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Designing your new condo or townhouse? Renovating your kitchen? Share your photos and project ideas with other experts here! We're not just modifying our cars anymore..

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Old 08-07-2011, 08:36 PM   #1
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general contracting for building homes

Does anybody the steps into becoming a general contractor for building custom homes? how does one get started?
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Old 08-08-2011, 07:18 PM   #2
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Become a carpenter, work for a contractor and learn everything he's willing to teach you, begin considering starting your own company.
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Old 08-08-2011, 08:12 PM   #3
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have you any experience at all in construction?

why are you looking to do this? build houses and make a quick buck?

you won't make it through you're first house
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Old 08-10-2011, 08:49 AM   #4
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Become a carpenter, work for a contractor and learn everything he's willing to teach you, begin considering starting your own company.
Went the complete opposite direction. Quit my job and started a business. I started in painting, with a lower cost of entry and previous experience. Branched from there and slowly started taking on bigger and different types of job. Someone asked, can you do a kitchen? Sure! Hey, this bathroom needs to go. Ok!

I'm undecided if this was the best route, but it was one available. Now, I do alright. In house, I can do anything inside up until adding to the living space.

To go to the GC level, you need to have a group of people that are reliable and work for you. You need a drywall guy, and an electrician and every other company that you can put your name on their work. That's the hard part, because you need to chew through the morons to find them, and occasionally, that means hiring them.

Right now, I can take on a project, and do demo through my company, call my drywaller and electrician, and have them do their thing and trust that my specs are going to be followed and not show up again until finishing.

Not too shabby in 3 years.
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Old 08-10-2011, 09:05 AM   #5
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To go to the GC level, you need to have a group of people that are reliable and work for you. You need a drywall guy, and an electrician and every other company that you can put your name on their work. That's the hard part, because you need to chew through the morons to find them, and occasionally, that means hiring them.
...and sometimes, eating the results yourself. My dad was a GC, and more than once had to redo someone else's shoddy work at his own cost. You hope and try to avoid that, but it can and does happen.
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Old 08-10-2011, 09:39 AM   #6
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Why gc? It's gonna be tough if you have no experience. maybe go get an apprenticeship, gain the skills , work ur way up and be a subcontractor
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Old 08-10-2011, 11:37 AM   #7
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Working in a specialized trade and having to deal with GCs regularly, I can tell you, it's not just a job where you get to boss people around. You have to keep track of everything that's going on, and if you have multiple overlapping trades, you should know how everyone's job affects everyone else, especially if one trade relies on another.

For us, for example, we usually rely on the electricians to put in any necessary conduit for our camera runs - that means the GC needs to be aware of this fact, ensure that the electricians do it, and he needs to have at least a rough idea of where the runs end up. If it doesn't get done (as happened on a recent job, where neither GC nor electricians were made aware that there even WERE cameras), that means a lot more work for us, and an extra bill for that time to the PM.

On some jobs, we also have to coordinate with drywallers, millworkers, and painters on the locations for our cameras and when they can be mounted... this is something that the GC should also be aware of, and ideally should be the contact point for letting us know when things are ready for us, so we're not having to constantly track down six different people from four different trades.
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Old 08-10-2011, 06:18 PM   #8
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have you any experience at all in construction?

why are you looking to do this? build houses and make a quick buck?

you won't make it through you're first house
I have 1 year experience.

My father is in the business but i think all he does is reno's. He did however built his own custom home as the GC.

I dont think he does contracting build new houses as his business and this is the route i wanna go.
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Old 08-11-2011, 05:14 PM   #9
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work for someone for a few years...gain the experience before you go out and lose your shirt with your own company

if you don't know what you're doing, trades will take full advantage of it in their pricing AND their extras
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Old 08-13-2011, 05:33 PM   #10
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Went the complete opposite direction. Quit my job and started a business. I started in painting, with a lower cost of entry and previous experience. Branched from there and slowly started taking on bigger and different types of job. Someone asked, can you do a kitchen? Sure! Hey, this bathroom needs to go. Ok!

