Top Five Benefits of Hiring a General Contractor

If you’re ready to build your dream home, one of the first steps is deciding if you should manage the project on your own or hire a general contractor. With books, online videos and articles, you may feel ready to dive right in and construct your own home from the ground up.

Before embarking single-handedly on the adventure of building a home, take some time to consider your decision carefully. While acting as your own general contractor can be an exciting and worthwhile experience, it also can be a complicated, technically demanding and time-consuming commitment. To ensure the end result of your project is a comfortable, well-built home for you and your family, consider the following:

Building Codes. The purpose of residential building codes is to provide minimum standards for the health and safety of the public. A general contractor deals with local building codes on a daily basis and is equipped with the expertise to comply with the rules and requirements.

Legal Issues. What happens if you, your neighbor or someone you’ve hired to work on your home gets injured while your home is under construction? If you’re taking on your own project, obtaining proper liability insurance is essential and may be complicated and expensive. Professional contractors generally carry both workers’ compensation and liability insurance to protect themselves—and you—against any unfortunate events.

Expertise. Building a home is a complex activity. Subcontractors can provide specific expertise but if you act as your own contractor you will need to consider your ability to manage the overall process. Do you know the order in which activities must be completed? A general contractor is familiar with the process from start to finish and has a deep understanding of the smaller details that are essential to constructing a quality home.

Project Management. Juggling everyday demands and family needs while building a home is a challenge. Home building is a full-time job. A general contractor is well-versed in all of the activities of home construction such as finding qualified subcontractors, monitoring their progress, ordering the right materials, securing permits and scheduling inspections.

Troubleshooting. An experienced contractor already knows about the pitfalls involved in building a home and can find solutions more easily because he or she deals with these problems every day. Small setbacks can turn into much larger issues if they are not handled quickly. A qualified contractor also has the expertise to prepare your jobsite for impending heavy rain or high winds. Bad weather can wreak havoc on your schedule and the quality of the construction.

For more information on home building or to find a building professional in your area, contact the Shenandoah Valley Builders Association.

Zack Snell
Valley Renovators




Why I Think Uou Should “Rip off the Bandage” When Redecorating Your Home

We all know how painful it can be to just rip a bandage off. As awful as that moment is – holding your breath, counting to three, and giving a really hard pull while you grit your teeth – it’s the best way to just get the pain over and done. I feel it’s also the best solution when you’re redecorating or remodeling your home. Don’t just patch it up with a bandage – rip it off!
Have a Financial Plan
Before beginning ANY redecorating or remodeling project, you must have a plan for what you can spend. Only you know what you’re comfortable with. You may not be aware of what things cost, but a professional interior decorator or designer (or contractor) will be able to guide you through and explain that quality products will always cost more, but last longer. Hint: it’s probably more than you think it is. If you look at your home as an investment in your lifestyle and family vs. an expense, the bandage is so much easier to remove.Before: boring chandelier and vanilla wallsA previous client was using my Budget Worksheets and marking what she felt would be a good price point to redecorate her living, family, and dining room spaces. When she added up EVERYTHING on the list, she was at almost $100,000. Her comfort level was $60,000. She knew before she started the project where she wanted to be, and I was able to guide her through the process and make the best use of the dollars she had. And just an FYI – she’s the one who inspired this blog post. When we were talking about it later, she said, “We had saved the money and set it aside to do our home. Instead of doing it little by little, we decided to just rip off the bandage. Now we can enjoy our home every day instead of dragging out the process for years.”
Don’t Nitpick the Details
When you’re in the middle of renovations it may be hard to imagine the final space. All of a sudden, you’re second-guessing the choices. When I did this coffee area in Preston Lake, we chose the paint colors based on the furnishings that would be going into the space. Mr. Client HATED the paint color for this area when he saw it. But he was seeing ONLY the paint color (he called it toothpaste) – not a completed space.I promised him that if he still hated it when everything was in place, we’d look at alternatives. In the end, he absolutely loved it. If this client had started second-guessing the design halfway through the process it would have completely changed the space. And cost him more money to select a new color and have it repainted.
Less Interruption to Your Life & Routines
Redecorating & Remodeling can be a difficult process to endure. I often use the phrase “it’s a lot like having a baby”. By planning ahead and then living through it all just ONCE it can make it so much easier on your family & your sanity. Yes, it stinks to lose your kitchen for 6 weeks or so. But it’s easier than doing it in small increments and disrupting your life fewer times to get the space you’ve always dreamed of having. I can tell you from my own experience in this – my parents built the kitchen cabinets I designed.
We lived for 18 months without counter tops – we put down plywood and covered it with contact paper. And we didn’t have a functioning dishwasher for 6 months. We lived without doors on our cabinets for a year. You know the phrase “the cobbler’s children have no shoes”? I had no kitchen. And then they both passed away before it was completed. So now I have to hire someone to finish the details. I’ve never published it before, but here are a few of the “in process” pics. We started this in November of 2014 and as of today (June 2020) it’s not 100% complete.
I can only imagine how much better my life would have been if I’d been able to spend a month or two on this renovation… And sadly, as beautiful as my kitchen is now – it caused me so much pain through the process that I don’t fully appreciate it. We don’t want you to feel that way about your project.
Final Reveal is a Moment to Enjoy
On a happier note – the Final Reveal is always the highlight of any redecorating or remodeling project. It’s a moment when the clients get to see their space. The phrase I hear most often is, “I can’t believe this is our home! It looks like a magazine!” BINGO. We didn’t waste years of your life – it was all pulled together in just a few months. Even the Purple Project – which required removing three walls, gutting the kitchen, and refinishing the floors – was done within six months of the initial Consultation.
Rip off the Bandage and Don’t Suffer Through It
While it may hurt for just a little while, it’s definitely easier in the long run to set the money aside for your project in advance, get professionals to do the design / demo / construction work, and walk in to your newly redecorated or renovated space. Your sanity will thank you in the long run.
Until next time… xoxo Crystal
Crystal Ortiz
Bluestone Decorating

