Builder Superintendent
June 29, 2006 11:14 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to become a builder superintendent.....What do I need to do/learn....

I’m always fascinated with building things, watch them all come together….I’ve been doing the same office job for almost 25 years and am tired of it. My dream job is to become a builder superintendent and eventually become a home builder… I know it sounds silly….because I don’t have any experience in that field.

I have a couple of houses for rent and contract people to fix them up when the tenant moved out…that’s it. Where can I go about to achieve my dream? What do I need to do/learn?
posted by teapot to Home & Garden (13 answers total)
Why not start out trying to do the repairs yourself on your properties?
posted by StickyCarpet at 11:19 AM on June 29, 2006

Most building superintendents come up through the trades, or at least that's how it worked in my residential construction experience. Just about every super I've worked with, and quite a few GCs, started off on a framing crew right out of high school or fairly early (like, in their early 20's). It's possible that you could gain the ability to read drawings and be able to find problems in them or anticipate upcoming additional costs or scheduling snafus without having worked on construction sites for years and years, but you'll need to convince your prospective employers of that. The standard model for the industry is the apprenticeship system. I get guff from builders all the time because I'm trying to tell them what to do without having as much job experience as them, so I don't think they'd take too kindly to someone who didn't come up in the system.

In construction, time almost literally does equal money, so the scheduling aspect of a super's job seems to me to be the most important. You'll have to know which building trades are supposed be on the jobsite at which stage in the process, which can be difficult to do and requires a solid grasp of how a project's supposed to be put together. We had a super on one project who called one of our subs saying he'd need the guy on the site the next week, when in fact there was no way the guy could even start working for another two months. That super got fired.
posted by LionIndex at 12:01 PM on June 29, 2006

In addition to what LionIndex said above, maybe find a local chapter of a professional association in that industry - for example, NAHB (National Association of Home Builders). Most associations as large as NAHB have courses and seminars, conferences, maybe a career help center, etc., plus that all-important local networking advantage. You never know - you might meet someone that is willing to give you some practical advice on getting started in the industry.

(Disclaimer: I work for a professional association in the real estate industry so I may be a little biased or overly optimistic about what an association can do for you. It's my job to think associations are valuable. )
posted by misskaz at 12:57 PM on June 29, 2006

I'd be careful about going full-bore into construction. Contractors who build house pretty much have office jobs, you know. If you're interested in that kind of thing how about furniture design, or interior design? Then you can go to school for a bit to give you a sense of whether you like it or not.
posted by miss tea at 1:16 PM on June 29, 2006

PS by that I mean keep your day job until you are SURE you want to make the change.
posted by miss tea at 1:16 PM on June 29, 2006

I think I have an "eye" for putting things together to make the house looks cozy and such.... The idea of buiding a house from the ground up is somehow fascinated to me.

If I have time and happen to pass by a building job site, I just stop and watch and wish I'd be a part in the process.

LionIndex gave me many valid points, one of 'em: builders aren't too kindly to someone who didn't come up in the system. I thought about it, and it's difficult to find a starting point.

Any suggestion, insight, advise are greatly appreciated.
posted by teapot at 1:30 PM on June 29, 2006

LionIndex gave me many valid points, one of 'em: builders aren't too kindly to someone who didn't come up in the system. I thought about it, and it's difficult to find a starting point.

I don't know if I meant it that harshly, but more in a way that a decent analogy for your question is: "I'd like to change professions to be a football head coach--how do I do that?" You've got a really uphill battle in what you want to do, and what your subordinates think of you as their boss is one of the least of your problems. Why would anyone hire you in the first place? If you've been in an office job for 25 years, I'm assuming you're somewhere around 45. Nobody's going to hire a 45 year-old to do grunt labor, and you'd most likely be put off by the salary at that level anyway. Nobody's going to hire you at a higher position unless you've got field experience. It'll be very hard to get someone to hire you in any trade unless they've worked with you before. Sure, you could go to a vocational school, learn a trade, and get a contractor's license; but based on what I know from my experiences, you'll still start at the bottom, having to do purely physical labor. If there's a way around that, I don't know about it.
posted by LionIndex at 3:09 PM on June 29, 2006

You say you want to be a building superintendent. So what, exactly, do you see yourself doing in your head? Hammering in nails, or another such aspect of labor? Heading up a crew to make sure it is done well and on time? Coordinating all of the labor on site that day? Making sure that the project is on schedule, in budget, and according to the architect's specs?

There are many different duties, and I am not sure if you know which you want to be- "and eventually become a home builder" is a vague phrase. Do you mean design a home? Because an architect does that.
posted by Monday at 3:12 PM on June 29, 2006

Good for you! Building stuff is so cool-- I'm in construction as well, but on the contracting side. I studied construction management in college for three years before switching to math education. After teaching for five years I was offered a job doing contracting with the small firm who built our current house-- our chit chats during our contract and closing meetings made an impression, I guess. Anyway, I'm in a similar boat as you.

If I were you I'd call up some small residential building companies and volunteer or look for an internship. You're not going to get hired as a Superintendent without significant experience. You need to know the trades well-- what's the difference between a so-so drywall job and a great drywall job, etc.

Or look for a job doing the office-side of construction work, and then let them know you'd like to be a superintendent as well-- maybe they'll let you ride along one day a week with a super if you take a paycut or something.

Good luck! It's an awesome field to work in!!! Feel free to email me through my profile with questions.
posted by orangemiles at 7:51 PM on June 29, 2006

I work for a large homebuilder. The people we have on staff who have the job title "Builder" actually spend most of their time managing jobs - coordinating subcontractors and suppliers. "Construction techs" do more actual hands-on labor, including punch-out work (last minute wrapping up loose ends, touch-up work.) Our builders, for the most part, have either 2-year or 4-year degrees in construction management. Other companies may operate differently!
posted by tizzie at 8:02 PM on June 29, 2006

I guess what I really would like to do is managing job: read the blue print, coordinate subs, supplies .... make sure the project is on the schedule, budget.... I feel that I have people skill and can manage people. But I don't see myself doing plumbing, electrical, hammer the nail, hang the sheet rock....

As LionIndex said "Nobody's going to hire you at a higher position unless you've got field experience. It'll be very hard to get someone to hire you in any trade unless they've worked with you before." I know it's a hard fact.

I think Orangemiles gave me a good idea: "do volunteer or look for an internship at small residential building".

Again, all advices (good/bad) are sincerely appreciated.
posted by teapot at 8:36 PM on June 29, 2006

You could also get a two or four year degree, if you are willing to go back to school. Those catapult you into the "read the blue print, coordinate subs, supplies" position. In fact, I am getting my four year degree in Construction Management, and I had a job offer a full year before my graduation date. And I don't think it'll be hard to get others- and I have zero experience on the labor side of things.
posted by Monday at 8:51 PM on June 29, 2006

I'm not sure if I want to invest another 4 yrs in school. I've done my fair share of school in my younger age. My degree is in Accounting, so it's unrelated with Contruction Management.

I learn fast with watching people... I guess my short-cut would be finding a job with a small construction company. I know the pay is peanut comparing with what I am making now... But will see....

Thanks everyone for your opinions/advices/suggestions.
posted by teapot at 1:52 PM on June 30, 2006

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