I'm undecided if this was the best route, but it was one available. Now, I do alright. In house, I can do anything inside up until adding to the living space.

To go to the GC level, you need to have a group of people that are reliable and work for you. You need a drywall guy, and an electrician and every other company that you can put your name on their work. That's the hard part, because you need to chew through the morons to find them, and occasionally, that means hiring them.

Right now, I can take on a project, and do demo through my company, call my drywaller and electrician, and have them do their thing and trust that my specs are going to be followed and not show up again until finishing.

Not too shabby in 3 years.
I would NEVER go that route and would NEVER advise someone to consider it, please take no offence to that because none is intended.

I've never seen your work (unless I'm unknowingly one of your subs haha), but I have worked for many contractors who chose to enter the business by starting out doing small jobs like decks and tiling and done alright, but then advanced to more involved work and had major issues. One project in North Vancouver stands out in my mind, it started out as a basic kitchen and bath renovation with all the proper permits, the contractor managing the job did the demo and when the inspector came back in major issues were uncovered that needed to be fixed. So, $500,000 over budget and a second mortgage later they were able to satisfy the inspector, but the home owner had to sell when the project was complete to recover some of the losses. Now, would that have happened if the contractor had a traditional education and wasn't just learning on the fly pushing themselves a little further each time, I can't say for sure, but I doubt it. I was on site during some of the initial demo and I would have stopped almost immediately once I began to see the problems that existed uncovered, but the contractor just didn't understand. That's a worse case scenario, yes, but I've seen many others without the necessary experience also get themselves into trouble and that's why it's best to learn from someone else, so they can stop you before you make a serious mistake and give you the opportunity to learn.
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Old 08-13-2011, 09:46 PM   #11
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I would NEVER go that route and would NEVER advise someone to consider it, please take no offence to that because none is intended.

I've never seen your work (unless I'm unknowingly one of your subs haha), but I have worked for many contractors who chose to enter the business by starting out doing small jobs like decks and tiling and done alright, but then advanced to more involved work and had major issues. One project in North Vancouver stands out in my mind, it started out as a basic kitchen and bath renovation with all the proper permits, the contractor managing the job did the demo and when the inspector came back in major issues were uncovered that needed to be fixed. So, $500,000 over budget and a second mortgage later they were able to satisfy the inspector, but the home owner had to sell when the project was complete to recover some of the losses. Now, would that have happened if the contractor had a traditional education and wasn't just learning on the fly pushing themselves a little further each time, I can't say for sure, but I doubt it. I was on site during some of the initial demo and I would have stopped almost immediately once I began to see the problems that existed uncovered, but the contractor just didn't understand. That's a worse case scenario, yes, but I've seen many others without the necessary experience also get themselves into trouble and that's why it's best to learn from someone else, so they can stop you before you make a serious mistake and give you the opportunity to learn.
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Old 08-13-2011, 11:28 PM   #12
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I have 1 year experience.

My father is in the business but i think all he does is reno's. He did however built his own custom home as the GC.

I dont think he does contracting build new houses as his business and this is the route i wanna go.
seriously?

Hate to say this but 1 year wont cut it in any trade let alone general contracting.
Took me 5 years to just get my red seal as an electrician. and even with a red seal, u wont be certified to even be a sub contractor.

Better strap that tool belt on, you got lots of work to do
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Old 08-14-2011, 09:14 AM   #13
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I would NEVER go that route and would NEVER advise someone to consider it, please take no offence to that because none is intended.

