It is easy to hire handymen for specific jobs such as fixing a sink, installing new carpeting, and reworking a light switch, but when it comes down to a big project like adding on to your house, things can get a little overwhelming and stressful.
A project like this requires hiring multiple specialists, scheduling these specialists in the proper order to perform their work, and managing and coordinating with these workers so the project flows as smooth as possible. Yikes…that sounds like a lot of work, doesn’t it? Luckily they have someone to do all this for you, and that person is a General Contractor.
What does a Contractor do?
So what does a General contractor do? A general contractor’s job is to oversee the daily operations of the project and act as the contact for all parties involved. They take complete control of a construction project and are the one to hire the specialists (subcontractors) to fulfill different tasks, and schedule and plan out the different project stages. A general contractor can be either a company or an individual that are typically hired for commercial and residential projects. Experienced contractors will have a solid understanding of all areas of home remodeling projects and will be able to answer your questions with clear answers and possibly bring up some similar past experiences.
The Definition of a General Contractor
A general contractor can be defined as the person responsible for providing all of the material, labor, equipment (such as construction vehicles and tools) and services necessary for the construction of the project. A general contractor often hires specialized subcontractors to perform portions of the construction work in their specialized areas.
How you become a General contractor?
Becoming a general contractor is not something that happens overnight. It is something that can, however, be reached by taking several different paths and just depends on which route is better for each particular person.
Some general contractors will be able to use the experience they have gained on the job to gather the necessary skills to become licensed, or can work through a trade school to complete an apprenticeship. This process would take you around three to five years to complete.
Others may take the education route to become a general contractor earning a bachelors degree instead of taking the path of experience in the construction field. General contractors that earn a degree in construction management are able to become a licensed contractor in around four years, and seven years if they decide to pursue their master’s degree.
Why Hire a General Contractor?
It is important to know your limits in life and when you should do something yourself, or when you should turn to a professional. When you find yourself faced with a big project such as a home repair or remodel, it is always best to find someone who knows what they are doing. They are going to be the ones with the building process knowledge and know what needs to be done and when. If things are done out of order, it is very easy to see the cost shoot up because things need to be moved and adjusted because they weren’t done in the right order.
Knowledge of building codes is a very important asset of contractors. When a project is completed by the subcontractor, you need to know if the work they did is up to code or not. A good general contractor will be able to do the inspection which will save you both time and money on the project because you no longer have to pay a re-inspection fee and face the delays that come with that.
The Difference Between a General Contractor and Subcontractor
In a bigger remodeling/construction job, there are generally two types of contractors: contractors and subcontractors.
As mentioned earlier, a general contractor’s job is to oversee the daily operations of the project and act as the main of contact for all parties involved. They are the ones taking the lead of a construction project, hire specialists (subcontractors) to complete different tasks, and schedule the different project assignments.
As a subcontractor, you are hired by the general contractor to complete a specialized task. They are the ones who complete the smaller projects that are part of a larger/whole project. Similar to a general contractor, subcontractors can be both an individual or a business.
You can also think of it like this. When you hire an event planner for a celebration or party you are having, you don’t expect them to do everything from baking the cake to growing the flowers on their own. You hire that person to bring their knowledge of the industry to hire the best baker, florist, caterer, and band, then organize it to make your event successful. The event planner is the contractor, and the baker, florist, caterer, are the subcontractors.
Finding a General Contractor
When searching for your contractor, you want to find one that is honest, experienced, and qualified for the job.
Here are some things that will help you find a good contractor that is right for your next project:
- Have a plan of what you want to be done and be clear about this plan when talking with your contractor. Homeowners with a defined and realistic plan are usually more satisfied. When you have any questions or concerns, be sure to bring them up as soon as possible. After all, it is your home and money, so you should voice your opinion on what you want, or else you will be looking at something you don’t like every time you step through the door.
- When looking for a contractor you can trust, ask people around you that have had similar work done, and what their experience was like working with that contractor. Ask employees at your local hardware store if they have any referrals they recommend you work with or even try to find some online reviews. Also, be sure to check and see what your state requires for contractors as far as licensing and find if the contractors you are talking with comply with these requirements. You can click here to look at a post by Next Insurance showing the different requirements states have for their general contractors. Once you find a few contractors you feel comfortable working with, take the time to interview them and be sure to ask a lot of questions.
- Ask the contractors to provide a written bid and make sure they all include the same materials and work so you can compare them apples to apples. Preparing a bid involves researching the cost of materials, calculating the time needed to complete the project, determining the number of workers needed, etc. As a homeowner, try your best to be available for the contractor. Coming up with this bid is costing them time and money, and they are working hard to get all this information to you as soon as they can.
- Once you choose the contractor you will be working with, contact the other contractors you were speaking with and inform them you have decided to go with another contractor. This way they won’t waste their time with continuing the process of figuring out costs and workers needed for a project that already has another contractor hired.
Your Responsibilities as a Client
As a client, it is your responsibility to make your payments on time. If you fail to meet this responsibility, it can greatly affect the contractor, their business, and the project you hired them for. A contractor is working with the budget that was discussed in the contract you made, and if he doesn’t have cash flow, they are going to be unable to get what they need in order to complete the project. They are depending on their clients to get them the money to pay the staff and workers they bring onto the project, and if they aren’t getting paid, there could be major delays in the project, and possibly putting the project at risk.
Once you verify your contractor’s experience and certifications, it is important that you trust them to complete the project. Nobody likes to be micromanaged, so letting them do what they know best will help get the project done faster without constantly having to pull them away from the work they are doing.
General contractors are a huge asset to have when you’re dealing with a large project that has a lot of moving parts. The knowledge they have in the industry, organization and planning skills, and past experiences on similar projects make it an easy decision when it comes down to hire or not hire. Just be sure to do your research to find a trusted and experienced contractor, and your project will be a success. Hopefully, this gives you a better understanding and background of what a general contractor does, and how they can help.