Building a home is very much like launching a campaign, whether it is a political campaign or a military one. For these missions there is usually a head person like a chief-of-staff or general. Well, a home construction project is a drawn-out journey with peaks and valleys and collections of talents and personalities much like those other processes. And just like them there has to be a leader and that leader is called a general contractor.
General contractors, or GC's, do not come pre-packaged from universities, technical institutes or trade schools. These training institutes all give pieces of the necessary requirements that make a good CG but these people learn the rest by doing. It is this experience that a future homebuilder must consider before hiring because a dream home is no place for a learning curve.
Building Contractors and the Bidding Process
A dream home begins with smatterings of thoughts that begin to come together with a financial capability. The prospective homebuilder may have a mountain of home magazines or clippings that show what is important in to them in a home. Taking these ideas they may consult an architect to draw up their plans or pick a suitable set from an online seller. Either way they will have the blueprints for the next phase of their lives and now need a pilot to steer them around the wide variety of obstacles that appear when building a new home. This is where the general contractor comes in.
Hiring a GC is the first process after the financing and plans are finalized. He or she will take those plans and come up with a bid to build the home on the required lot at a certain price and in a specified time. All this will come out in the contract but the details should be verified by you lawyer. If all the rules are laid out in advance the process will be more enjoyable.
The bidding system begins with a GC taking your plans to the subtrades electricians, framers, plumbers, etc. - and getting their prices. Then, by adding on the cost of materials, specialized machinery rentals, permit costs and a dozen other costs the real price will emerge. On top of this will be the cost overseeing the project that is called the margin or construction management fee. This varies but usually is around 15-20%. The cost-plus system, where the cost of building is shown separate from the commission, is a great way to show you how much the house costs and how much the GC gets. In the bid the cost of inflation for building materials is also included and a warranty.
When going for a bid you have to realize that few GC's will want to bid against more than 2 or 3 others. Its not worth their time when they have lest than a 25% chance of getting the job. However, this is in normal times. If work is scarce then this does not necessarily apply.
The Process of Building
Here is a list of basic general contracting duties:
- 1. Financing: A GC will help with the financing application, giving the loans officer the specifics required.
- 2. Permits: The GC or you will get the proper city, county and specialty permits.
- 3. Hiring Subcontractors: After applying for the permits the GC will submit plans to subtrades. Another perk with GC's is that they use specific subtrades on a regular basis so in most cases they can get them cheaper.
- 4. The Foundation: The GC schedules the site clearance where an excavating company clears and levels the site according to the plans. Then the trenches are dug for placing the footings and these are poured. After the footings have set forms then are assembled for the basement foundation or a cement pad, if the home will be a slab-on-grade.
- 5. Framing: Framing crews arrive immediately after the foundation has dried. This is the skeleton and outer shell of the homes. The framers will erect the walls, raise the roof trusses, put in stairs and windows and doors.
- 6. Roofing: After the roofer finish the home will be declared roof tight and the interior materials can now be brought in.
- 7. Exterior Finish: Siding, like roofing, is the homebuilder's option. Unless there is a lot of brick work stucco takes the longest to install because of the reinforcing screen and the drying time between coats. For speed and ease vinyl siding goes up the quickest followed by the new steel and aluminum sidings that are seamless and usually cut on the site.
- 8. Electrical, Plumbing and HVAC: This can coincide with the siding.
- 9. Insulating: Fiberglass batts are the norm but spray-in-place foam is also used.
- 10. Drywall
- 11. Interior Finish: Painting, cabinets, fixtures, moldings, then floors
- 12. Landscaping: This is done last so that it is not damaged by workers.
- 13. Walk-Through: The GC and you walk through the home and operate all systems to make sure that everything works properly and there are no blemishes.