General Contractor

Discover what general contractors are, why they are important, and how to find a good and efficient general contractor.

general contractors inspecting the construction site

Published 19 Aug 2022

What is a General Contractor?

A general contractor is a person or a company that is in charge of coordinating and supervising a construction project. General contractors are a necessity in almost all building and remodeling projects, including the ones for residential properties. These professionals are in charge of both the fine details and major concerns in construction projects. Examples of their responsibilities include securing permits, overseeing the work, and making sure everything goes according to plan.

With that said, a general contractor’s work doesn’t end with overseeing the project. A licensed general contractor usually takes on other responsibilities such as securing worker’s compensation and liability insurance for everyone in the project.

General contractors are in charge of making sure everything goes right in a project. And if something goes wrong, the contractor should be able to put things back in the right direction. For example, if a worker accidentally damages the client’s property while on-site, the contractor should be in charge of resolving the issue between both parties.

At the end of the day, the general contract of a construction or renovation project ensures that workers don’t overlook anything and stick to the procedure. This is to promote safety, make sure everything goes to plan, and meet a client’s needs.

Types

There are many types of contractors. Electricians, carpenters, drywallers, and painters are all a type of contractors. But when talking about general contractors, they are primarily divided into two different categories: traditional and design-build contractors.

Traditional Contractors

Traditional general contractors are only in charge of making sure everything goes to plan. They aren’t in charge of planning a building, making sure all details are accounted for, or thinking about different concepts. Instead, they execute the plans, designs, and concepts developed by the professionals involved in the project. Usually, an architect or designer handles the project plan then the general contractors bid to complete the work. The contractor with the lowest bid usually gets the project.

Design-Build Contractors

Design-build contractors are more involved in the process. These contractors aren’t just responsible for completing the work. Instead, they are there for the conceptualizing and planning processes as well. These contractors are generally more hands-on and allow for more cohesion in whatever project they take on. However, they will also charge more than traditional contractors most of the time.

Licensing Requirements for General Contractors

General contractors who work with an established business or work for an established business usually earn an above-average salary. However, to earn this, they need to be able to provide high-quality service. And one of the ways to assure clients that the general contractors follow procedure and can get the work done, aside from building a good reputation for themselves, is that they have certain licenses.

In the United States, every state has a distinct set of mandatory licenses for general contractors. There are many countries that do the same and require some sort of license for all general contractors. With that said, the requirements may vary depending on the jurisdiction, which is why it’s important to read up on the local rules and regulations.

While general contractors are usually not required to have a specific degree before getting their license, there are many professionals in the field with either construction management, civil engineering, or similar degrees.

With that said, practical experience is very much valued in this field. Experienced general contractors understand what new technology to implement on the site, understand trends in the construction industry, and are fully aware of best practices and what they have to do to meet the project goals and deadlines.

Qualities of a Good Contractor

Licenses and papers won’t ensure a good contractor. When taking on a general contractor for a project, it’s important to look for certain traits to show that they are professional and can really get the work done. Some of these traits include:

Professionalism

General contractors always need to show professionalism when at work. This means they need to understand how to properly speak to clients, know how to manage different employees, and can communicate clearly. This is a great way to ensure that things run smoothly the whole way and problems are met head-on.

A Solution-Oriented Personality

There are always going to be bumps along the road when dealing with a construction project. This is one of the reasons why contractors need to work with checklists that cover all the bases. But even with the most sophisticated planning, no project will go without any problems. This is why you need a contractor who is good at finding solutions and has the creativity to think outside of the box. That way, it will be much easier to get over problems if and when they pop up.

Self-Awareness

It’s crucial for general contractors to understand that they are there to make a vision come to life. Even design-build contractors are there to meet the needs and preferences of the client. So, it’s important to find a contract that is aware of this fact and will be ready to listen to comments and take notes throughout the entire process.

Experience

As mentioned earlier, it’s very important for general contractors to have experience. This ensures that they understand the processes and know-how to make things work. On top of that, experienced contractors have wider networks, making it easier for them to find high-quality sub-contractors to accomplish other tasks.

Passion

A passionate contract is necessary for any construction project. Passionate contractors strive to meet goals and will make adjustments as necessary to finish a project. If a contractor shows genuine interest in a project and that they want to make things work, this is an indication of a seasoned professional.

Responsibilities of a General Contractor

General contractors are responsible for overseeing the entire construction process. They are usually responsible for making sure that there are skilled and professional individuals working each job and taking on a lot of other tasks.

But to break it down, let’s look at the three main phases of the construction process to see what general contractors do during each phase.

Pre-Construction

Preconstruction is the first phase of the process. Usually, general contractors handle the following tasks during this phase:

  • Determining the construction budget and managing it
  • Finding the right subcontractors for different parts of the project
  • Orienting the subcontractors
  • Speaking with the architect to make sure everything is on the right track

Some contractors will take on more tasks than these. However, these are the first couple of tasks that general contractors have to handle when starting a project.

During Construction

When construction is in process, the general contractor takes charge of:

  • Overseeing all the aspects of the project
  • Making sure everyone sticks to the schedule
  • Finding and fixing problems along the way

During the construction delivery phase, the general contractor needs to make sure everything runs smoothly. To do this, they need to make sure that the project planning and subcontractor orientation was done properly.

Post-Construction

Once everything is finished, the contractor will have to:

  • Make sure all the waivers are collected
  • Check that everyone was paid for the work they did
  • Iron out issues that arise during the payment chain

General contractors handle a lot of tasks. This is why they need a proper set of construction tools to help them out. These tools make it easier for contractors to make sure everything is running smoothly and that they cover all bases during a project.

SafetyCulture staff writer

Leon Altomonte

Leon Altomonte is a content contributor for SafetyCulture. He got into content writing while taking up a language degree and has written copy for various web pages and blogs. Aside from working as a freelance writer, Leon is also a musician who spends most of his free time playing gigs and at the studio.

Leon Altomonte is a content contributor for SafetyCulture. He got into content writing while taking up a language degree and has written copy for various web pages and blogs. Aside from working as a freelance writer, Leon is also a musician who spends most of his free time playing gigs and at the studio.