What Is a General Contractor
Updated: Sep 8
Many first time home owners who want to get work done on their home have a hard time deciding on whether or not to hire a general contractor or do it themselves.
There are different pros and cons of hiring a general contractor, but it is important to understand what a general contractor does before you jump into acting as your own general contractor.
What is a General Contractor?
A general contractor oversees the a remodeling project on a daily basis, manages the subcontractors and vendors and keeps close communication with all parties involved in the project.
The general contractors is usually referred to a client by an architect depending on the scope of a project or hired directly.
In the majority of cases the general contractor will have to visit the project site to give an accurate bid for the price of services, labor and materials. After the initial visit the general contractor will submit the bid do the customer for them to look over.
The general contractor is responsible for the materials, labor, and equipment to complete the project on time.
Specialized subcontractors are hired to perform all of the work for the project. The general contractor will have a network of tradesmen to choose from for the project. Each will submit a bid for the cost to complete their aspect of the project to the general contractor. For the most part the subcontractor that offers the lowest bid will get the job, since the pool of subcontractors that bid on the work are all trusted by the general contractor.
When the project is started the contractor has to be on the job site regularly to insure that the labor is done right in order to avoid any delay.
The general contractor is responsible for the quality of the work performed by the subcontractors and any accidents that happen on the job site.
For certain projects the GC will need to apply for proper permits, hire security, provide temporary utilities, provide site surveying and engineering, disposing of the waste, record cash flows and keep proper records.
Should I Hire a Local Contractor?
Hiring a local general contractor is important because he/she will know which local permits need to be pulled in order to get the job done. Any contractor that doesn’t want to pull the permits is trying to avoid liability of the project and should not be hired.
Another benefit of hiring a local contractor is that the general contractor will be able to visit the job site more frequently and pay more attention to getting it done right. If the contractor lives far away, it could be a hassle for the contractor to visit the job site as frequently.
What services does a General Contractor do?
A General Contractor can do any service that can be subcontracted out to a specialist. Often times it may be better to hire the specialist directly, but for jobs that may require multiple specialists it better to go through a general contractor.
A residential general contractor will typically perform the following services on a home.
Framing and Drywall
Doors and Windows
Exterior Services (Landscaping, decks, patios, yards)
What are some general contractor licensing requirements?
In the majority of states, general contractors are required to be licensed, bonded and insured.
In Orange County, general contractors who work on any building, highway, road, or other structure must be licensed by the California Contractors State License board if the total cost of the project is more that $500.
In order to get a contractor's license the general contractor has to pass the contractor’s exam and purchase insurance, a bond and pass a background check.
Insurance covers the client and workers in case of an accident and the bond covers the client in case the terms of a contract are not met.
What is the difference between a commercial and residential general contractor?
The simple difference is that residential contractors specialize in remodeling homes, while commercial contractors specialize in places of business.
Residential contractors work on homes, apartments, lofts and cottages, while a commercial contractor works on industrial buildings, factories, institutional buildings and small businesses.
What is a full service General Contractor?
A full service general contractor is a one stop shop. The best part about hiring a full service general contractor is that you don’t have to worry about hiring another contractor for another aspect of the project.
Where to find reputable General Contractors?
For the most part General Contractors are easily found on Yelp, Houzz, Angieslist or Alignable. However, it is important to also visit their websites to see what the company is all about. Any reputable contractor will have photos of their work on their website and their licensing information displayed on their homepage.
Another, great place to find reputable contractors is to ask around your neighborhood. If you noticed that a house on your block just had a room added or some work done, then they might be able to refer you someone good.