On Thu, 29 May 2008 16:09:58 -0400, "Enthusiastic Amateur"
This is one of those things where if you have to ask, you don't want
to do it... Really!
Working as your own general contractor is *extremely* difficult, and
not a trivial task, especially if your experience is limited. You need
experience, skills, and contacts to be an effective general
contractor, or your subs will generally either walk all over you, or
simply not deliver what you are expecting (because you didn't properly
specifiy what you wanted, for example.)
And yes, I've done my own general contracting... And yes, it is a lot
of work... Often not worth the effort for a really large project. A
general contractor is much like the conductor at a symphony
concert--he is what makes things happen, the way they are supposed to
happen, when they are supposed to happen.
best reply I've heard yet. This is a relatively simple house. I have an
architect and engineer/survey team on board. I probably will hire a
general anyway, one guy with a good reputation says he's only charging a 6%
I do have the time to devote to it, so that's not an issue. And I'm also
concerned with a general that want's to do it all HIS way.
I want it all MY way.
You can take a look at the website I put together that documented
every step of the building process, talking about the problems I ran
into, things I would do differently if I could do it again, etc:
Hope this helps.
Unless you know as much about what the subs do as a quality contractor and
are able to accurately rely on their performance like that contractor can
from years of experience, good luck.
Do you think a sub will charge you less than he will charge a builder who
gives him not one job, but
many jobs? What is the likelihood of subs keeping the same faith with you
on appearances, deadlines and
quality time that they would keep with a person who can deny them ongoing
People here from both sides of the
aisle will offer opinions, perhaps attributable to their positions. And I
to hearing them But go to a good public library and examine the consensus
in the numerous book on this topic by writers that give the systematic pros
Can farm work to subs and save money? If you're informed, diligent and have
on smaller jobs, that is a possibility. On a complex job.... Also, are you
going to pull the permit as an
owner-builder? Do you know what liabilities you incur by doing that?
As I understand it, I become responsible for everything by doing that.
As far as subs go, that was one of my initial concerns, the subs can figure
I'm a dupe, jack up the prices and do shoddy work figuring I'm to ill
informed to catch it. Yes those thoughts have crossed my mind. OTOH, work
is very slow right now and I pay cash. I'm also inclined to pay an engineer
to inspect the work and have the governmental inspector give me his
appraisal before paying said cash. Is that enough backup?
If you can get the house past the "dried in" stage, and both plumbing and
electrical rough-ins stage, and have alot of experience, you may be okay,
The general contractor will build what you contracted, not after thoughts.
Those details are as good as the architect that drew up the plans. As an
example, suppose the architect specified 16" on center studs on all exterior
and interior structural supporting walls. During the course of the
construction, you felt better with all walls at 16" on center and found one
interior kitchen wall bounding a dining room at 24" on center studs, and,
all the wiring had been run through the studs already. Its a non-structural
wall. You may feel better with 16" on center walls here for multiple
reasons. With a GC, it will cost you extra. If you hired subs, both the
framer and electrician have to be contacted, they correct all, and you pay
them extra. The extra may or may not be nearly the same amount.
Anybody even TRYING to get away with 24" OC walls might as well pack up and
get out of here. Jesus is it THAT bad out there??? Half inch dry wall on
16's is bad enough for chrissakes.
One thing's for sure, if I DO general this thing, I'll be watching the subs
like a hawk and taking jpegs and mpegs all the way.
Another reason I want to do it myself is that I want one of these ICF
houses. 10 inches concrete in the basement, 8 on floor 1 and 6 on floor 2.
That, in conjunction with ICF panels that flare at the top, allow for about
4 inches of concrete for the ledger board and joists to rest on.
I also want to do a lot with solar (PV and water to water HVAC), possibly
geothermal, I like geothermal, but there are subsidies evidently for solar
that don't exist with geothermal, which is a shame. But that's a story for
another day. Actually it's a story for today in figuring out what the
bottom line numbers are. Sheesh, this is getting complicated isn't it. But
how many general contractors are even CONVERSANT in ICF and solar power much
less have experience in it. I spoke with one today that said in 30 years
building houses he could count on one hand that ones that had either. In
essence, generals tell me I'm crazy and talk me into building a house the
"same old way." Well, I don't want a house the same old way, because if I
did, I'd just buy one of those pieces of shit and be done with it.
But your point on subs building doing the minimums as spec'd is well taken.
My architect also cautioned me on this. IOW, plans for a trusted general
would be less specific than those for somebody contemplating what I'm
contemplating more specific and also more costly.
My other key point is that I want to know where EACH dollar spent is going.
I don't want an answer like, well that will be 200 dollars a foot. To me
that just leaves in TOO much wiggle room.
Thanks for your informed reply, please now comment on my comments, thanks
"Dioclese" <NONE> wrote in message
Worse! Where do I begin?
