Armchair Builder

General Contract Your Own Home or DIY

It’s totally possible to general contract your own home to save money and get control of your new project.  But what about doing some of the physical labor yourself?  Is it a good idea to DIY the project or should you leave the work to the professionals?  There are circumstances where it does make sense for owner builders to do some of the work themselves.  Here we take a look at the circumstances where it can be advantageous to skip the trade contractors to get the work done.

Do It Yourself

For those that have skills in a particular building trade and have a flexible schedule, it can be a good choice to tackle the physical work.  By taking on this work, you can add to the savings you will see when you general contractor your own home.  I have a friend that was a remodeling contractor in a past career.  It made complete sense for home to take on some of the work himself to save extra cash.  It didn’t hurt that he really enjoys doing this type of work.

Another time where folks seriously consider going the DIY route for home building project activities is when all the bid sheets came back too high.  Let’s say all of the painting bids submitted from contractors were much higher than expected.  If you have the time, this could be a category worth tackling yourself.  People make this kind of choice on a daily basis in their lives.  For example, if you live in a high cost of living area, it may cost twenty-five dollars for a good meal out but instead you choose to eat in to save the cash.  When you general contract your own home these same opportunities present themselves for saving money.

When to Hire it Out

When a building activity requires special skills or tools, it’s a good idea to hire a professional contractor to tackle the job.  Things like foundations, electrical, plumbing, and HVAC are all good examples of building activities that require special tools and experience.  The exception would be if you have worked in one of these trades in a past career or have a close friend or family member that can coach you through the process.

If you’re one of those people that always has something going on or you have a demanding day job, it’s probably a good idea to hire all physical work out to professionals.  Remember, when you general contract your own home, there’s a time requirement for managing the schedule, budget, and quality control.  It’s a bad idea to miss some of these important duties because you are putting paint on a wall.

General Contract Your Own Home in Phases

Some people would like to do some of the physical labor but it would be much too demanding to complete on a large home.  For example, the labor hours needed to paint the interior of a 3000 square foot home is close to twice that of a 1500 square foot space.  So one option to accommodate the DIY option is to build the home in phases.  The basement and attic could be finished off later when time and money are in greater supply.  A garage could be added in the future.  Or, a mother-in-law suite/guest house could be added later on.  Or suppose you really had your heart set on some cabinet built-ins and extra trim moldings throughout the home.  These can easily be added in the future after living in the home for some time.  The most extreme example of building a home in phases would be to install the foundation for additional square footage with the intention of building the addition in the future.

It’s a good idea to stop by the local building department and ask about finishing the new home in phases.  The building department will have certain minimum requirements to make sure your home is safe to live in.  But in many cases, rooms can be left unfinished until time permits a do it yourself finish.  It’s important to think this through thoroughly before deciding to leave items unfinished.  You will want to install plumbing under concrete slabs and may decide to rough in other mechanical systems (electrical, plumbing, and HVAC) to the future finished areas.  This will limit extra costs to tear apart the existing home in order to get necessary components to the new space.  Check out our new home scheduling resource for more details on how the home should come together.

So, should you tackle DIY projects when you general contract your own home?  It can be a great way to increase savings from the project and get even more satisfaction from the end product.  Just make sure you have the time, resources, and expertise to do the job correctly.

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