Build Your Own House

How to be a General Contractor

Summary: To be a general contractor you will need to be able to manage time, people, and money. General contractors need to know very little about actual home building skills or the building trades.

Carl, I have zero building skills! How can I contract the construction of my new home? Are you crazy? Jeff.

Hi Jeff, no I’m not crazy, but that’s what I asked the home designer who suggested I build my first house. The rest as they say is history. Remember the subtitle to my books and web site, Save 25% Without Lifting a Hammer.

Here's what you need to know.

General contractors are responsible for managing all aspects of home construction and remodeling from estimating construction costs, shopping for and buying building materials, to hiring and managing the contractors and subcontractors who have the necessary skills and do the actual work.

You do not to be a licensed general contractor or licensed home builder to build your own home. But, you do need to get a general contractor license or residential builders license to build a new home for someone else or for sale. Getting a license usually includes taking a test, but there are contractors exam classes you can take to pass it.

Yet, every home builder started with their first house. Most knew no more about building a house than you do. They had zero home building skills!

You don’t need to know various home building skills, but you do need to know how to hire the contractors and subcontractors who do, and that is what this web site is all about.

You don’t need to have technical knowledge about framing or bricklaying or wiring. Your contractors will know their business just as mine do. I’ll help you make sure of that.

You may wish to pick up some information on various aspects of home building, and that’s fine. There are many excellent how-to books and web sites available for the do-it-yourselfer on almost all phases of construction.

You may want to read some of them to better understand the process of building a home. But there’s no way you can become a master of all trades.

Your role as the general contractor is to be an organizer and a manager, not a tradesman. Your responsibility is to get the job done — by other people. If you can estimate your costs, control those costs, and deal with people in a fair manner, you can build your own house or home addition!

The most difficult parts of the process will be behind you when you actually start construction. Sounds unbelievable, doesn’t it? But it’s true.

Your job of planning, estimating building costs, and organizing will be 90 percent complete when you break ground . . . or it should be. At that point it is up to your team of experts — your contractors and subcontractors (subs) and building material suppliers — to do their job.

If you choose your contractors and subcontractors carefully they will do their jobs correctly, even without you being physically at the building site.

On my first new home I didn’t even know what a footing was, let alone what it looked like. It didn’t matter as my footing subcontractor and the building inspector did!

Even though you don’t need to be an expert do not be afraid to ask questions. Just remember that there are no silly questions. Never be too proud to ask questions at any point in the project from either a supplier or contractor or subcontractor. Most of them are very willing to help. After all, they don’t make any money until they sell you something or perform a service.

Don’t look at building a house as one huge job. View each phase or each of the steps as a small separate job that you can easily accomplish and cross off your list. This makes the overall task seem less monumental.

Relax, read my books and website and I think you will realize that you can do it.

Let's get started! Carl Heldmann