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Hiring a General Contractor

Home improvements can be an expensive proposition. For those that are able, doing the work on their own can save them a substantial amount of money. However, there are times when that just isn't practical, or even possible.

Surprisingly, in some cases it can actually be cheaper to hire a general contractor, than doing the work yourself. While that may sound a little far fetched, there is a logical reason for it.

 
  
 
  

All contractors will add a mark up to material costs. This covers the time they spend tracking down the materials and either picking them up, or arranging for them to be brought to the job site. They are also responsible to return defective or damaged goods. They are responsible to remove the faulty goods if they have been installed, as well as install the replacement part, at no further cost to the customer.  

The price they pay for the supplies at wholesale outlets will usually be lower than the homeowner can get the same supplies for. With the usual mark up, the price does end up somewhere near what the homeowner would have paid.

In the case of sub contractors, the contractor will add 15 - 25% on top of the sub contractors price. This percentage pays the contractor to manage the project, including the work done by subs. It is the contractor that is responsible to schedule the work, and make sure it's done properly. They are one guaranteeing the completed project, so they oversee every aspect of it.

If the sub were giving a bid to the homeowner directly, the price would almost always be higher.  Again, there is a reason. The sub is keenly aware that the job will probably not go as smoothly doing it for the home owner, as it might doing it for a contractor. For one, it is not the homeowner's everyday job, so they aren't as skilled or familiar in doing the work. Also, they usually aren't giving the project eight hours a day. It stands to reason that a professional will be able to complete the work much faster and with less problems, resulting in less trips for the subs.

Having been in the position of working with homeowners for over thirty years, in the capacity of the general contractor, or as a sub working for the owner, I have spent a good bit of time  explaining why things are done in a certain order, and not to sound "holier than thou", but educating the customer on what they should be doing, and the order in which they should do it. This can be both time consuming and frustrating.

So, with the materials and the sub contractor costs coming in somewhere near the same cost as the homeowner would pay, even with the percentage added, often it makes good sense to hire a general contractor, and let them have the headaches of doing the project.

 By Lee A. Jesberger 

 
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Written by Lee A. Jesberger © 2010
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