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Finishing Basement - Hire general contractor or do it myself?

Alex Guirguis
7 years ago


I need to finish my basement. Would I be better off hiring a general contractor who takes care of everything? Or contracting out each job on my own? What are the pros and cons?



Comments (11)

  • PRO
    Powell Construction
    7 years ago
    The decision of whether to be your own general contractor is one that involves the tradeoff of time vs. money. In making this decision you may want to think about whether you value your time or your money more. A good general contractor can do the project efficiently and allow you to work at your chosen profession to earn the money to pay them. On the other hand if you have free time on your hands and enjoy carpentry and being involved in working directly with the trades then the cost savings may be worth it to you. If you decide that a timely completion date is a high priority and therefore choose to hire a contractor, then choose carefully and check references. Contractors can vary greatly. We have an article on our website that answers this question in greater detail.
  • PRO
    JudyG Designs
    7 years ago

    What skills do you have (or lack, is probably the better word)?

  • smileythecat
    7 years ago

    Basements are funny, a gn will finish it for you, where you doing your own won"t. That's my own personal experience for what its worth.

  • Alex Guirguis
    Original Author
    7 years ago

    Thanks for the answers! Let me be a bit clearer. I have no construction or "trade" skills whatsoever.

    My question was more along the lines of 1) Should I hire a company that will take care of everything for me? or 2) Should I find and hire a company/skilled person to do each piece (flooring, framing, windows, etc.) individually?

    In the end which would be a better value? The general contractor because they can get each job done cheaper? Or all the individual contractors because I've cut out the middle man?

    Thanks again!


  • PRO
    7 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Do yourself a favor.Get three referrals. three estimates, and turn it over to a general contractor who schedules all subs and monitors all process, and is RESPONSIBLE for all the aforementioned subs and process. When was the last time you drilled your own teeth or cut your own hair? Cheap is rarely good, and good is rarely cheap. How long are you staying, and how long would you like to live with the results from managing a process about which you know ...what was that again? : )

  • rocketjcat
    7 years ago
    Just some info for you...I was my own GC when we finished our 1500 sf lower level walk out. 2 bedrooms, large 1.5 baths, bar, media w/projection TV. Background: retired 50+ lady with a little bit of construction experience. I worked with a great cabinet maker who made our cabinets and also did the framing and finish carpentry. I contracted the electrical, plumbing, HVAC, tile, carpet, the drop ceiling framework. I did all painting and the ceiling tiles. It took about 6 months but I wasn't in a hurry. I read up on being my own GC, and my cabinet maker/framer really helped me get things done in the right sequence, so if you can work with someone helpful it makes a huge difference. I know I saved some money, but I can't quantify how much. I was able to be on site daily when the work was going on so there were no surprises like I read about so often on houzz, and I was able to answer questions immediately and get things done exactly how I wanted, or knew the answer why not. If you can devote the time to it, it might work out for you as well.
  • PRO
    Cancork Floor Inc.
    7 years ago

    In Canada, a homeowner who is acting as their own General Contractor (overseeing the project and hiring the professionals themselves = General Contractor...which is what you would be) takes on FULL LEGAL RESPONSIBILITY for the project and any technical decisions that are "wrong" fall to the General Contractor...that's you.

    In other words, if you higher a trades person in Canada (lets use flooring installer...just for fun) you, the HOMEOWNER become the General Contractor. If you tell the flooring installer, "No. I do NOT want the 3/4" expansion gap at the walls. I don't like quarter round. Make it tighter to the wall. I want the hardwood 1/4" from the drywall." then the LEGAL CONSEQUENCE falls on the General Contractor = HOMEOWNER.

    The flooring professional only needs to voice his/her OPINION re: proper expansion gap. Once they say, "The installation instructions say you must have 3/4" at the walls." that is all a Canadian Court of Queens Bench needs to hear to let the flooring professional "off" the hook. The courts will tell the flooring installer that they SHOULD HAVE BEEN MORE VOCAL about their objection...or they should have tried HARDER to convince the homeowner that the 3/4" should have been maintained. But in the end the ruling will go against the homeowner.

    That is part of Canadian building law that many people don't understand. The point is this: check out what YOUR state/provincial/country laws are regarding the definition of General Contractor and what the legal consequences are when you become the GC.

    Rocketcat had an excellent result with excellent professionals. Why? Because she LISTENED to her professionals. She was there 6-8 hrs PER DAY. She made decisions based on her trades peoples' knowledge and expertise. She was responsible and educated and she had the TIME to be on-site much of the day...for 6 months.

    I know many project managers/GCs who will make 25% over top of their trades peoples' billed amount. But the trades give them DISCOUNTS because they get so much work out of the GC. The discount = 15%. He can get a cork floor installed (billed to him) for $2.25/sf. He bills his clients $3/sf. This is still inside the "normal" range for our city (normal = $2.50 - $3.50/sf for cork floating floor).

    At the end, you may only "save" 10% over what you would spend on an GC. If your project is worth $ might only save $5K. To save this $5K, you may LOSE 3 months of income.

    Ask yourself how much income you will LOSE if you had to take a leave of absence for 3-6 months...unpaid. That is what you have to "save" by becoming your own GC.

    Even as a poor sales person, I would lose far more than I would gain if I had to leave work for 3 months to oversee a project. If it went longer than 3 months...I would be out MUCH MORE than the GC position is worth....and I don't want the legal issues to come back to me.

  • PRO
    Powell Construction
    7 years ago

    My recommendation would be to hire a design/build contractor that can design the remodel for you, itemize your selections, estimate it for you, and then supervise the tradespeople. If you choose the contractor well you will get a professional job constructed in a timely manner. Again, the key is to choose a contractor with an excellent reputation in your area. Here is an article on how to choose one:

    If there is just one or two trades such as a flooring contractor and a finish carpenter then supervising them yourself can make sense, but you mention framing and that leads me to think there could be some design involved and more complicated coordination. Once you get into building walls, and multiple subcontractors the value of a good general contractor becomes more and more important. Hope that helps.

  • needinfo1
    7 years ago

    New house? Easy remodel? Old house? Complicated remodel with lots of surprises likely? Adding or moving plumbing? All of these things make a difference.

    We've gone back and forth on this ourselves. Proper sequencing is a huge issue, and that is something you will need to figure out.

    As is mentioned above, you will need to be available to be on site constantly if you act as your own GC. Do you have the time and flexibility for that?

    OTOH, we also know from a recent experience that even with a highly recommended design/build firm, you still need to constantly be on site and available to make sure that things are being done the way YOU want them done.

    Bottom line: any remodeling, whether you hire a GC or act as your own, is going to demand a significant amount of your time and energy (to say nothing of money).

  • HU-201251229
    2 years ago

    If you have the TIME it's no big deal. In did it and saved a bundle. You have to be able to handle taking bids from each sub. GC's will tell you, oh gosh no have us do it - phone calls but there will be headaches, guranteed with any JOB.