General Contractor versus Self Management – Don’t Fool Yourself Construction is a complicated Process

Construction can be a complicated process with many technical variables to understand, such as building codes and product specification, as well as logistical details to manage, such as product lead times and subtrade scheduling. Through a combination of education, training, and experience, the process becomes more manageable and almost second nature to a professional. For the average person who has no construction experience or training in the industry, there can be many pitfalls that can cost time but more importantly money.  Therefore, it is critical to consider hiring an experienced General Contractor versus Self Managing a construction project to make sure your project exceeds your expectation and not your budget.

Firstly, it is important to understand what a General Contractor is and the service they provide before you decide whether you want to hire one or not. Well, if you Google it, which most of will do, Wikipedia describes a General Contractor as the person or company that is responsible for the day-to-day oversight of a construction site, management of vendors and trades, and the communication of information to all involved parties throughout the course of a building project. Well, that is a good description, but what does that really mean?

A General Contractor becomes responsible for the entire project: communications, logistics, materials, subtrades, internal labour, utility services, safety, insurance, permits, and general problem solving. Essentially, once a scope of work is decided upon, based on the contract, the General Contractor becomes responsible for all aspects of the project until the successful completion.

Here are the main advantages of hiring a General Contractor over Self Management: 

Problem Solving

By hiring an experienced General Contractor, problems are typically handled quickly, calmly, and professionally and often without the homeowner’s involvement. This is because the General Contractor has the experience, skills, and resources to solve problems as they arise and a process to handle issues.   


Having an experienced General Contractor should ensure that materials, labour, and subtrades arrive on site and on time. Logistics takes planning and experience which will keep a project on schedule and on budget. Having relationships with suppliers and subtrades over many years allows General Contractors to have confidence in their team.   


An experienced General Contractor will be able to translate what the client wants to the industry professionals delivering the service. They also ensure the client is well informed about the process, and schedule. Regarding product selection, they often remain impartial to service providers allowing the client to make the most informed decisions.


General Contractors typically have all the services required to complete a project from start to finish including network designers, planners, engineers, suppliers, installers, subtrades, insurance, and financing. These are elements that most individuals do not have at their ready disposal because they may only renovate or build a couple of times in their life. Investing in a General Contractor is investing in their valuable relationships.

Self Management is common for smaller projects, service calls, or when the individual has industry experience. If you are hiring a specific trade for a specific task, for example replacing a hot water tank (plumber), a furnace to be serviced (burner tech), even a roof to be reshingled (roofing company), it could be completed with self management. 

If managing a project, yourself always remember knowledge is critical to a successful of any project so ask these questions and about hundred more:

  • Are the products provided a good quality?
  • Are the products currently available or how long will delivery take?
  • Is the individual I hired qualified and knowledgeable? Do they have references?
  • Who is disposing of waste (hot water tank, shingles, windows, etc.)?

Remember that even smaller projects require an individual to do their due diligence regarding the person or company they are hiring, and they should always have a contract. Further, request confirmation of insurance and always get a receipt for work completed.

When deciding if you require a General Contractor, it is important to understand the scale of your project, the resources needed and, most importantly, the realistic demand on your time. Bathrooms, Kitchens, Basements, Additions, and New Construction have a lot of moving parts and should have a professional General Contractor managing the project.

Admittedly, I am biased because I am a General Contractor, a Professional Engineer, and Red Seal Carpenter. So, I understand the value of hiring an experienced, professional General Contractor along with the pitfalls of Self Management. Even with over 30 years experience in the construction industry, I still learn something new on a regular basis, I listen to the opinions and suggestions of other professionals, and, honestly, I still make mistakes from time to time. The important part is that after 30 years, I know how to fix mistakes and solve problems quickly and cost effectively to keep projects on time and on budget – this could be your advantage to hiring an experienced professional General Contractor.


by Dan Monk