The man who is paid to construct the building, whether an old-fashioned craftsman or a soulless corporation, is referred to as the Contractor, and it should be obvious that the more experienced, reliable, and painstaking the builder, the more satisfactory the operation and the final results will be.
In country districts, when the landholder calls on his neighbors to assist in a barn-raising, and the heavy posts and trusses assembled on the ground are hoisted into position in one afternoon, the most intimate relation occurs between owner, contractor, and workman. At the other extreme is the two-family house in the suburbs, aiming at showiness and built on speculation, where the contractor usually acts as the architect. In this case a minimum original cost outweighs any consideration of permanence, and the future owner is left to discover the faults of construction as they make themselves known, one after another. Between these two types lies the province of the average citizen.
For the homeowner the new construction is of grave and intimate importance, and, as he is not likely to be familiar with the details of construction, a relationship of mutual confidence with the builder is vital to his peace of mind.
It is customary to select the contractor for building a house either directly - when his character and ability are known to the owner - or else on the basis of competitive estimates.
The first method is recommended where the owner knows he can maintain a friendly relationship of give-and-take with a certain builder, and it is usually adopted where the number of builders from whom a choice can be made is limited.
1 Adapted from The House Beautiful Building Annual, 1926 (Boston: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1926), pp. 7-8.
With the second method there are two procedures: (1) A limited number of desirable firms may be invited to submit estimates. Because the competition is restricted the bids will be moderate rather than remarkably low, but the owner will find that the slight additional cost will be compensated by the friendly cooperation and reliability which may be expected from a well-selected firm. (2) An unlimited competition may be held, in which an inexperienced or unreliable contractor may submit the lowest bid and, if accepted, future conflicts or inferior workmanship are bound to follow. In common fairness no one should be allowed to give the time required to figure plans and specifications if the owner does not want him to do the work.