This week we have the first part of an interview with a Chris and Shacuna Jones who recently finished building a beautiful house for themselves where they acted as their own general contractor. They’ll tell us about the construction of their dream home and give us some great money savings and management tips.
Before that interview, though, let’s go over our PRO TERM for this week:
Flat work. Flatwork includes all horizontal, or flat, concrete work. This includes indoor projects like floors or concrete steps, as well as outdoor jobs like foundations, patios, sidewalks, pool decks, parking spaces and driveways. Concrete flatwork does NOT refer to work done on vertical structures like walls.
To do flatwork, contractors start by excavating the soil in the area where the concrete will be poured. Some projects may require a gravel or sand base for support, while others can be poured directly onto the soil. Wooden or composite forms are used to create a mold for the wet concrete. Rebar, or reinforcing steel bars, or wire mesh are sometimes placed into the mold to help support and strengthen the structure. Finally, the concrete mixture is poured and allowed to harden, or cure, to a solid finish.
Now, let’s get to the first part of an interview that I did with Chris and Shacuna Jones. I started the interview by asking them...
1. WHY they decided to general contract their own home instead of hiring a builder.
A contractor friend of theirs told them that the builder built their home for a fraction of what they paid for it. They wanted to get more house for the money and maximize the money that the bank was loaning them for their home.
Other questions that I asked during the interview include:
2. Did you get your house designed or did you buy a plan online?
They designed the house but hired an architect to put their design into a formal house plan.
3. Let’s talk about getting that initial building permit. What did you have to do and how long did it take?
Because their lot was outside of the city limits, they got the initial permit for a nominal fee and had almost no formal inspections from the county (the plumbing was inspected).
4. How did you find your subcontractors?
The got references from their contractor friends and used subs that had done work on a previous project. They also suggest going by homes being built and talking with subcontractors working on the job site.
5. Describe the bid process to us. How long did it typically take to get bids back?
They got an average of 3 bids for each subs and bids came back in about a week.
6. Did you hire a site supervisor or construction manager to oversee the job site?
No. Chris and Shacuna acted as the site supervisors.
7. How often were you at the job site?
8. Did you have much trouble with subcontractors not showing up as scheduled or not completing their work? If so, how did you handle those problems?
They had problems with only one sub and they had an attorney friend give that sub a call to “encourage” him to finish his work.
9. How often did you pay subs?
They paid subcontractors in thirds— after the first, second and last third of their work was complete and after inspections were passed. They recommend not paying subs in the beginning for materials, but buying your own materials so YOU will get the contractors discount. Most subs won't pass that discount on to the homebuyer.
Chris and Shacuna had somewhat usual circumstances because they built outside of the city limits and had very limited interaction with building inspectors. And that sounds wonderful, fewer fees and less hassle. But, for those of us who will have to get regular inspections, let’s look at the bright side of that.
Those inspections can give us a greater sense of assurance that our homes are being constructed properly. Shacuna and Chris had a contractor friend who gave them that assurance. Most of us won’t have the benefit of having a contractor friend, so the building inspectors will hopefully act as our advocates, making sure that our homes are built soundly.
Don’t forget to come back next week for the conclusion of our interview. You’ll get even more helpful tips.
Now, Let’s do a couple of quiz questions.
1. Tell me what flatwork is and give me 2 examples of it.
Flatwork is flat, or horizontal concrete work and examples include concrete work done on floors, steps, foundations, patios, sidewalks, pool decks, parking spaces and driveways.
2. How often did Chris suggest paying subcontractors?
A. Pay subs half their fee at beginning of the job so they can purchase materials to start their work, then pay them the second half at the end when the job, when work is finished.
B. Pay subs in thirds— after one third of their work is done, after two thirds of their work is done, then after the last third of their work is completely finished.
C. Give subs their fee up front before they even start the work to encourage them to do a good job.
D. Give subs their entire fee at the end of the job, when is work is fully complete.
The answer is B. The other options are either not smart or not reasonable. It’s not smart to give subs any part of their fee before they have done any work. They could run off with your money without having done anything!
If they ask for money to buy materials tell them, you will be purchasing the materials and will be paying them in thirds, after their work has passed inspections and is approved (by you or your site supervisor) and make sure you indicate that in their contracts.
And not paying subs until the very end is really not a reasonable expectation since some subcontractors could be working on your home for several months to a year or more. It’s unlikely that good subs will agree to being paid only at the very end of the job (unless its a subcontractor doing a short term job that last only a week or two).
That’s it for this week. I hoped you got some good tips for managing the construction of your home. I sure did.
Please remember that the purpose of this blog and podcast is simply to educate and inform. It is not a substitute for professional advice. The information that you hear is based the only on the opinions, research and experiences of my guests and myself. That information might be incomplete and it’s subject to change, so it may not apply to your project. In addition, Building codes and requirements vary from region to region, so always consult a professional about specific recommendations for your home.