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There are three basic avenues for building your log or timber home: You can hire a professional builder/general contractor, act as your own GC or tackle construction yourself. The decision needs to be made based on how much time and money you have available, as well as an honest evaluation of your level of ability and motivation. But even if you believe you have the time and talent to build your log or timber home yourself, local building officials — or even your lender — may feel differently. Let’s explore the options.
Option 1 - Hire a Professional
The easiest path to log or timber home satisfaction is to have a pro build it
. In choosing this option, you’ll still be intimately involved in the planning and design of the home, but then turn it over to a builder who will take the reins on its construction.
Choosing the right professional to accomplish this task is not without challenges, and it will cost you the most,
but building a log or timber home is a complex task that requires a vast amount of knowledge. A builder’s expertise is the shortest route to enable you to get into your new home on time and on budget.
Option 2 - Be Your Own General Contractor
A more time-consuming option is to act as your own general contractor (GC). A GC organizes the process
, which entails a bit of risk, since the proverbial buck stops with you. You’ll identify, evaluate and meet with all subcontractors, as well as prepare all the specifications for each trade. You’ll have to obtain and evaluate subcontractor bids and prepare a complete cost estimate for the project. You’ll also have to establish legal contracts between you and your subs, obtain insurance and educate yourself on all local building codes, plus attend to other details, such as pulling building permits, setting construction schedules, ordering materials and managing the job site.
A potential downside to working with subcontractors as your own GC is that subs typically maintain relationships with professional builders from whom they have the ability to get ongoing work. With the owner-GC, this will be a one-off job for them. There’s a danger they won’t be loyal to you — maybe even not finish your job so they can take another with an established builder. Plus, you may end up paying more for construction materials, since a pro GC often can obtain bulk discounts that aren’t available to laymen.
Option 3 - Serve as an Owner-Builder
The most challenging option, and the riskiest, is to be an owner-builder or do-it-yourselfer
. In this role, you will be responsible for everything the general contractor is responsible for — plus you’ll do all or most of the construction yourself. A word of caution: Unless you are a licensed builder, you may not actually be allowed to build it yourself, either for building-code safety reasons, increasingly strict regulations or your lender may not approve a loan for an owner-built home, due to increased financial risk for them. If this is an option you want to pursue, make sure you can do it legally.
Despite the obstacles, there’s something to be said for the satisfaction you can get from building your home with your own two hands. Plus, there’s money to be saved here, if you know what you’re doing. If you’re inexperienced, correcting mistakes can add expenses that you wouldn’t have otherwise incurred. Just weigh the pros against the cons and know what you’re getting into.
Whether you’ll be hiring a contractor or serving as an owner-GC or an owner-builder. The sooner you decide exactly which path you want to follow, the quicker you’ll be able to make that dream home a reality.