As a custom builder, I used to take on about three new homes or large additions a year. Most of our work was done by my employees, but like most builders I hired subcontractors for special tasks. Using subs has many advantages, but maintaining control over the building schedule is not one of them. If an excavation sub is late for any reason, your schedule is ruined, because all the subsequent trades are affected.

After calculating how much money excavating delays were costing me, I realized I could no longer afford that approach, and I began doing much of my own dirt work. At first, I rented equipment as needed, which worked fairly well except during the busy season, when I had to wait for a machine. I also discovered that some of the overworked rental...

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