From pilot to contractor: (19) Confessions from an ‘Owner/General Contractor’
October 8, 2014 by Robert Koci
Editor’s Note: John Bleasby has been blogging about his ‘rookie’ experience building his family’s new home, north of Orillia, ON, for almost six months. Now, he has moved into his beautiful new home. We’d like to thank John for his journalistic efforts and congratulate him on a brilliant job as a ‘rookie’ homebuilder – supported sensibly and thoroughly by highly-experienced construction professionals. To read John’s previous blogs, simply type ‘Pilot’ in our search bar. We still have a few more blogs to come from John, so stay tuned.
It’s been 26 weeks since we broke ground on my new house; half a year to the day since my first project as a General Contractor took wing. Looking back at the experience I find my emotions split between that of the GC and that of the owner.
If you have been following this blog from the beginning, you may recall I had it in the back of my mind that, if successful, I might see myself launching a new late-in-life career overseeing and supervising other projects of this size and type. I can say with some authority now, that while I have developed a much greater understanding of the complexities of managing a project as simple as a new home, that understanding has led me at the same time to conclude that I will not be printing up any business cards soon!
I have immense respect for those who work in the construction trade. I mean not only the contractors who must market their services, hire and oversee staff, maintain both internal work standards and external regulatory matters, and of course work with all sorts of client personalities. I also mean the talented trades whose work is physically demanding and skilful. Over the past months, I have been alongside dozens of wonderful individuals, enjoyed their company and admired their work. However, I now know that the construction life is not for me. I enjoy a simple life. My life for the past six months has been anything but simple. Talking to some contacts over the life of this project, what I have experienced in terms of emotional highs and lows has been quite normal. But like the others who have ventured into the playing field of owner/contractor, I am openly saying “I will never do it again!”
But understand this: being intimately involved with all aspects of the project, from the initial design through execution of the smallest on-site detail, has been a fabulous experience. I have gained so much knowledge about the industry, and I know virtually everything about the construction of my house. I wouldn’t have missed this opportunity for the world.
The movers brought our furniture to the new house last past week. Even up to 3 days prior, many said our move-in date was unrealistic. But it’s done and we’re here. Admittedly, there is still a little work to be finished off by the excellent team of trim carpenters brought in a couple of weeks ago to finish the interior. The exterior cladding will be completed by the end of October, with soffits and facia being installed as I write this. Lot grading is complete and sod goes in shortly after Thanksgiving. The rear patio, where next summer a pool will be installed, sits on man-made infill of excavated earth, and therefore must settle this winter and next spring to ensure stability. In other words, we have a very livable house with some exciting finishing touches still to come!
Do I have lessons that I, a rookie, can pass on to you, the professional? I think so. Did the self-imposed rules I set for myself, based on the disciplines I had learned as a professional pilot, see me in good stead? Yes and no. I will attempt to outline my successes and my failures in my final blogs over the next two weeks. Each lesson learned, each experience gained, can be seen from dual perspectives; that of the General Contractor and that of The Owner. Sometimes these twin views mesh, other times they don’t. Hopefully you will be interested to learn where the differences and similarities lie.