The term general contractor is synonymous with construction, but for those outside the industry, there is confusion surrounding what services a general contractor provides – what they do, exactly. For any business or homeowner looking to build or remodel, having a general contractor is key, as is understanding their function.
What is a General Contractor?
A general contractor is a company (or in some cases, an individual) that oversees and supervises the daily operations of a construction or remodeling of a building project. They are responsible for supplying the labor, materials, and equipment for the construction phase of a project. They’re also responsible for securing permits for building, and can be asked for procurement of a building site should one not already be available or planned. A general contractor is essential for any construction or remodeling project, as they ensure the work is done correctly and safely. They make sure no shortcuts are taken that could compromise worker safety or building integrity.
The general contractor also carries full responsibility for a project during the construction phase. As a result, they carry worker’s compensation and liability insurance. Should an accident or issue occur – such as worker injury or property damage – the general contractor addresses the incident through their insurance.
Why Hire a General Contractor
You’d be surprised how often folks attempt to build or remodel on their own, only to meet disastrous consequences. Common problems are: failure to complete a project, sustaining injury, and financial upset. The reason why a general contractor is crucial is that they are highly trained, and licensed. Their entire job is to ensure that a project is not only completed, but is finished properly and safely according to code, and all in a timely manner. No one wants to rebuild or restart a construction project; clients want their project(s) completed once, and more importantly, general contractors ensure a project is completed correctly.
Services Provided by a General Contractor
General contractors are involved with and oversee the construction phase of a building or remodeling project – not the before (initial design phase) and after (close-out) of a project. That is, unless the company offers “design/ build” (more on that below), in which case they are also involved with the clients and architects in the initial design phase. On a day-to-day basis, general contractors:
Hire and Pay Subcontractors
Subcontractors are specialists in various specific fields of construction, such as electricians, carpenters, plumbers, etc. General contractors find the right individuals or companies for each individual stage of the job and bring them all together.
Ensure that all Aspects of the Project are Completed to Code
Building codes are laws relating to how buildings are designed and built. Cities put them in place to ensure that finished projects are structurally sound, and safe for occupants.
Bring in Specialists, as Needed
When it comes to highly technical details of any project, general contractors coordinate bringing in advice from engineers, architects, and other specialists to make sure the job is completed.
If you’re a business owner or homebuyer looking to build, working with a general contractor ensures that the project is built and completed by specialists and meets code: no slipshod work, and no potential dangers. While a general contractor sees that a job is completed properly, it is also worth noting what they do not do.
General Contractor, Project Management, and Construction Management
It’s obvious that a general contractor oversees and deals with many factors of a project. They are involved with all crucial aspects of a build, including choosing project managers and construction managers. Each position has some overlap, and all are trained and licensed individuals.
For folks outside the construction industry, the differences between a general contractor, project manager, and construction manager can be confusing. Some may even use the terms, interchangeably. However, while each of these roles serve different functions, they are not entirely exclusive.
Clients looking to build or remodel often tend to focus on the construction phase of a project. But what about the planning before, and the close-out after? Project Management is the HR, administrative side to a build project, overseen by a project manager. The project manager deals with budgeting and timeframe of a project, whereas a general contractor oversees the actual construction side. However, in some build projects a general contractor also serves as project manager as well: hence the confusion among the terms and roles of general contractor and project manager.
Construction management on a project is the person handling all the details of that project. Whereas the general contractor is ultimately responsible to the client, and handles all business aspects of the project at-large, the construction manager is the one actually performing scheduling, ordering materials, and making sure all aspects of the job are finished to design. It’s not uncommon for general contractors to act as construction managers as well. Especially, depending on the size of the general contractor’s business, one person may wear multiple important hats.
Design/ Build is Effective Construction
Traditionally, when a business or homebuyer decides to move forward with a building or remodeling project, they have to sign two contracts: one with the general contractor, and one with the designer. In addition, it falls on the homebuyer or business to settle disputes between the two entities. This can be a major pain for clients, and often overwhelming. Doubly so for those with no knowledge of or experience in the construction industry. Any kind of dispute between general contractor and designer can additionally lead to delays and budget issues on the project.
There is a method, however, that is much more simplified and cost effective: Design Build. This increasingly popular build method eliminates the need for clients to sign two contracts. How? Rather than being two different entities, the general contractor and the designer are on the same team: they work together. The result is a streamlined process with open communication from all parties involved.