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Being An Owner Builder
The Contracting Process
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The Home Building Sequence
building an energy efficient home
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Getting Your
Subcontractors' Quotes

Here are more home building basics! Details of actually collecting subcontractors' quotes which will help you as an owner builder cover all the bases.

plans at the siteGO OVER THE PLANS
Have each sub examine your plans and specifications when giving you a quote.


There are many things which will show up in the specs which are not apparent in the plans alone!

Ask each sub exactly what is normally included in his services.

It’s disheartening to hire a house cleaner, only to find out that he doesn’t do floors!

As an owner builder, you'll find that a task which is done by one subcontractor in Alabama might be done by another subcontractoe in Texas.

For example, in some areas, the framing subcontractor sets the windows and external doors. In other areas, this job is handled by the exterior siding and trim subcontractor or even the suppliers. In some places, the framing subcontractor sets the prefab fireplace. In other places, the people who supply the fireplace take care of installation.

If the framing subcontractor charges $4.00 per square foot, how does he figure the square footage? Are unheated spaces like porches and garages included? Ask all your subcontractors about extra charges. Most subcontractors have specific tasks for which they charge an extra fee.

Also, find out what jobs each subcontractor can do. Example - it’s not unusual to find carpenters who have enough finesse to be able to switch from the heavy pounding of a framing job to the light touch of trim work.

The same subcontractor who does your foundation masonry will probably come back and build your retaining wall and fireplace profile (the brick or stone on the wall around the fireplace). The fewer people you have to deal with, the easier your job will be.

Find out how each subcontractor charges for his work. Some charge on a square foot basis. Some quote each job. Steer clear of one who wants to work on a time and materials basis!

Be sure to ask each subcontractor exactly
when he expects to be paid for his work. That is - does he expect to be paid when the work is completed, or will he wait until you get your construction “draw” before he is paid.

As a general rule, your home building lender will advance funds on a monthly basis. Under normal circumstances, you should only work with subcontractors who are financially able to wait for the end of the month construction loan draw to get paid.

In most cases you should never pay a subcontractor for work that is only partially completed. Most home building tasks that will be done by a subcontractor can be done in a short period of time - from a few hours to a few weeks. Make sure that the subcontractors you use can carry themselves at least until their work is completed.

There are two or three exceptions to the last rule. Your plumber - and sometimes your electrician and heating subcontractors - will probably expect to be paid a healthy percentage of the total contracted price when their work is “roughed in”, and the balance on completion.

The reason for this is because they will have a considerable amount of cost tied up in materials and labor at that point. They have no control over how long it will take you to get to the point where you are ready for them to come back and finish the job, so they want to be able to cover the costs they have incurred.

GET SEVERAL subcontractor QUOTES
Again, get more than one quote for each job. That way you’ll quickly begin to get a feel for the range being charged for each type of work. Then you’ll be able to tell which subcontractor is expensive and which a bargain. A word of caution . . . the lowest price may not be the best bargain!

Written Quotes
As obvious as it may sound, get all your subcontractors' quotes in writing. Most subcontractors will have their own quote forms. That's fine. Just make sure that everything spelled out above is included in the quote!

If subcontractor doesn't have his own form, use ours! Click here.

For additional insight into getting Subcontractors' Quotes,
see Lesson Ten of our online course
Successful Home Contracting


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