Should I use a general contractor for home repairs (not renovation)?
May 13, 2015 10:43 AM   Subscribe

I just bought a 100-year old house in Seattle. The inspector had pointed out various things that need fixing with regard to the structure, plumbing, electrical, and heating systems. A very rough estimate for all of the important fixes put together would run about $20-30K, which is OK. I'm also OK with waiting a couple months before moving in to get the bulk of these repairs done. But I've never owned a house before and don't really know where to start. Should I use a general contractor to get these things done?

I've seen answers here on using a general contractor (example), but most seem directed more at renovation than basic repairs, and at a higher price budget. This one is basically what I'm asking, but I have more specifics:

Examples of the things I need to get done:

* Floor beam touching the ground (not sagging); create sufficient clearance.
* Replace a section of the sewer pipe, or alternatively line it.
* Put in a dryer vent to the outdoors (there's none currently)
* A section of heating duct is missing; install it.
* Have an electrician make sure the knob-and-tube wiring is OK.
* Make sure the kitchen stovetop hood is evacuating to the outside (currently not sure where it's going)
* Slope earth away from foundation
* Epoxy cracks in basement wall
* and lots more!

So my question is whether it would be cheaper (or more advisable) to have a general contractor take care of all of the above vs hiring a bunch of individual professionals (struc engineer, plumber, electrician, etc).
posted by splitpeasoup to Home & Garden (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
How much else do you have going on in your life ? Are you good at handling schedules and all the various meetings, appointments, bills etc to take the role on yourself ?

Generally, GC has that knowledge and contacts with the various engineers, tradesfolk, suppliers etc to oversee the job. That's why the GC takes a cut out, because it can be a huge hassle.

OTOH, as you note, you have number of unrelated jobs (vs building a house, where things progress sequentially). That might mean the GC is going to charge you a higher rate.

So it boils down to how comfortable are you trying to find/schedule and pay all the various people doing each of those jobs, vs having a single point-of-contact (and single person you pay), but be paying more over-all for ?
posted by k5.user at 10:52 AM on May 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

It would be odd to hire a GC to handle a set of mostly pretty basic repairs (as opposed to a renovation project). Sounds more like you need a competent handyman plus an electrician and plumber.

A GC would definitely cost you more, assuming you can find one who wants to take this sort of thing on.
posted by ssg at 10:59 AM on May 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Sounds more like you need a competent handyman plus an electrician and plumber.

Thanks! This is exactly the sort of info I was looking for. I was not even aware that 'handyman' was a job title in itself, I thought it was a collective term for electricians, plumbers etc.
posted by splitpeasoup at 11:11 AM on May 13, 2015

Best answer: The challenge, in my experience, is finding a competent handyman. This is a problem for all trades, but I've found it to be exponentially worse with "handymen." I've hired some who came with stellar referrals from friends, strong Angie's List reviews, etc., and still had serious problems. (For the record, literally everyone we have hired based on a good Angie's List rating has been excellent with the exception of handymen. It's been a really great resource for us). It could just be that we have had really bad luck, but we've been homeowners for over ten years in a few different cities, and have yet to find a handyman we'd hire a second time. It seems like most of the people who advertise themselves that way are just not very good.

It does seem like this is not a typical job for a GC, but having been through several of these types of things before, I personally might be inclined to at least talk to a few GCs, largely in the hopes that they'd be able to get me someone better than the typical handyman...
posted by primethyme at 12:04 PM on May 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

other things to consider: do any of these need permits for the work to be done ? Is there code-compliance to worry about ? (Electrical and plumbing almost certainly, venting possibly) Plus some work is engineering (cracks in basement/foundation walls, low beams) where you might want an expert opinion on cause and correct fix.

States have different regulations on who can perform what kind of work, what types of insurance the person must carry, limitations on the scope of the work etc.
posted by k5.user at 12:14 PM on May 13, 2015

Yeah. These are all maintenance things. Unless you decide on changing out the wiring, I don't see why you'd wait to move in. I think you'd be better off hiring tradespeople yourself; a landscaping company to do the grading, a lower tier HVAC place to replace the duct work and dryer/stove vents, etc. Get more informed opinions but be prepared to have folks try to upsell you on every job. You DON'T want to give a GC a big down payment for the whole job.
posted by bonobothegreat at 12:55 PM on May 13, 2015

We had great referrals for repairpeople from our realtor, because often sellers have requests for repairs prior to closing, and good realtors like talent that is reliable and effective. Some of the projects can be combined, too, to keep water flowing away from the house. See who the realtors in the area recommend.
posted by childofTethys at 4:13 PM on May 13, 2015

« Older Win7 Computer can't see other Win7 comp on 4...   |   Cannabis for pain Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.