The Pros and Cons of Being Your Own General Contractor

Contractor Tips , Posted by Nicole Zemaitis on

The Pros and Cons of Being Your Own General Contractor

If you've ever had construction done on your home or dealt with a remodeling job, you know what a headache it can be. Moving in and out of your house, never-ending scope creep, and general contractors sometimes being a pain to handle. It's enough to make you want to do it all yourself.

In fact, plenty of homeowners become their own general contractors. It doesn't need to take an industry professional with years of experience to fix up a home. It just takes a vision and a sense of dedication. 

But it's not always smooth sailing. 

Here are the four biggest pros and the three biggest cons to being your own general contractor.

Pros of Being Your Own General Contractor

There are many advantages to becoming your own contractor. Generally, contractors go through at least four years of apprenticeship with a trained contractor in their desired field. After some schooling and an exam, they enter the workforce, build up a client base, and execute increasingly more complex, higher-paying jobs. 

But you don't have to be a seasoned veteran to become your own contractor. With some light experience and lots of reading, you can cash in on the following four advantages to doing it yourself.

Save Money

It's no secret that contractors upcharge for materials and labor. How else would they make a profit? It's not an inherently corrupt practice, but it can get tricky if you don't know exactly how much your contractor is upcharging you. 

They may lean a simple 15% onto the running tab to make it worth their while. But they may also upcharge as much as 40%. You don't want to pay for a job and a half when all you got is one. 

One of the best reasons to become your own general contractor is to save money. Not only will you save that 10-40% cost of materials and labor, you certainly won't ratchet up the scope of the job just to make a buck. What you need to do will get done, and when you're through, you're through. 

Have Full Control

When you are your own contractor, that means you're the boss, the employee, and the client. There's no possibility that a message could get lost in translation or that what you're willing to spend on the job could be conveniently forgotten. 

Communication is constant on job sites, and human beings are imperfect creatures. When you make yourself the boss, there's no way your intentions could be misconstrued.

You can also say goodbye to what in the industry is called “scope creep.” 

Scope creep is when the scope of a job, say, re-lay the counters and refinish the kitchen cabinets, widens as the project drags on. Maybe when the old granite is taken off, rot is discovered in the wood, so the entire row of cabinets needs to be ripped out, and the floor around them needs to be redone.

When you become your own contractor, you call all the shots. 

Develop a Whole New Set of Skills

Research shows that the global construction industry needs to build around 13,000 buildings per day between now and 2050 to accommodate the world's growing urban populations.

Hundreds if not thousands of new construction jobs will crop up in the wake of these demands. When you become your own general contractor, you gain experience little by little with each job you complete. Even without going the traditional route of schooling and apprenticeship, you're building the skills needed to take on jobs in the construction industry.

Not to mention the resume. Clients look to prior experience before anything when seeking out contractors. If they've seen that you've stayed on budget and on a timeline for your own jobs, they'll be more liable to trust you with assignments of your own. 

This could be an ideal backdoor into the construction industry. 

Get Exactly What You Want

Chances are, when a remodel or a new build is over, something isn't going to be exactly as you envisioned. Even if it's the right paint color, paint color fades as it dries. There will always be something slightly off when your vision for your home is filtered through someone else's expertise.

If you don't have anything standing in the way between your vision and the job to be done, you're going to get a lot closer to exactly what you want.

Cons of Being Your Own General Contractor

You might be able to save money, and you definitely won't have anyone else distracting you from your vision of what you want. The cons of becoming your own contractor are precisely that – there's no one to tell you no, or yes, or even help you at all. 

Here are the three biggest cons to becoming your own general contractor. 

Steep Learning Curve

The biggest obstacle to the “saving money” pro of becoming your own contractor is you have to know what you're doing. Figuring out your job on the job takes time, and time is money when you're your own boss. 

You'll get faster over time, but you'll never recover the money and time spent along the learning curve. 

Delayed Timelines

Contractors paid to do jobs for others clock in, give it 100%, and then go home and get some rest. 

When you become your own contractor, you live on the job site. There's no differentiation between your life and your work, leading to costly delayed timelines.

Only You Can Solve the Problems

Ultimately, you can only look to yourself when things go wrong. And the nature of the job is that things are always going wrong. General contractors are like firefighters--they're always putting out budgetary and logistical fires on the job site.

So when something goes wrong, you can always point to the contractor – not so when you're your own boss. 

You've got to take on the responsibility alone.

Things To Consider When Becoming Your Own General Contractor

In a survey of homeowners who recently completed a construction job, 69% reported that poor contractor performance was the single biggest reason for project underperformance. You can blame it on being a perfectionist or not spending enough on top-of-the-line materials, but ultimately, the numbers don't lie. When a construction job disappoints, it's overwhelmingly the contractor’s fault.

But remember, this type of job leads to burnout fast. Burnout has been shown to come from things like role ambiguity and conflict between roles. If you become your own boss and your own employee, you're upping the likelihood of burnout. So make sure you've got the stamina needed to take on this kind of job.

Whether you hire a professional or become a professional, you’ll need a license to perform the necessary duties legally. Any medium to large scale project warrants a valid license which you can only obtain by passing your state’s licensing exam.

Gain the expertise you need from Contractor Training Center. Our teachers will help you pass the exam and stick with you until you’re fully licensed. Trust our years of training to guide you and pass the test on your first try!

Think Before You Build

When figuring out a remodel or a renovation plan, whether you go through a general contractor or become your own, it's essential to be informed. 

Becoming your own contractor could save you thousands of dollars, months of needless stress, and the job could give you valuable experience along the way. On the other hand, you can lose money, become even more stressed, and simply waste your time along the way if you aren't truly prepared for all becoming your own contractor entails.

Read up on the pros and cons, consult the experts in your life, and choose the path that's right for you.