Should you hire a contractor for your project? Or maybe act as your own contractor and manage subcontractors?

tips on if you should hire a contractor

We are doing another major project on our home, as you may know if you’ve seen my most recent post about our detached garage. And we’ve been around the block on other projects, like finishing our basement as our own contractor hiring subs, and hiring a landscape company to fix our mistake of a hire in our backyard.

The big difference this time around is we actually hired a contractor instead of being our own contractor hiring subs. And it’s been….. interesting… I feel I can communicate this best via a list of pros and cons comparing our experience with a contractor vs no contractor.

Disclaimer: this is our experience with this one contractor. Every contractor could be different and the project scope is different every time, but maybe this list would help the average joe make the best decision for their project needs!

Lets start with the benefits of hiring a contractor

  • First off you have less to do with a contractor, having someone to work for you in the background. This is best if you and your partner both work and it’s just chaos to add another thing to your to do list.
  • Second, you’ll have connections to subs wouldn’t have been there without the contractor. Our current detached garage project has had golden subcontractors for concrete that aren’t listed anywhere. Just word of mouth businesses!
  • Third, inspections and scheduling the technicalities are taken care of. At least, they should be. There have been a few times with our current contractor where we have had to remind him that we hired him to do this job.
    • Since I did the plans for the project, it can get confusing when we are communicating with the subcontractors about the project and details therein, and the contractor has stepped back a bit while we’ve communicated with them. And by stepping back he starts to assume we will manage the project. This isn’t the case and we just have had to communicate the stages that he still needs to work.
  • Fourth, negotiation and hook ups are more available! Right now, in Spring of 2022 in Utah, wood prices are pretty high and it’s hard to get trusses if you don’t have the right connections. A contractor has more connections because they are more than just one project to the business selling the products. As a homeowner, you aren’t as high on the list because you just have one project. As a contractor, they are a higher priority because they are bringing reoccurring service to the industry.
  • Last but not least, when sh*t hits the fan, you aren’t the one eating the costs. Your contractor has given you a bid, and you sign a contract that the bid that is given will be the final cost. So, if mistakes are made by the subcontractors working on your project, it’s not on you, it falls on the contractor. There are some exceptions. For example if it’s unpredictable weather that damaged something you may have to come to an agreement of who eats what costs. In most situations the contractor should be the one responsible for the bid he proposed for the project.
    • See the image below of our sealed stained concrete floors getting paint on them from the painters not understanding that they were finished floors! Luckily, the contractor took care of the clean up and it worked out. If we had just hired the painters it would have been on us to clean and remove the mistake.

BONUS TIP: ensure that your contractor has studied your plans just as much as you know them. There are many contractors that we’ve worked with and who I’ve heard about in my field that skim over plans and the result is imperfections, code violations and extra costs that weren’t predicted. Those costs should definitely be eaten up by the contractor (especially if your plans are correct), and will just put a sour taste on the whole project because of the error.

RELATED POST: Finished Basement Breakdown and Tips

Now, the benefits of doing a project all on your own, hiring your own subcontractors.

  • Doing a project on your own will save you money! I think this is a no-brainer. Almost everyone knows this. But if you didn’t, here ya go! If you are the one doing the labor, then you don’t have to pay for labor. The downside of this: it will most likely take you longer to finish the project.
    • Even if you are hiring your own subcontractors for parts of the project, it will still be a lot of work on your part. Free labor could look like you being on the scene holding the hammer, or you always managing phone calls, construction schedules and inspections.
    • Bonus Content: for example, we finished our basement for about $40,000 doing our own work and hiring subcontractors. When a bid from a contractor to do our basement would have been about $60,000. Pretty good savings, just more work!
  • A secondary benefit for doing the project yourself: you don’t have a contractor who will overcharge and underdeliver. I know, I know, it’s a cynical point of view. But we’ve been burned by contractors before and lost thousands of dollars over a job. And you learn to be a little more… jaded… hard core… business savvy after that kind of experience! It can make you a micro managing machine, so beware of over analyzing subcontractors and extreme perfectionism. It can get to a point where you wouldn’t be easy to work with.
  • Third and final, you know what’s happening every step of the way! You are the contact, the manager and sometimes the laborer. So if you live for the hands on part of projects than DIY is your jam. Some companies may even offer a discount for supplemental labor that you do along side them.

In conclusion, I’m sure you are wondering what method we prefer! Drumroll please….. Ok, no need to make any drumming noises. We like hiring a contractor the most! For our two kids, two working parents livelihood it has been so nice to hand over the reigns to someone else for this big project. If we had the money in the past we probably would have done it before. So, give the contractors a chance. Be strict and extensive with the bidding and choosing process for sure, but definitely hire a contractor when you get a chance!

Drop any other questions below, and subscribe or follow on Instagram for updates on our detached garage progress!

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