Build Your Own House

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House & Home


Very few people are qualified to perform all the construction steps for building their home, but you may be able to act as your own General Contractor (GC), hiring your subcontractors (subs) in the order they are required. There may be some aspects of the labor you can do yourself, but only by understanding the entire process can you decide what work to tackle.  This guide outlines the basics and the chronology of organizing a house-build all by yourself. Hiring your sub-contractors on an as-you-need-them basis and saving money where you can by putting in sweat equity is the single biggest money-saver when it comes to building a house.  Pros and Cons of Being Your Own General Contractor Pros:  You can save an enormous amount of money. General contractors charge 15% to 25% of the total price for building your house. On a $200,000 job, you save a minimum of $30,000 by not hiring a GC. Cons:  You might easily get in over your head. Good contractors do earn their fee. They have an established list of sub-contractors (subs); they know the permitting offices; they have suppliers; they know how to coordinate to eliminate or minimize downtime. Good contractors earn their keep. So let's imagine what goes into serving as the General Contractor for a house where plans are already drawn up by an architect.  Step 1: The Site and Construction Basics First, it's time to get situated--literally and figuratively. Not only are you getting your project straight in your mind and on paper, but you are literally siting your intended home on the building site. Clear the building site of brush and other debris, down to ground level and at least 25 feet around the planned house perimeter. This is often a separate labor crew that performs this work. A surveyor stakes out the lot, based on original plot drawings that indicate the property boundaries.  Make alterations to the site's topography, if it's necessary to alter the water flow across the site. This often requires a contractor with earth-moving equipment.  Order a roll-off dumpster to handle refuse during the building project.  Order one or more portable toilets. This is essential unless you expect various subcontract laborers to use your home's bathroom.