HOW TO

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Be your own gen­eral con­trac­tor.

Whether you want more con­trol over the build­ing process, a pro­found sense of ac­com­plish­ment or just to save a few bucks, the temp­ta­tion to serve as the gen­eral con­trac­tor for your log- home project can be pretty pow­er­ful. But it’s not a decision to make with­out in­vest­ing plenty of thought. Here are three things for first-time would- be GCs to con­sider. 1 RE­AL­IZE THERE’S NO ONE-SIZE- FITS-ALL AP­PROACH. A gen­eral con­trac­tor is re­ally just a man­ager, so you can par­tic­i­pate in the project in a num­ber of dif­fer­ent ways. For those with lit­tle to no pre­vi­ous con­struc­tion ex­pe­ri­ence, stick to pa­per­work and sched­ul­ing of sub­con­trac­tors. Those who feel more com­fort­able with the nuts and bolts of con­struc­tion might take a more hands- on ap­proach. Peo­ple who have ex­pe­ri­ence with plumb­ing or elec­tri­cal work might be­come a sub­con­trac­tor to a gen­eral con­trac­tor and save some money that way.

If you’re wor­ried about the time com­mit­ment, take on only as much work as you can com­plete eas­ily in the evenings and on week­ends. The idea is to spend less time than it will take to make you lose your job. 2 DO A TRIAL RUN. While you can’t ex­actly build a test house first, there are sev­eral ways to de­ter­mine your in­ter­est in and ap­ti­tude for con­tract­ing work. As­sess your abil­ity is tack­ling a re­mod­el­ing project on your cur­rent home. You also can get a feel for the process by read­ing books or tak­ing a con­struc­tion- ori­ented class at a com­mu­nity col­lege or adult­e­d­u­ca­tion pro­gram.

If, after you’ve done your home­work, you’ve still got

the con­tract­ing bug but are feel­ing skep­ti­cal about your abil­ity to man­age the project on your own, don’t hes­i­tate to call in a con­struc­tion con­sul­tant. A con­sul­tant will spend maybe one af­ter­noon a week with you, help­ing to pre­pare you for the next week’s work. It still saves money over a full-time gen­eral con­trac­tor be­cause you’re do­ing most of the work your­self. 3 BE­WARE OF PO­TEN­TIAL PIT­FALLS. Con­trac­tors who’ve been around the block a few times are well versed in common headaches on con­struc­tion projects and can cir­cum­vent them. You can min­i­mize the learn­ing curve by school­ing your­self on pos­si­ble trou­ble spots ahead of time. Sched­ul­ing and pay­ments are of­ten points of con­tention, so make sure you have de­liv­ery dates for ma­te­ri­als timed prop­erly and that all of your sub­con­trac­tors know when to be there. (A phone call a few days be­fore should do the trick.)

Mak­ing friends at your lo­cal build­ing depart­ment also is a smart move. Peo­ple there hold the keys to your house, so it’s a good idea to meet them and find out what their re­quire­ments are early on.

Fi­nally, re­sist the urge to make tweaks to your de­sign after work is un­der way. It’s easy to start mak­ing changes here and there to im­prove the plan, with­out re­al­iz­ing that each time there’s a change or­der, it’s go­ing to cost more and take longer. Care­ful plan­ning be­fore the project be­gins will avoid or at least re­duce th­ese costly im­pulses.

There are other pub­lished and on­line re­sources that can help you as­sess your abil­i­ties and ap­ti­tude for the work of a gen­eral con­trac­tor. Be­ing your own GC is no guar­an­tee that you’ll save time or money, but you might. Even if you don’t, by mak­ing the com­mit­ment, you stand to gain a tremen­dous amount of sat­is­fac­tion from your ef­forts.

Act­ing as gen­eral con­trac­tor on your log-home project is one way to get in­volved with the home’s con­struc­tion and pos­si­bly save some money to boot.

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