Owner Builder: Hints from the Trenches

Owner Builder Hint #1

The first owner builder hint is " The More Bids, The Better!"

You will be surprised at the variance in bid prices from different contractors for the same work. Make sure you compare apples to apples.

Don't look at your first bid proposal and be satisfied. It may look like a great number. Perhaps the market is tighter than you anticpated and subs will be crunching their numbers better across the board. Get three or more bids for EVERYTHING.

Owner Builder Hint #2

"Keep the Jobsite Clean."

A clean jobsite is critical! This is one area that we can address everyday. Pick up any trash. Sweep the floor. You will find that a clean and tidy jobsite will encourage most subcontactors to do a better job and keep work areas tidier on their own.

Be sure that daily clean-up is a requirement of any contract. If a crew isn't cooperating, meet with their foreman. If the foreman ignores your request, remind the principal owner of the company via email ( with photos of the mess ) that clean up is in the contract. Owners normally take this personally and will really lay into their crews, so be sure to approach the onsite foreman first.

Owner Builder Hint #3

"Be a Visible Presence on the Project."

If trade contractors know that they can expect you to visit the jobsite regularly, they will do a better job. Most contractors have a sense of pride about their work and if "The Boss" might be coming, their best foot will be forward.

Don't be a pain. If you see something you don't understand or that you think is sub-standard, quietly speak to the foreman. In most cases, the foreman wants a happy customer. In ALL cases, he wants a happy boss. See hint #2 for what to do if things aren't addressed.

Owner Builder Hint #4

"No alcohol allowed on the jobsite."

There was a day when the jobsite superintendent would show up about noon with an ice chest of beers for all the tradesmen. Some subcontractors live in the past, so it's a possibility they may be tempted to embibe on your project. You cannot allow this to happen. Quality suffers, schedule suffers, and most of all, you take on a great deal of liability if someone drinks alcohol on the site and gets hurt or injures someone else.

Post a Sign, " No Alcohol on Jobsite". If you do see someone drinking a beer while working, insist that they leave immediately. My recommendation, especially if you have posted the sign, is to notify their office that they will not be allowed back on your project. The owner builder may consider hiring a construction manager or consultant to assist with the project.