What Is a General Contractor?

Posted on: June 19, 2020

Getting work done on your home is a big project, and that’s true regardless of whether you’re building or renovating. While some repair projects may be doable on your own, you will require the assistance of a general contractor if you are looking to make more significant changes.

If you’re still new to owning a home, the idea of hiring a general contractor may seem unnecessary. Sure, you’ll need some skilled workers on-site to get the work done, but they can manage on their own, right?

That’s an understandable assumption, but it also undersells the real value of having an experienced individual at the job site who can direct everyone and tell them what they need to do. You can do your project without the need for a general contractor but getting to that point may be incredibly troublesome. Your project could also end up taking way more time than it should.

For those who are trying to decide if they need to hire a general contractor for the project they have in mind, this article should prove useful. Make use of this resource to learn more about the general contractor’s job description and how they can help you out as the property owner.

Without further ado, let’s learn more about the duties of the general contractor.

Defining the Role of the General Contractor

The construction site is similar to an office in some ways.

For starters, both construction sites and offices are occupied by employees with varied skills and fields of expertise. In offices, you have people in accounting and sales while the construction site has painters and carpenters.

Like with an office, a construction site also needs someone at the helm who guides everyone toward a common goal. This is where the general contractor comes in as he/she is the person who serves as the boss at the construction site.

You know general contractors by different names. They are sometimes called direct or prime contractors.

These alternate names hint at the role that the general contractor plays in a construction project.

Typically, direct or prime contractors don’t spend that much time doing the heavy lifting. Don’t be surprised if you don’t see them pick up a hammer or a paintbrush because that’s not their job.

You’re hiring a general contractor because you need someone who can effectively serve as the overseer of your construction project.

Dealing with all the people present at the job site can be difficult because they may approach you with different concerns. It’s much easier to have someone else nearby who can handle that job for you.

Plus, the presence of the direct contractor means you can also use your time more efficiently. You can talk with the contractor to get an update on the project, and that’s it. They can provide you with an overview of how the project has progressed, and if they need your input on anything, you only need to talk to the prime contractor.

How Does a General Contractor Differ from a Construction Manager?

While you’re in the process of searching for a general contractor, you may eventually see the profiles of some construction managers pop up. Upon taking a closer look at those construction managers, you may notice that they handle a lot of the same tasks that general contractors do.

So, are general contractors and construction managers the same, or are they different enough that you should be more mindful of who you’re hiring?

The short answer is that those two jobs are not identical, and you should be careful about which one you choose to hire.

Now, here is the longer explanation.

The construction manager is ranked higher than the general contractor. As  Study.com notes, they may bring in a construction manager to advise the owner of the property, and lead the other people working on the project such as the architect and the general contractor.

Construction managers normally join the project when it is still in the planning stage. They work closely with architects and engineers to ensure that things go smoothly. They may also be in charge of creating a timeline and budget for the project.

When we’re talking about large-scale projects such as constructing an office or apartment building, you will need to hire a construction manager.

However, you don’t need them all the time.

If the scope of your project is your home, hiring a construction manager may be a bit excessive. You may still want to consult with an architect to map out what kind of house you want to build, but you can do that yourself.

General contractors cannot go missing from your home building project. You will always need someone who can coordinate the project and serve as the point of contact between you and the subcontractors.

The good news is that you don’t need to rush to find a direct contractor. More often than not, you can wait until the planning stage is over to hire a prime contractor who will handle the execution of your project.

What Are the Responsibilities of a General Contractor?

So far, we’ve highlighted the role that the general contractor has at the worksite, but let’s define  some of the responsibilities for this job.

The first and most important responsibility of the direct contractor is to serve as the overall manager of your construction project.

Try to think of it this way, you are like the owner of a corporation who has final say over everything, but you still need to delegate to managers who can closely watch over the lower-level employees. It’s the job of the contractor to make sure that your vision happens.

General contractors are also sought after because they are the ones who are in charge of hiring and managing the subcontractors.

