Although prices have come down in the recession, many of our incomes have too. So I thought it might be interesting to mention how you can save some money in a remodeling or building project and the ramifications of that. In a nutshell, here are my thoughts on this process. In another blog, if there’s interest, I’ll talk about each item in more detail.
Here’s a review of our experience as both architects and contractors in the Seattle area, where we are a design build firm. There are several ways to construct your project, whether it is a remodel, addition, or new house — once you have plans and permits, of course:
1) Build it yourself — this is the most fun and least expensive, but takes a lot of time of course, plus patience and skill; if you don’t have the skill, you can always hire a good carpenter to work along side of you and teach you — this is terrific — it’s really a lot of fun and satisfying to do this — and it’s good excercise! You can hire your friends to help (we could even coach)! Often the building inspectors are more helpful than not when an owner-builder is in charge. Your only worry is making sure no one gets hurt, because you could be liable (someone getting hurt includes visitors to the site).
2) Be your own contractor — this is the most reasonable for many people, but still you need to have time and patience; however, you can expect to save 30% or more on the cost of a project; the biggest hurtle is finding the right (meaning competent, honest, efficient, and dependable) subcontractors to do the work; again, it would be helpful if you had an ace carpenter to lead the effort, and you still have to concern yourself that you and the subcontractors have insurance in case someone gets hurt, whether a worker or a visitor.
3) Hire a construction manager — here you are hiring someone to manage the process, to oversee the builders, and to a greater or lesser degree (depending on your arrangement) they will find, hire, and manage the vendors and subcontractors. You can pay them hourly or any other arrangement you might make. They are like a building contractor but don’t take the responsiblities. Again, you want to make sure you’re covered if someone should get hurt.
3) Hire a general contractor — this is the easiest and usually the safest route, although it can be difficult if you have not done your homework in choosing the right contractor. This involves more than just getting prices, such as checking with the architects and owners of past projects for competency, timeliness, neatness, and dependability, along with verifying the licensing & bonding history of the particular contractor. A good contractor is worth a lot, and goes a long way to ensuring a well built project that will be what the architect had in mind, and will last years and years.
Now having said all that, let me emphasize the importance of having design drawings and permits in hand! Starting construction without having thought through all the design and construction details ahead of time is a sure recipe for delay and frustration. Unless you are familiar with local building codes, permit requirements and building practices, it is advisable to at least hire a design professional to prepare design and construction documents to obtain the building permits you need and outline the building basics. Of course, you will also benefit by this person’s expertise in design: an experienced architect or designer will bring valuable insight on the overall project — well worth the cost!