I've never seen your work (unless I'm unknowingly one of your subs haha), but I have worked for many contractors who chose to enter the business by starting out doing small jobs like decks and tiling and done alright, but then advanced to more involved work and had major issues. One project in North Vancouver stands out in my mind, it started out as a basic kitchen and bath renovation with all the proper permits, the contractor managing the job did the demo and when the inspector came back in major issues were uncovered that needed to be fixed. So, $500,000 over budget and a second mortgage later they were able to satisfy the inspector, but the home owner had to sell when the project was complete to recover some of the losses. Now, would that have happened if the contractor had a traditional education and wasn't just learning on the fly pushing themselves a little further each time, I can't say for sure, but I doubt it. I was on site during some of the initial demo and I would have stopped almost immediately once I began to see the problems that existed uncovered, but the contractor just didn't understand. That's a worse case scenario, yes, but I've seen many others without the necessary experience also get themselves into trouble and that's why it's best to learn from someone else, so they can stop you before you make a serious mistake and give you the opportunity to learn.
I totally get that. Given that I love what I do, I probably would have done things differently. I went to school for something totally different. I worked at a career job and at this point, I'm not willing to go and be an apprentice for 10 years.

The difference is, I know when to quit. Being able to say, this job is beyond my level right now, is huge.
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Old 08-14-2011, 02:34 PM   #14
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I totally get that. Given that I love what I do, I probably would have done things differently. I went to school for something totally different. I worked at a career job and at this point, I'm not willing to go and be an apprentice for 10 years.

The difference is, I know when to quit. Being able to say, this job is beyond my level right now, is huge.
That willingness to admit a job is beyond your ability is a very rare trait in the contracting world, serious props for that.
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Old 08-14-2011, 11:11 PM   #15
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Being a GC, I can tell you that with one yr experience you will not survive. Being the person that has to supervise and coordinate all the other trades is a heavy task, depending on your project level. Im not a home builder nor do I work in Vancouver but I have built in Alberta and BC and can say that most "journeyman" trades still need to be babysat. I do T.I.'s ranging from small retail stores to restaurants like 2 Original Joes, Bento and Sushi, and an Arby's (I wasnt the gc on the arbys, I was still working for someone but was the site super).Like stated earlier by Soundy, an inexperienced tradesman (also overworked) can miss things and makes things snowball. That missed conduit can cause a nightmare. Cost on your end, miss a turnover date, displeased client or all of the above.

Quite often I hear subtrades saying oh being a GC is easy. What most people dont see when they leave after their 8hrs is up is all the work that gets done when theres no one to bother me. Installing backing, laying out lighting locations, cleaning, wall layout, shop drawings approval, finishing details, etc..... the list is literally endless.

In all honesty if your desire is to be a GC and own your company put your head down and work for someone willing to train you. When the day ends stay around, ask questions, ask to take on more of a work load, and you will see the results. Trying to take on a large job at first is a recipe for disaster. There are a million things to learn and once you have learnt all of those someone will show you a different route to the same result and then there are a million more things to learn. I learn everyday and you having to be willing to learn and listen to ideas on how to do things but possess the ability and know how to say that wont work.

Now be honest, if I were to hand you a set of plans and specs and asked you to price a job could you? Could you look over the plans and guess what each trade should be worth? (<--haha)Do you know what the market is like now? Could you layout a job? Do you know how plumbing works? How electrical needs to routed? Can you do every job at a site? A general needs to be able to do all jobs just in case. You dont have to all star at everything but if someone were to bail could you finish the scope of work? Would you know where to look to find the answers for anything? If you finding yourself saying no to most of these then find someone willing to train you.

This isnt a knock againist you or anybody else but I wouldnt open shop and build a big dollar engine because I have built the motor in my quad.
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Old 08-15-2011, 01:50 AM   #16
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you should read his 20 other threads. kid needs some direction.
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Old 08-16-2011, 08:25 PM   #17
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my family used to be in the developer business but most of their clients are Chinese because of communication problems. Now that I'm interested in the business so want to pick it up again, i guess just like u... but are you looking to partner up with someone or you will be the one investing in the lots??
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Old 08-17-2011, 11:27 AM   #18
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For every succesful builder, there's 100 failures, u just never hear about them...
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