Management: Managing a building project whether large or small requires a particular set of skills. No one is born with those skills, they have to be learned.
A few tradesmen builders acquire some of them by the process of trial and error. Sadly the people who pay for that are usually their customers, and as with most knowledge gained in that manner, the results can be a bit patchy.
Local Builders: Some local jobbing builders are fair tradesmen and if the work is maintenance, repair or small in nature, that is probably a good way to go.
If the job is more complex however, even a small extension to a home, then it will probably require a more proficient knowledge base.
Labour Pool: The labour pool for some local builders tends to be made up from family, friends or people met socially (in the pub), and that means that the client doesn’t necessarily get the best tradesmen available for their project.
Costing: Pricing the work itself tends to be a hit and miss affair with local jobbing builders. Their preference being the dreaded ‘open estimate’ where they charge as the work progresses. Worse, is when they demand money up front to cover early costs.
TV programmes such as ‘rogue traders’ are not fictitious… these people are out there, and they prey on individuals whose good natures don’t prepare them for what can so easily happen. Benjamin Franklin quoted (“The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten”)
Construction Companies: Larger building contractors, employ their own skilled construction managers; or their principals are qualified to do the work. Of course, they add the cost of this service to the bill.
They do a much better job of managing a building project, but charge for the service within their overheads. These overheads are naturally greater than a smaller firm and have to be covered in order to keep the owners happy.
This means that if you use a main contractor, you will still be paying for a qualified Construction Manager… he just wouldn’t be working entirely for you!
Labour Pool: The labour force used by larger building companies, is usually a mix of directly employed labour and self employed contractors.
Some of the direct employees can be of a less skilled nature, as to be honest, anyone worthy of a larger salary works as a subcontractor in their own right.
Using a less skilled labour force enables the larger contractor to enhance their profits. At the same time, they utilise their employed management professionals to keep the project moving along.
Sub-Contractors: work for themselves under agreed rates; which are usually higher than employed people. They get no working benefits, holiday pay or sick pay. this is reflected in their rates.
When they work for main contractors, their cost is charged to the client after first having had a profit margin added. Charges are likewise imposed on everything that passes through their hands, to cover company overheads.
Motivation: Unfortunately this style of operation is fraught with problems of motivation and quality control. The turnover of often lower paid staff is normally high, and as a result continuity and workmanship can suffer.
The only saving grace is that the management style is usually of a modern nature and productive.
Time vs Cost: If your desire is the least amount of time consuming decision making and personal input. And so long as your budget can afford it, then using a main building contractor is probably the best method to use.
But be prepared to pay for that, and don’t expect the finished product to be just what you envisaged