Hire a General Contractor or Do-it-Yourself

A home renovation project is both exciting and unnerving.  It’s exciting to anticipate a newly renovated space however the countless decisions required can be overwhelming.  A first decision will be whether to hire a general contractor (GC) or take on yourself the project management.  For the first blog on our newly updated website, we offer a brief discussion on the topic to help you make an informed decision.

It is common for a homeowner to underestimate the sheer number of decisions involved in a renovation.  Once it is clear, hiring a general contractor becomes appealing.  A GC will help alleviate the weight of decisions by presenting them gradually. This paced process helps the homeowner maintain perspective.  A GC will also bring on the trades, schedule the installation of framing, mechanical, plumbing and electrical.

Quite often a general contractor has partnerships with sub-trades and can spare a homeowner the task of searching and securing their own.  The GC deals with problems that will inevitably arise – no project is perfect.  There is unforeseen mix-up of materials, conflict of schedules and so forth. The best GC can see the big picture and keep the project moving on time and on budget.

The general contractor also handles paying the expenses.  That is, unless arrangements have been made in advance by the homeowner to purchase some of their own material or hire their own specific trade.  With a GC, the homeowner generally pays one company and does not need to worry about an onslaught of bills. Of course, that payment includes a price for the GC service which will need to be factored into the homeowner’s overall budget.

Then there’s the option of taking the project on your own, without a general contractor.  The homeowner hires all the trades and oversees the project’s scheduling.  This is ideal for those who are not afraid to take the lead.  It is also appealing for the homeowner who prefer to exercise maximum control over their project and budget.  By hiring professional sub-trades, a homeowner can be confident that expert assistance is available if needed.  A professional sub-trade is licensed, has adequate insurance coverage, is good at communicating, provides a detailed contract and favorable references or reviews.

For some homeowners, there is security in knowing that they hired professionals of their own choosing whom they trust; they also have peace of mind paying for services for which they can see progress towards completion.  Should they have the misfortune of an unresolvable conflict with a specific trade, they are less likely to suffer hardship and financial loss in the dissolving of that relationship than they would if they had similar conflict with a GC.

As a homeowner, ultimately the decision of who will manage your renovation project is yours.  No one can gauge your involvement comfort level better than you can.  Should you choose to go the route of hiring a general contractor, we have some cautionary advice to share. Do an in-depth background check of the GC.  Research online – especially in social media.  Request a formal interview to ask questions prior to accepting the GC’s service.  Here are some questions we recommend you ask:

  1. Have you done this kind of project before? Can you provide pictures of jobs completed and references from customers of recent jobs?
  2. Are you licensed as a contractor in our municipality? A GC may be licensed but not for your area.
  3. Do you have liability insurance and Workplace Safety & Insurance Board (WSIB) coverage?
  4. Is warranty provided on materials and labor and by whom?
  5. Will you provide a detailed contract? Does that contract include a schedule of materials and outline the payments required?
  6. Which trades will you be hiring? Avoid hiring a GC that offers to do renovation work for which they may not be qualified to do, such as in the electrical or plumbing trades.
  7. Which trade companies do you intend to hire? How long have you been working with them?
  8. Will you be marking up the cost of sub-trades provided? Being aware of pricing specifics will help with decision making.

At Kirsch Electric Contracting Inc, we are committed to partnering with you.  We are supportive whether you choose to manage your own renovation project or use the service of a qualified general contractor.  Either way, we are chosen by you and work directly with you.  We provide warranty on our electrical parts and service.  As a licensed electrical contracting company, we also take out the appropriate electrical permit and arrange for inspection through the Electrical Safety Authority (ESA). Our concern is not whether you choose to use a GC – it is whether you are comfortable with the role you have chosen for your renovation project and you have secured the professionals you need to complete the job well.