Unless you happen to work in construction, yourself, chances are you don’t have that many connections to carpenters, electricians, painters, and the other professionals you need to hire to finish your home project.

One can argue that this is the most important job that a prime contractor must complete. After all, it doesn’t matter how great the plan you came up with is if the professionals hired to do the job lack the skills to make it a reality.

Since the general contractor knows that his/her reputation is also on the line, you can rest assured that he/she will bring in the best people for the job.

It’s also worth commenting on how a general contractor makes the payment process easier. There’s no need for you to figure out who gets how much because that’s part of the contractor’s job.

General contractors take charge of obtaining the materials for the project. You lean on your contractor’s experience and connections when it comes time to buy the materials.

Even though you can evaluate the quality of the materials yourself, there are certain qualities that you may not notice right away. The trained eye of a general contractor can tell the difference between high-quality materials and something that should never get close to your home.

On top of that, you could also get a great deal on bulk purchases if your contractor has a good relationship with a supplier. Home projects are expensive, so it’s nice to save money when you can.

Don’t forget about the assistance a general contractor provides when it comes to securing permits. Applying for permits can be inconvenient, especially if you have a full-time job. As you can imagine, having someone who will take care of that for you is a huge relief.

Where Should You Look for a General Contractor?

The section above has laid out in detail why you need to hire a general contractor. Now, it’s time to discuss where you should find one.

You want to start the search by looking at a directory. Go online and look up the directory of general contractors in your area.

If you’re having trouble finding a reliable resource online, you can also talk to people in your neighborhood and ask who worked on their properties. They may point you in the direction of a general contractor.

Of course, you cannot take your neighbor’s word for it. You must do some of the research yourself.

Once you’ve got the name of a general contractor, try to find out if they are properly licensed. While you’re at it, you should also take the time to check out their earlier projects. You may even find some projects that are similar to what you have in mind, and they could serve as reference points for your own vision.

Thanks to the internet, you can look up reviews online and learn if a contractor’s previous clients were pleased with his/her work.

By the way, you don’t need to decide on whether to hire a general contractor right away. If anything, it makes more sense for you to put together a list of who you think is right for the job and ask them to submit bids on your project.

Look at those bids, see how they break them down, and check if what they have in mind aligns with your plans. You could always hire the one with the lowest bid if you want to save money, but there are other factors worth considering too.

bad contractor

How Can You Avoid Hiring a Bad General Contractor?

You now know more about how to find a general contractor, but that’s not everything you need to be aware of. Sadly, some people pose as trustworthy contractors even though they cannot deliver any high-quality work.

We’re guessing that you want to steer clear of those fraudulent contractors as much as possible. Home Advisor has offered some tips on how you can avoid those contractors during your search.

The first telltale sign of a shady general contractor is if he/she does not have a listing in the phone book or online directories.

General contractors need to make themselves easily accessible to potential clients, so it would make no sense for them to limit the number of ways you can reach them. That only makes sense if they are trying to avoid being seen because they are operating illegally.

You should also be wary if the contractor you’re talking to has some unusual requests about payment.

Some of them may say that they only accept cash or that they will need you to pay in full right away before they get started. Alarm bells should start going off in your head whenever you hear requests like that. The “contractor” you’re talking to may be looking for a way to scam you out of your money.

Contractors who promise to give you a discount if you connect them to other clients should also warrant some suspicion. That is highly unprofessional and not something that a contractor should ever request from a client.

You should scrutinize professionals that bring up all kinds of things they need to repair. They may be using your inexperience as a new homeowner to get a few extra bucks.

Lastly, avoid general contractors that ask you to secure the building permit. Remember that this is a part of their job. They may want to avoid being spotted by the authorities, which is why they are calling on you to handle the permit.

The success of your home building or renovation project will rely heavily on who you hire as a general contractor. Make sure that you exercise due diligence and research your decision thoroughly.

Allow us at Eco Minded Solutions to help with your home construction project. Contact us now to learn more about the services we provide.

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