Most Important Construction Phase – Preconstruction!

One thing is always constant to the overall success of a project, final customer satisfaction, and profitability for all of the team members involved.  The most important phase of a construction project is preconstruction.

One of the unique aspects of operating a civil construction company is that we have a wide range of projects and clients. Our firm which is a 60 employee civil contracting firm often serves as a stand-alone or prime contractor on municipal, infrastructure, or development projects. We also play the role of subcontractor and work for a wide range of general contractors performing hundreds of millions of dollars of volume on an annual basis to small regional homebuilders.  Each of these worlds presents their own unique challenges, and opportunities. 

To those unfamiliar with the development and construction process this may be a bit of a surprise and you might be wondering why?  From an outside perspective the building stage is the “hard” work right? Well hopefully not!

Having personally managed large LEED certified projects for a general contracting firm, as well as serving as owner/developer on multifamily and commercial retail projects by the time a project gets to the “nail hammering” stage the hard work should already be in the rear view mirror for everyone involved from contractor to owner.

If this has not been your experience in the past then I apologize on behalf of our industry! These are some of the key issues that need to be considered in the very beginning of a construction project. Start by asking yourself these critical questions.

  1. Am I allowing myself sufficient time for all phases of the project from Design, Permits, Construction and do I understand the sequence of events?
  2. Are the people that I am working with capable of delivering on my timetable?
  3. Do I have a realistic budget verified by a professional?
  4. Am I allowing myself needed contingency and what is appropriate for my situation?
  5. How is my project going to be funded and do I understand the steps and cost involved in financing a project?
  6. Do I honestly feel like I have the financial and technical acumen to make good decisions or should I seek an advisor?
  7. What is more important to me time or money or a combination of the two?
  8. Are there any zoning related issues that will create hurdles or challenges for me in obtaining permitting for my intended use including setbacks, parking, restrictive uses etc..
  9. Are there any local taxes, utility availability, connection fees, or ordinances that will be a hidden cost to me or affect me down the road?
  10. Do I have the ability to expand my project over time if this is a potential consideration?
  11. Are there site related issues such as topography, wet lands, rock, utilities that need to be relocated or brought to the site for my needs, water quality treatment or detention that may be needed?
  12. Are there any concerns related to demolition or potentially hazardous materials like asbestos, contaminated or poor soils etc..
  13. Is the project well specified so that everyone understands EXACTLY what the finish product should represent. i.e. am I getting a $5000 Viking range or a $500 glass top stove? Am I getting $150 commercial door hardware or $15 door hardware and how do I know what is appropriate?
  14. Do I feel like I can truly conceptualize what I am getting? (for those not used to looking at drawings etc. this can be tough and where renderings become very helpful)
  15. Do I feel like I am working with a team that is communicating expectations clearly and working in a neat and well, ordered fashion, and most importantly do I have a high level of trust with them and their reputation.
  16. Are my team members presenting value added or alternate ideas to make the project go smoothly?

The reality is depending on the project dynamics I could probably draft several hundred questions to consider but the most important aspect is that the team that you are working with either as an owner, as a prime contractor or as a sub-contractor is well organized in answering and addressing all of these questions above and more. If someone is not asking and engaging you in these types of questions then that should raise caution!

In summary a well planned construction project in most cases takes as much time or more in pre-construction planning as it does during actual construction.  If a project is not “right” before the first Momentum Earthworks excavator and bulldozer hits the ground on your job site then it will NEVER get right and will be a potentially dreadful and probably costly experience leaving all involved unsatisfied because of poor planning, communication or organization.

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place”- George Bernard Shaw

Finally every construction project will present its unique set of challenges along the way. Selecting preconstruction project partners that have a high level of trust and integrity and who are capable or meeting your needs is the most important piece of the project puzzle.

Hans Harman

Hans Harman is the President of Momentum Earthworks located in Harrisonburg VA. Hans is an active member of the local community serving in leadership roles for the Shenandoah Valley Builders Association and AGC of Virginia. Hans also serves on multiple community boards and was recently recognized as the Harrisonburg Rockingham Chamber of Commerce’s 2016 Entrepreneur of the year. Please follow us on Facebook or visit us at