Hire fixers separately or hire one contractor to lead the work?
September 4, 2011 7:41 PM   Subscribe

If I need plumbing, painting, electrical, HVAC work and carpentry work done on my newly purchased home, is it better to hire one contractor for all the work or just find a separate painter, electrician, HVAC guy etc? I am a first time home buyer, so sorry if this is an obvious question.

One bathroom needs a total re-do (for which I plan to hire a design-build firm) and the rest of the things are little things spread throughout the house with the exception of painting of each room. I have a bad back and can't do painting myself. Please let me know what you think, based off of your own experiences. I haven't yet moved in, the home is vacant but I am eager to moved the work along so I can move in without having to deal with dust and mess.
posted by dottiechang to Home & Garden (7 answers total)
You should hire a general contractor based upon a recommendation from someone you know personally, who can show you their work done as ordered, and say that they were happy with the service.
posted by ovvl at 8:09 PM on September 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yes, a general contractor will be able to schedule the dependencies in the work, and basically get the painters in last.
posted by carter at 8:13 PM on September 4, 2011

You should hire a general contractor because the average person doesn't have the knowledge or experience to schedule or supervise trade contractors. Hiring a GC will be a better use of your time and money.
posted by crankylex at 8:54 PM on September 4, 2011

It depends on your level of knowledge, spare time, and how much of a factor the money is. If you've got some knowledge of home maintenance and a fair amount of spare time, you can save 10-20% by acting as your own GC. You will be responsible for permitting, so you'll want to check with your local planning department. However, if you're willing to pay some extra money and don't want to deal with the details, you'll want to hire a GC.
posted by Shoggoth at 9:58 PM on September 4, 2011

I bought a house that needed a lot of work, and the first thing sorted was the electrical, and I had a wonderful electrician, and through him I was hooked up with many other first-rate tradesmen. They needed no help from me when something had to be co-ordinated between them. I did some work myself but it was my first house and I had no relevant experience, and at no point did it occur to me that I might have difficult scheduling or supervising things.

If you can find tradespeople you trust I am mystified as to the role of a contractor. I had electrical, carpentry, plumbing, HVAC, water treatment system work, possibly something else I am forgetting, and "contractor" never occurred to me. It was pleasant to work with all the people I hired individually, and now if anything goes wrong I have trustworthy people I can shoot e-mails to and hear back from immediately (I am too poor to be a really lucrative account, but I do serve good meals to people doing work on my house); I suspect that if I had hired one person to hire people for me and manage them for me, I would not have those helpful, expert, connections.

Ask around for recommendations for tradespeople; pay a bit extra to get people everybody loves, money-saving in the long run, and once you know one good one it is very easy to find more.

OTOH Shoggoth is right about spare time &c; if you want to minimise your involvement... But I found getting work done -- easily a misery -- really pleasant when I got pleasant people doing it; they were clean and considerate and the work went smoothly -- and you can cherry-pick when you do the hiring but a contractor's taste in personalities might not be your own.
posted by kmennie at 10:10 PM on September 4, 2011

You should get the permits required and this will give you a measure of assurance that the work is done properly. We had pretty good luck hiring tradespeople -except for our electrician who slowed the job down because he kept making bullshit excuses for not showing up after getting our deposit. That was the only real trouble we had. We work at home and could really supervise the work. Also, we didn't really have the cash on hand to pay for the whole job at once.
posted by bonobothegreat at 10:51 AM on September 5, 2011

Thanks, I do plan on doing everything with permits. I tend to do things by the book. Since I really don't know what I am doing, I think I may go the GC route. I am not a handy person and I am the first of my friends to buy a home so don't have a big network of home owning buddies to send me their preferred choices.

Scary story to share--during the home inspection, it was found that there was ducting for the hot water heater and furnace were done on the cheap and without permits. My inspector said the ducts were basically letting carbon monoxide into the crawl space and home right under the living room. I feel bad for the poor seller who seemed like a very nice lady. That made me even more convinced to make sure to do all work with permits, even if it is a PITA. She tried to save some money but it could have killed her!
posted by dottiechang at 12:53 AM on September 6, 2011

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