Contractor, General or Building
First I want to explain that a general contractor is not necessarily the home builder. In fact many generals act only as coordinators hiring and scheduling all required professional help including the actual builder.
It is important to qualify your general contractor and assure that they are prepared to handle and coordinate every aspect of the project. If you are interviewing a general who tells you they do not handle certain responsibilities like floor coverings for example then you must ask yourself if they are the best choice for you. After all if you must still handle some of the coordination duties then you are not taking full advantage of the value added extra cost to have a general contractor.
A general contractor whether an individual or larger company should be able to coordinate all the subjects or stages of a project that I have listed in the project schedule section. While many think they can save money by absorbing the duties of a general contractor the fact is that a good general will ultimately save money on the project.
Self General Contractor
That is not to say an individual could not save money if they were properly prepared to handle all the responsibilities on a timely basis. The point I am trying to make here is that there are several functions or trades that must be coordinated to have proper material and manpower on the site at the right times. If professional subcontractors are held up due to scheduling errors of product or manpower the project will be subject to possible back charges. If not back charges then the possibility of added interest and other expenses caused by any number of delay reasons.
It is also important to check references and preferably speak directly to a few of the contractors previous clients. Ask questions like:
How easy was it to get in contact with the general?
How did they handle your concerns or issues you brought up. Were they handled in a timely manner, and were they handled to your satisfaction?
If there were problems or changes, where the costs involved explained in advance in a way that you were able to understand?
Would you hire them again?
This process is all about developing a working relationship. You are going to be entrusting your dreams to this person or company and count on them to create exactly what you are expecting.
Assumptions here will never work out in your favor. Do not expect that your general will take on more duties than they tell you in the beginning. If you hire a building contractor to act as your general and they do not clearly state in their contract that they are going to handle all the responsibilities of a general contractor then do not expect to get half way into your project and ask the builder to coordinate the painters or plumbers. At the same time if you declare yourself to be your own general don’t ask your framer to coordinate schedules with the plumbers and electricians that is your job. I see this problem more than any others.
So what is your experience? General Contractor or Building Contractor, good experience or not?