Being Your Own General Contractor: Pros & Cons

Do you want to flex your creative muscles and save money while remodeling your home? If so, a do-it-yourself approach could be for you. But before you grab a hammer, you should consider the pros and cons of being your own general contractor.

Serving as a general contractor for a full kitchen renovation or bathroom remodel is more about project management than construction. As the owner-contractor, you’ll be expected to hire and direct subcontractors, pull permits, order materials, and keep the project moving forward on time and on budget.

Are you ready for that weight to be on your shoulders? We’ve compiled a list of advantages and disadvantages to help you decide.

WHAT IS A GENERAL CONTRACTOR?

First, let’s establish what a general contractor is and what they do. Simply put, a general contractor oversees the execution of larger home projects.

This person or business is responsible for:

  • Oversight of construction
  • Leading subcontractors and vendors
  • Buying needed materials
  • Interfacing with workers and clients
  • Keeping the project on time and on budget 
  • Troubleshooting solutions when material delays or shortages occur

A general contractor won’t be seen grouting a shower wall or installing hardwood floor. Rather, these professionals play a more behind-the-scenes role in your home remodel.

PROS OF BEING YOUR OWN GENERAL CONTRACTOR

What are the benefits of DIY’ing your home remodel? Serving as your own general contractor saves money, provides more control throughout the project, and helps you establish a network of helpful contacts.

SAVES MONEY

Are you tight on cash? If so, being your own general contractor can slim down your budget and help offset the rising cost of lumber and labor.

Just how much money you can save depends on your specific project. Typically, general contractors charge about 10-20% of the total construction cost. However, for more extensive projects, you can expect to pay 25% or more.

PROVIDES MORE CONTROL

Much of a general contractor’s job is communicating a homeowner’s vision to workers, subcontractors, vendors, and other people involved in the project. 

But when that communication breaks down, mistakes occur. These mistakes might be small hiccups, like a plumber arriving an hour earlier than expected. However, serious errors can occur as well. A worker may improperly remove a load-bearing wall, for instance, or a subcontractor may install the wrong granite countertops.

Serving as your own general contractor gives you control over the entire project – from start to finish.

CONS OF BEING YOUR OWN GENERAL CONTRACTOR

The downsides of being your own general contractor greatly depend on your building experience. If you’re a seasoned pro, you might encounter few – if any – roadblocks on the way to your brand new kitchen. But if you’re a novice, this journey will be much bumpier.

LEARNING CURVE

General contractors have a wealth of knowledge that the typical homeowner lacks. They have experience managing complicated construction projects, supervising subcontractors, and providing guidance when unexpected issues like mold or termite damage arise.

Though general contractors charge thousands of dollars, their technical know-how will help you avoid costly mistakes. If, for instance, you botch the plumbing in your powder room, you will need to fork out an additional $5,000 to $10,000 to replumb the space.

In sum, hiring a trained and licensed professional ensures that the work is done correctly the first time.

LIMITED OR NO NETWORK

Do you know a concrete contractor? How about a wallpaper installer? Are they both licensed and insured? Will they perform quality work? If you’re a novice home renovator, you probably don’t have the answers to these questions.

General contractors are well-connected. Many of these licensed professionals have been in the industry for decades and have spent those years building relationships with the best vendors. When you hire a general contractor to tackle your renovation, they already have a team of subcontractors (think: plumbers, electricians, drywall specialists) lined up and ready to go that they have already vetted.

Perhaps more importantly, general contractors understand how to navigate bureaucratic red tape. From experience, they know to complete paperwork at the building inspections office and push it through the system in a timely fashion. These industry experts may also enjoy certain perks – an expedited permit, for instance – that homeowners do not.

SLEEPLESS NIGHTS

Almost every homeowner will agree that a remodel is stressful. It’s little wonder why. Overhauling any part of your home is disruptive. With a kitchen remodel, for instance, you’ll likely be resigned to cooking with a microwave in the living room for an extended period of time.


Though there’s no avoiding certain stressors, hiring a general contractor can alleviate some of this mayhem. Your general contractor will mitigate project hold-ups like no-show subcontractors and back-ordered materials. They also know how to deal with unforeseen problems.


If you already have a lot on your plate, leave renovating to the professionals. Attempting to tackle this project alone could compromise your happiness.

TIME MANAGEMENT

A time crunch makes any project more stressful, home renovations included. While some remodels can move slowly – a guest bedroom refresh, for instance – others are more pressing. If, for example, you’re DIY’ing your family’s only bathroom, you need to make quick work of the project.

Unfortunately, it can be hard for an amateur builder to serve as their own general contractor while also meeting a pressing deadline. Comparatively, general contractors are motivated to complete every job as efficiently as possible so that they can keep their queue moving.

PHYSICAL STRAIN

Managing your own renovation is a physically demanding undertaking. If you don’t have the proper safety equipment, or if you have an old injury, you could seriously hurt yourself trying to lift and place material.

IS IT LEGAL TO BE YOUR OWN GENERAL CONTRACTOR IN NC?

It depends. For better or for worse, North Carolina has fairly stringent laws surrounding owner-contractor home construction projects. According to general statute 87-1, any building construction or alteration project costing $30,000 or more must be supervised by a general contractor licensed in this state.

However, if the homeowner plans to occupy the dwelling for at least 12 months following the completion of the project, they may serve as their own general contractor. The only catch? They must submit an affidavit to the local building inspector verifying their eligibility for the owner-contractor exemption.

This affidavit must verify that:

  • The owner-contractor owns the property
  • The homeowner will supervise all aspects of construction
  • The homeowner will be physically present for inspections, unless building plans were drawn and sealed by a licensed architect

To summarize, it is legal to be your own general contractor in North Carolina if you meet certain eligibility requirements.

But keep in mind that as the owner-contractor, you’ll be expected to field questions from the building inspector and, if your work isn’t up to code, you’ll be expected to fix your mistakes. Otherwise, you may face fines.

GENERAL CONTRACTORS PROVIDE PEACE OF MIND & QUALITY WORK

You might be tempted to tackle your kitchen makeover alone. After all, serving as your own general contractor can save money. However, as owner-contractor, you’ll be expected to lead subcontractors, fix hazardous problems like mold and water damage, and keep your project moving forward on time and on budget. 

If you’re in the least bit intimidated by the prospect of managing a major home remodel, call Portico. As a reputable general contractor in Charlotte, we can provide the peace of mind and quality work you’re looking for. We also offer competitive rates.

Interested in learning more? Contact us today!

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