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Here’s a riddle: Why does a “construction guy” hire a general contractor for his own remodel?

Actually, it’s not a riddle, but a true story about a guy who knows all about construction, and who has worked in building for years, who nevertheless hires a general contractor to orchestrate his own Pasadena remodel.

The following explanation of this phenomenon was sent in by John Beaty, who wrote a terrific guide to finding a general contractor for this blog. When I asked him why he, of all people, would be willing to pay for the services of a “GC” as they are called in the business, he wrote this:

Why do I look for a general contractor? Two major reasons:

1) Because if I wanted to be a GC, I’d want to get paid like one. :-) I need to earn a living, not chase after subs and materials.

2) Because a good GC has relationships with the subs who do the actual work, and I can’t get the same quality without investing the same time into their relationships that the GC has. (emphasis mine)

And I have acted as my own GC (my remodel in New York was one example) but that just means I’m working two jobs. I still show up on site every day, sometimes twice, I check all electrical and plumbing before the walls are closed up, I measure wall switches, I know what sheetrock should look like, etc. But being new to Pasadena, I don’t have a list of specialty contractors (subs) that I can depend on. That means I have to individually interview, etc.

Like the man said, the attorney who represents himself has a fool for a client. I’m really in agreement with that. I can get just as caught up in the minutiae of the job as any homeowner, and having a good GC can help you avoid the “feature creep” inherent in remodeling. In addition, they help set and keep budgets, they know what inspectors are looking for and in general, keep the job MOVING. I have rarely regretted paying the GC’s fee. (Although there was this one guy . . . .)

Thanks for the insight, John. The reason I’ve elevated this comment to a full posting is that I’ve interviewed many homeowners who took on the role of general contractors themselves, and they had no idea how difficult and consuming it would be. I just want people to know it’s a very challenging task. And when you don’t have a longstanding relationship with subcontractors, you are not generally their first priority.


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