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stevenmw 08-01-2012 04:44 PM

How Little Can A Contractor Do?
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I'm brand new to this forum so please be gentle. Let me start off by saying I'm only in the planning status of my future home while I go to school and continue to save money. (School is payed for thanks to ol'
Uncle Sam. So I'm on my way.)

I'm sort of new to the whole do it yourself scene, but I like to think I know some things.

I've been making a list and checking it twice over all sorts of costs for permits, materials, etc. etc. I'm talking down to the last little detail. I figure if I hire out a crew to do the big stuff, and I finish alot of the little stuff myself I could save a small fortune.

My question is how little can I hire a contractor out to do, and what is the wisest option. I know there are certain things someone with a license has to do. But If I were to have a crew frame out my house, do all the plumbing, and electrical, but leave alot of carpentry and brick work for me to finish up what are the restrictions / limitations? How much can I legally have a contractor leave undone, and live in my home and finish it over time?

How would this play out with inspections, and things like that?

I apologize this is worded so badly, but i just can't think of the best way to ask this.

oh'mike 08-01-2012 05:37 PM

All good questions--You can do almost anything on your own home in most areas---

You can 'sub' out any part of the build that you feel is best done by others---

Most hire out the design--excavation,foundation
and back fill--

Framing is often done by the homeowner--but that can go to a framing contractor--


windows and siding??

Plumbing and electrical??

Drywall--usually best left to a pro---

You get the idea---one thing to know---no living in the structure until you get an occupancy permit---

Plan the budget to allow for bailing out of a phase or two of the construction that you had planned on doing yourself----You have a deadline---and if you don't make that your bank will get ugly----

This is a job--not a hobby---Good luck---Mike----

Gymschu 08-01-2012 05:45 PM

Steven, I'm no expert on most of the trades.......I am a painter, but, I've done it for 34 years and have seen lots of scenarios like you are describing. I've seen guys do about 50% of the work, I've seen guys do 30% of the work, and I've seen homeowners do NONE of the work at all. Each contractor is different. Most are protective of their subcontractors and don't like the HO's taking over work that should go to the subs. Others don't care so much and are willing to portion out SOME of the work to the HO. Just remember, the banks who are loaning out the money expect things to be completed in specific time, if you are doing the electrical for example, and can only run a few circuits a day or have to do it on the weekends, well, the bank and the contractor aren't going to be too happy with you for holding things up.

That may not be true in every location.......maybe banks in some parts of the U.S. give liberal time frames for things to be completed. I do know that contractors have to have certain things done before receiving their next draw of money from the bank. Banks aren't going to hand out money 2 or 3 times to a contractor who only has the framing done. They want the framing done, the roof on, the siding completed, etc.

I guess the best advice I could give would be to talk with/interview several contractors and see what they will allow as far as the homeowner participating in the construction process. Like you alluded to, having an unlicensed homeowner doing some of the work may cause problems with inspections/permits, etc. Some rural locales have very little trades inspections whereas urban locales have inspections for each trade's work.

oh'mike 08-01-2012 05:58 PM

Typically the homeowner must act as his own GC and hire subs to complete certain portions--

When I built mine --before I became a contractor---I subbed out the site work and foundation--architect--

Got hired help to work with me on the framing---hired out the roofing---siding---plumbing and electric--and drywall---

I took care of heating--insulation and interior finish---just made the dead line---broke ground in July---moved in January 1---That was 25 years ago---I was running a small company at that time--and could not dedicate 50 or 60 hours a week to the construction.

stubborn1 08-01-2012 08:20 PM

Like someone else mentioned, finding a bank that will work with you doing some of your own work may be difficult. It would probably have to be contracted all through the builder with a separate deal worked out with the builder. Take away too much scope from his work and you'll loose interest quick.

Pick and choose where you can save money. When I was planning to build a few years ago, I was dead set on doing my own insulation. I received my quotes from the drywallers with the insulation broken out separate and figured out quickly that I would only save $500 doing the insulation myself. $500 for a couple days of effort wasn't worth it. $5000 for all my electrical wiring was. Ended up doing my own house plans, wiring except for pulling in the service, tile flooring, paint and cabinets/finish carpentry. Remember time is money.

Thunder Chicken 08-01-2012 08:43 PM

When I bought my first (and current) house I was fortunate to also get a neighbor who was a licensed construction foreman. Upshot was that I worked with him about what I could reasonably do vs. what was best left to him. We renovated a small bungalow -- I did all of the demolition and clean-up, he did all the framing and electrical, and I wrapped up with the drywall and the paint (he came back to do the trim).

If you can arrange something like this, keep in mind that a contractor is looking for a full day of work. Try to arrange things such that they can get in a good half-day of work at your place at a minimum. Jobs that take 1-2 hrs really don't help them as they are then wasting half the day setting up and travelling from job to job. In my case, I did all of the demo and clearing, then called him up and told him everything was ready for his 2 days of work, which he scheduled as soon as he could (a day or two as he was working another job). It worked out very well for me as well as him.

I was fortunate in that my contractor was also a neighbor, so he was keen to stay on my good side. Your mileage may vary, especially if your contractor is based farther away and has many other jobs.

sixeightten 08-01-2012 08:50 PM

Be sure to consider the fact that many subcontractors may not give you the same price that they would a known contractor. Homeowners in general, change their minds a lot, are not prepared for each sub when they arrive, and are usually not the best schedulers. Also, when working with homeowners, most subs will not make that job their highest priority. A GC will usually provide more work for a sub who performs well, while a homewoner is likely to be a one and done job.

user1007 08-02-2012 07:06 AM

I think the first thing you have to ask yourself honestly is what kind of time and money you can really afford to commit to a "build to finish" sort of project. Are you going to have a 9-5er doing something else and expect to have the energy or desire to come home and hang drywall? Wife/honey going to tolerate you skipping working on the house nights and weekends when you are just plain fried? Can you somehow arrange for someone to be around for the inspectors and building material deliveries? Will your employer let you place orders for things when you are on the clock for him/her?

And again, be honest with yourself. Do you have the skills to take on the project? Of course you can learn but will the learning curve be tolerated or acceptable to you and others. For example, can you set a goal of finishing your home in 50-60 years or is pressure on for six months?

You are not going to get the discounts on things I did. You are not going to have the specialized equipment my subs do so you will have to rent it. Explore the reality of the ton of money you hope to save. I am not suggesting you cannot by the way.

I guess I have seen too many people thinking they can pull off a build to finish situation get in way over their heads. They end up hating the project and gray really early in life. Just be careful not to jump in the deep end with concrete shoes on right at the start.

Msradell 08-02-2012 06:03 PM

One of your questions that nobody is touchdown on is living in your house while you finish things that are undone. This can cause a lot of problems because most localities won't give you a COA until all major work is complete. This would include electrical, sheetrock, HVAC in the plumbing in many cases. The reason for this is to ensure that the house is safe for you to live in. Unfortunately when all that is complete all that remains is molding, painting, flooring and cabinetry. Again this is very dependent on where you are building and what the local codes will allow.

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