030 MF205-4

    Default Re: Building a new house - need advice

    I did it, it wasn't too bad (don't ask my wife), but be prepared. You got to know how to build a house. I would suggest you help someone build one first. Also, start with what you need, and add on later, but build it so you can add what you want to later.
    I had a builder friend help me with lining up some of the subs.
    I designed the house, and drew the plans, so I knew exactly how it was to be built.
    I subbed out excavation, foundation, drywall, insulation (cheaper), ductwork, hvac, siding, slabwork, flooring, masonry, septic (sized for future addition).
    I did the framing, electrical, plumbing, painting, finish carpentry, roofing, landscaping, and anything else.
    My biggest problem was the timeline for the bank, I initially had 6 months, but they gave me a couple extensions and was in the house in about 9 months.
    When I was done, I think it appraised at about $50K more than I had in it.

    This was 9 yrs ago, since then I have added a 2 car garage with 3 more unfinished rooms overhead. I had initially sized my septic for more bedrooms, only cost me $50 more for a larger tank at the time.

    with that said, a friend of mine, who is a general contractor just build his own house. He had a lot of trouble with subs and many delays. But his was a large house, many specialty items, etc..
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