Well there is the work on *my* house vs the work on your house thing.
For *my* house I would want all 20 amp 120V circuits 12 ga. wiring, and
"commercial grade" outlets and switches. Plus maybe a 40 slot breaker panel
so there are plenty of extra slots available for future add-on circuits. I
would connect the wires to the outlets/switches by bending the wires around
the screw connections and turning the screws tightly. (Quality job!)
For your house I would install 14 ga wire and 15 amp breakers anywhere code
would allow. And install the cheapest outlets and switches I could find.
Then the smallest breaker panel I could install which would hold all the
circuits and meet code. I would connect the wires to the outlets/switches
through the holes in the back and not use the screw connections. (Less work
and more profit!)
Then there is the "argument" factor...
Say I hire someone to do work on my house and I tell him I want 12 ga. wire
and 20 amp circuits for lighting circuits and I want the lighting on
separate circuits from the outlet circuits. (My thinking: Allowance for
adding gizmos on lighting circuits in future and if breaker trips, lights
don't go out.) Well they guy argues with me that 14 ga. wire and 15 amp
breakers are enough and that this can be included with the outlets in the
room on the same circuit. (His thinking: Less work and less cost.) Then he
will argue about doing things his way and I will insist things be done my
way. (Turns into shouting match...)
Then there is the "uneducated" factor...
Workers may not have read the technical details/installation instructions
about certain things nor understand why things should be done a certain way.
Things can be installed wrong and never noticed by an inspector.
-Woodstove - Woodstoves are required to be installed for each specific model
per manufacturer's instructions for *that model*! One thing is the hearth
(floor) on which it sits and the R-value (insulating ability) of that floor.
Can be very important if wood floor under hearth! Well different flooring
materials have different R-values. Everything must add up to the R-value
specified by the wood stove manufacturer. Installer: "Oh a layer of ceramic
tile will do!" (Truth: That may be only 1/8 the R-value specified by the
woodstove manufacturer. Should have added a couple of layers of an
insulating board like Micore under the tile.)
-Main electrical panel: Main lines coming in are frequently aluminum. These
connections need antioxidant goop applied and must be torqued down with a
torque wrench to the ft. pounds specified on the breaker panel label.
Installer: No goop and hand tighten. (A few years later the lights blink on
and off because the connections have become corroded and loose.)
-Structural: Maybe a wood beam calls for a "select structural" grade of
lumber (no knots) and installer does not know difference - installs #2 grade
instead which has a big knot in center. A few years later the beam sags or
And then the "dishonest" factor...
The installer may know darn well a certain more expensive material is
required, but installs something less that to increase his profits. Like
plumbing. Maybe a certain schedule of pipe is required for a sewer.
Installer puts in a lesser quality pipe and installs it with the printing
facing down. Inspector comes along and can't see what grade the pipe is.
OK's work because he is busy.
If you want to know about construction errors past and present, read through
the following home inspector's forum. Some pretty shoddy work shown here
On Thu, 29 May 2008 22:43:40 -0500, "Dioclese" <NONE> wrote:
which is to say either the GC or the SC didn't follow the plans or the
Which is not material in this case, except that someone will pay to
re-do it if it is changed...
Probably not since the specifications said 16" OC. The above
description indicates (to me at least) that the GC didn't follow the
specifications, or ensure that subs followed the specifications.
Again, if the sub was given the 16" OC specification, and then failed
ot follow the specification then he eats the extra costs to make it
right. Not you (or the GC or someone else). As for the electrician,
his cost is paid for by whoever made the 'mistake' of improperly
either spedifying or failing to follow the specifications, when
And if you made the mistake, and you were the GC then you will pay.
And if the non-supporting walls were either not spec'ed at 16", or not
spec'ed at all, then yes, you (the 'owner') will pay because this
would amount to a specification change after the fact.
One of the main reasons for a GC is that his experience will allow him
to catch things like missing specifications before the work is done,
minimizing the cost for changes such as this.
Regardless of whether the owner performs the GC work himself, or hires
a GC, it is absolutely imparitive that the specifications be fully
understood by *all* parties, and when something is not specified then
a fallback specification ("to current building practicies") be
Success is in the details... <g>
1. What are talking about? The guy changed from
standard to 24" to save 2 or 3 studs?
2. Just pull the wire out, add a stud between each
existing ( although silly) drill the new ones and
replace the wire. That is not rocket science. Any
dummy can do that.
distributors in your area. Then call them and ask for names of GC's they
regularly supply with ICF's - these are the guys who are experienced with a
particular ICF system, and will be glad to give you references and even
invite you to current job sites to see them being installed.
On Thu, 29 May 2008 16:09:58 -0400, Enthusiastic Amateur wrote:
My brother did it. He said he saved a lot of money. He also said he'd
never do it again.
He was good to his word; when he sold that house and bought a new one he
bought the new one from a locally popular builder.
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