Be Your Own Log Home Contractor - or Not
by Al Hearn
Many log home owners are their own general contractors. This means that they do the planning, organizing, budgeting, hiring and firing sub-contractors, analyzing bids, scheduling, supervising, problem solving, and cleanup.
A good general contractor must have the time, patience, attention to detail, people skills, financial skills, organizational skills, and problem-solving skills necessary to do the job right. Having previous building or carpentry experience would be a plus. If you are weak in any of these areas, you may want to reconsider your decision, get help, or get training to develop those skills.
Things to Consider
Remember, a professional general contractor that you might hire may have some advantages that you don't have.
First, he's done this before and knows how to get the job done most efficiently. He already knows and works with sub-contractors. He's already weeded out the bad ones and knows who the good ones are.
He knows how to evaluate bids from sub-contractors. He already knows where to get the best prices on materials. He knows building codes in his area, and may even know individual municipal building inspectors.
He has probably already worked with local banks and mortgage companies who can quickly approve him. He should already have log home building experience and understands the special skills and construction techniques involved. He may have already worked with the log home company that you have selected.
The benefits of being your own general contractor are that you save money (about 15%-25%), you are in total control of everything that goes into the project, and you gain the personal satisfaction that comes with doing it yourself. You might consider it to be a personal challenge, much like climbing a mountain.
One of the problems you might encounter is that banks and mortgage companies often don't like owner/builders who act as their own general contractor. They consider the risks to be too high. They don't want to be stuck with a pile of logs after an owner has decided that the project was more than he could handle. A professional contractor with a good track record is a much safer bet for them. Even if the bank approves you, it may require a lot of meetings and paperwork — detailed plans, cost estimates, and schedules — to convince them that you can do the job.
Being your own contractor requires that you be able to devote time, and lots of it, to your project. It can easily eat up many weekends and evenings that you might have planned for family and other activities. Managing sub-contractors may require late night phone calls and early morning meetings.
On-site problems can occur at the least convenient times. Subs may decide not to show on a cold day. Material shortages happen when you have subs on site waiting for them. One sub blames another for schedule delays. Equipment breaks down when there's no replacement within a hundred miles. These are common types of problems that happen on any home building project. It's up to the general contractor to get them resolved.
Generally, if you plan to be your own contractor, you should not expect to achieve the same results as an experienced professional contractor. Depending on the situation, you may not get the same quality workmanship, your cost savings may not be as significant as you expected, and your schedule may suffer.
This is not to suggest that you shouldn't take on the task of being your own contractor, but just that you should go into it with your eyes wide open.
Al Hearn is a log home enthusiast and consumer advisor who has followed and researched the log home industry for over 25 years. After many years, his life's priorities finally allowed him to begin living his own log home dreams. He is owner and operator of http://www.LogHomeAdvisor.com, a web site in which he shares his knowledge and advice with fellow log home lovers.
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