When I tell people that I and my wife, Amy, are building our own home, I often hear in response something like, “Oh yeah, we built our home back in 2004,” or “We’ve built three homes now, isn’t it fun?” What these encouraging folks often mean though, is that they hired someone—maybe a builder; maybe an architect, then a builder—to design and build their house for them. And that can be a significant undertaking. To get the house you want and to make sure you’re building a good home, there’s still tons of research to be done, countless decisions to make, and many big checks to write. They should be proud of their accomplishment. Often, I let the conversation end there.
When I feel the time is right to share, I explain that Amy and I designed our house (well, with a little help) and have been building it full-time since April. We helped with the excavation and septic install, did all of the foundation waterproofing and insulation; we did the framing, installed all of the windows and doors, built the front porch and two decks, and installed all the exterior trim. We’re just wrapping up the siding, and by the end of the month should be moving inside to install doors and flooring, cabinetry and trim, and to tile and paint. We did hire an excavator, a concrete contractor, a plumber (who is also installing our minisplit heat pump), an electrician, a roofer, a dense-pack insulation installer, and we paid to have the drywall done. But we did not have a GC; we hired and managed all of these subs ourselves.
From the many conversations I’ve had over the years working at Fine Homebuilding and here at GBA, I think the term “owner-builder”…
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