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Mary's Forum Posts: 101
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By Mary in PA on 4/12/2010


Hi All,

A truss guy who was providing me with a quote gave me the names of three local "framers". At least that is what he called them. When I contacted them it seems they call themselves "builders", not framers. I explained that I was looking for a contractor to frame the building, put in the windows I had purchased and set the trusses. If they were interested they could also quote on the siding and roofing. This scope of work met with various responses, with them generally wanting to be the GC, but willing to at least quote the work. None of them seemed overly enthusiastic about the project.

So I'm wondering, am I off track with this trade? Are there just "framers" who are skilled in that area and happy to do that only? Or is it typical to find a builder who will do just a portion of the project (i.e. not excavation, not foundation, not siding)?

Thanks, Mary


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By Matt in Mooresville, NC on 4/12/2010


I've found that there are two types of GCs in my area, ones who have their own crews and work on the job site with their crews, and ones that ride from one job site to another overseeing their subs. The second type doesn't usually have any real crew members/laborers, just possibly some site supervisors.

Of the working GCs, I found two in my area that are willing to work with O-Bs without complaining about not doing the whole project. The one I decided to use is one that two of my family members have used in the past for O-B projects with good results. If you can find one willing to work with you, it can work out very well.

That being said, the "supervisor" type of GCs also sub out their framing.  Around here, there are several crews that have GC licenses, but prefer to only do framing for other builders. These will probably be people you will not have heard of or recognize their names. The best way I found to discover these guys is to talk to the people at the local lumber stores (not Lowe's, HD, or 84).  Most of these guys know the better "framers" in the area, and want to help you out as it's in their best interest also.

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By Pat in Arnold, CA on 4/13/2010


You want to always try to get to the guy who actually does the work. Otherwise, you are having to pay for the supervisor, which can be you. A good example for us was when we needed the septic installed. There are companies in our area that only do septics and those that do them among other things. Our bids from those types of GC companies were around $12,000 to $14,000. I decided to find the guy who would actually be driving the excavation equipment (and owned the equipment) with no one else involved. His bid was $7,350. Obviously, the other guys have their profit and overhead built in, whereas the guy actually doing the work had little to next to none.
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By Matt in Mooresville, NC on 4/13/2010


Agreed. What I meant is that you either want to find a GC who has his own crew and does the work themselves that may be willing to work with you, or you want to find the actual framing crews that the "supervisor" GCs use on their jobs. After re-reading my post, I see how it wasn't very clear what I was trying to say.

If someone acts like they're not really that interested in doing the job without managing the whole project, look for someone else if at all possible. These guys will probably not make your job a priority, and you may end up with sub-par work that you're not happy with. Just my $.02.

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By Kenneth in Lees Summit, MO on 4/13/2010


I used a "builder" for the ICF portion of my project. I had another "builder" bid certain portions of the project as well, but he preferred to either be GC or to have a consulting agreement with me - I didn't use this person at all.

The "builder" that I used allowed me great flexibility as to expertise (another contact, how do I do this?), suggested suppliers (I contacted all with a reference, I used some, this "builder" used some of my suppliers on his future jobs), allowed me to borrow tools ('Hey, can you drop off some scaffolding', etc.), and even allowed me to borrow expertise ("I need to go out of town for this Hurricane Katrina gig, can you finish this punch list to get my COO that the inspector left me?"). 

Here was the key, as a builder he had a crew that built houses and he had portions of those houses he subcontracted out; I only asked him to do what his crew would do and not the portion he would normally subcontract. Truthfully I think the relationship worked out for him as he could focus on what he did best (the portion his crew builds) and he didn't have the hassle of dealing with subcontractors, suppliers, variability in supply costs, financing, and the owner (he didn't build spec). He also had an entire crew that just did install work from Lowe's. These crews did not interchange. Now for some irony, he subcontracted placing the roof trusses to another "builder" that only did spec houses (his crew had a scheduling issue that conflicted with my schedule). So I had two real GC "builders" on my house, both as subcontractors.

I still talk to him (he called me just a week or so back); it must have been a win-win relationship. I wouldn't automatically rule it out.

I do agree with the suggestion that you talk to the person with their name on the truck. Many of my subcontractors were small-time operations, and the owner was frequently the person who was there with the tools doing the work. These small subcontractors were the key to the project, not the larger production subcontractors. You find these small subcontractors only through word of mouth.


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By Mary in PA on 4/14/2010


Thanks Matt, Pat and Kenneth for your comments. They're really helpful for us newbies to get a feel for some of the details of how to get things done... or get a contractor to get things done. :-)


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