Episode #43: How To Be Your Own General Contractor

Hi! This week, Emma’s roof is being worked on, so she is taking the week off. Elsie’s friend, Ting, has joined us in her place. This episode is all about how to be your own general contractor (or project manager) during a renovation, which can save thousands of dollars. If you’re planning to renovate a kitchen or bathroom in the future, you’ll definitely want to give this episode a listen. We talk about so many things, including lessons we learned the hard way!

You can stream the episode here on the blog or on iTunesSpotifyGoogle PlayTuneInPocket Casts, and Stitcher. You can find the podcast posts archive here.

Show Notes:

Here’s a photo of Ting in case you’re like me and you have to Google every single podcast voice to see what they look like. Haha! Also, is it just me, or are pre-COVID photos so CLOSE and awkward looking now … it’s funny to me how quickly I got used to never hugging anyone. Bizarre!

What we cover in this episode:

-We define the difference between a general contractor and a subcontractor or sub.
-The pros and cons of being your own GC.
-Tips for hiring a contractor and what to look for.
-How to create a payment schedule, especially your first time working with someone new.
-How to be a good manager + always keep a paper trail.
-Uh oh … what if you need to fire a subcontractor.
-How to be prepared to get quotes (aka how to be a good client)
-We each share our favorite type of renovations.
-The big wins: focus on finding a good price, creating a good payment schedule and keep all your communications in writing.
-And we end with a little pep talk!

We also answer a reader question about how to keep a house clean and have cute rugs, etc., with PETS. We each have very strong feelings on this subject. Basically, it’s worth it! Just let your pets mess stuff up—you only live once! 🙂 Oops. I think I just found my “hill to die on” haha.

Thanks so much for listening. We love you! Elsie

  • So much useful advice (IF you are looking to save money on a renovation). I’ll have to be absent from the podcast more often. Good to know I’m so easily replaced. 🙂

    • While I enjoyed Ting, you are not easily replaced, Emma. I missed you!

  • This was a really interesting take on how to manage a project. Would love to hear an interview with a GC to give their perspective on the value that they add to a project.

      • Very factual and useful podcast on GC. We learned a lot in a recent renovation and echo the red flags: if you can’t get a call or text back, if your GC will not look at or listen to your ideas; if the subs are late, dirty, do poor work, etc. and GC demands payments anyway, run….Whether you work with a GC or do it yourself, the more organized you are upfront, the better it will be. And know that it appears this industry is not a law firm or semiconductor company – people are working off their phones, from their trucks, while driving, etc. Know what is possible, what it might cost and be prepared to research and spec materials yourself. We found that a professional plumbing wholesale supply place was very generous with info and helping us ID all the stuff we needed behind the walls, for ex.

  • Love your podcast! As a government worker in Zoning & Planning, I got so nervous about the permit discussion! My advice (which Ting does mention) – call your local government and let them know what you’re planning on doing ahead of time, every time (and confirm you actually know your jurisdiction, you’d be surprised)! Don’t just assume if your neighbor did it, it’s okay on your property. I know some people are comfortable breaking these rules, but like Ting mentions, this will REALLY come back to haunt you during resale/redevelopment of any type. ALSO! Never underestimate noisy neighbors… they will do their homework and see if you have permits when they start seeing development… usually ending up in fines/court hearings for the violator.

  • This actually couldn’t have come at a better time. We received a referral for a contractor who gave us a bid within our budget. We noticed on his Insta that he’d done work for friends of ours, so we followed up for a reference and they strongly suggested we pass. It’s a simple detached single car garage build, so we thought we might just risk it, but after listening to this, I spoke to my husband, and we told the contractor that we were going to seek other bids. It all feels a bit overwhelming still, but I feel like we have more knowledge in our tool belt to get the build we want. Thank you!

  • I really need a friend like Ting in my life to hold my hand through buying and renovating a house!

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