Building Tips

Five Important Tips for Being Your Own Contractor

We are currently on our fourth build, but on this one we have hired a contractor to oversee the process. So why are we not doing it ourselves on this one? There’s a couple of reasons. Henry and I wanted to be able to focus more on documenting the process and creating helpful content about building. We knew that this would be more difficult to do if we were serving as our own contractor.

We also happen to know the best contractor around and he happens to be my brother-in-law. Having that trust and great relationship made it an easy choice for this house.

However, if circumstances were different, we would certainly be our own contractor again.

The thought of serving as your own contractor can be scary, but when you start to talk about saving money, it helps people get over that fear. Over the past sixteen years, we’ve served as our own contractor on several houses, and we’ve learned a lot! I won’t be able to tell you everything in this one article, but I’m going to share with you some of the most important things you need to do and remember when building your own house.

Serving as your own contractor does take lots of time, but we have managed to make it work in the past. It will save you thousands of dollars if you can take on the responsibility. Here are a few tips that we feel are essential and very important while serving as your own contractor.

Keep Track of Financials

Keeping up with the financial side of things is a must when building a home. When using a contractor he or she normally keeps up with the financial side of things, but when serving as your own contractor it is on you. This is very important in knowing how much you have paid out. It helps you also stay on budget and see where you are compared to what you have budgeted for.

We always keep a spreadsheet of everything we pay out. This included labor and material.


When you start your build, you want to have a builder’s risk insurance policy. This is so important! You should be able to get this through your homeowners insurance agency.

If you are getting a loan for the build, they will insist you have one anyway. If not, I would still strongly suggest this. Once the house is finished, this can be turned into a normal home owners policy.

Also, as you are hiring subs for the job, make sure they carry their own insurance. This will save you lots of headache if someone gets hurt while on the job. Make sure they show their proof of insurance before any work is started.

Get Multiple Bids

When hiring sub contractors, it’s important to get multiple bids for each stage of the project. For example, we got bids from three different electricians. We ended up hiring the one in the middle. After talking to each one, we could tell that he was the most knowledgeable and would be the best to work with.

It turned out to be such a good move! He did such an amazing job and was a pleasure to work with. Through the process we formed a great relationship with him and have even used him on multiple projects since. He’s now our goto electrician!

So it’s not always about saving every penny you can when hiring subs. You also need to think about who is the best fit for the job.


When hiring subs, also make sure to do your homework. Word of mouth, internet research, and even asking for past job references is not out of the question. In fact, it is necessary.

Never Pay Upfront

Never ever pay someone before they start a job. We learned our lesson the hard way on this one. Our first house we knew very little about this building stuff and quickly made a bad decision. We paid someone upfront, they worked a couple of days, then never came back to finish. Thankfully it wasn’t a huge job, but it was enough to make us feel very stupid.

It’s common to pay half way through or in thirds based on the work completed. The important things is to agree on a total price and the process of payment before the job starts. This will cause less confusion and headache.

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  • Reply Mark Davidson

    What would say is more difficult when acting as your own general contractor, major remodeling or building new?

    Great article, thanks!

    July 5, 2019 at 12:26 pm
    • Reply Brooke

      Hello Mark! I would say both have their pros and cons. So glad you enjoyed the article!

      November 18, 2019 at 7:54 pm
  • Reply Jessica

    I would also add (if you plan to finance the project) to make sure your lender approves self-contractor projects and to see how/if that changes the loan. I work in lending and the majority of my projects are custom homes that are primary dwellings. While we can allow self-contracting, it often does change the parameters of what we expect from customers.

    November 15, 2019 at 5:03 pm
  • Reply Brooke

    Hello Jessica! This is very true and a great point!

    November 18, 2019 at 7:55 pm
  • Reply Emmalee

    Hi, Do you still have the floor plan for this amazing farmhouse?!

    April 30, 2020 at 4:47 pm
  • Reply derek bjornstad

    Hello Brooke and Hennery

    love your work you are very talented. Is it possible to get the farm house with pool plans. I have a property in bailey north Carolina that would be perfect for this design. I am not asking for free plans. let me know the cost if I could have the basic plan for your this home.

    thank you

    October 2, 2020 at 4:04 am
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