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What Is a General Contractor?
January 15, 2023 at 8:00 AM

Within the construction industry, general contractors are hired to oversee a construction project. Their main job is to ensure the construction project is completed safely, on time, and according to their client’s specifications. General contractors play an important part in complex commercial construction and straightforward residential projects. But some tasks — like replacing a roof or installing new flooring — do not require a general contractor.

This article will explain what a general contractor is, including the differences between a handyman and a contractor.

What does a general contractor do?

As mentioned above, a general contractor oversees a construction project from beginning to end. But what exactly does that mean? Well, a general contractor acts as a go-between between the property’s owner and the workers responsible for bringing the project or building to life, including the suppliers, vendors, and tradespeople.

In addition, a general contractor’s responsibilities depend on the scope and type of project. For example, if a general contractor were handling a design-build project, they may be responsible for managing the design and construction of the project. But their job doesn’t just start when building begins, they have responsibilities before, during, and after the construction phase.

Before construction

Before construction begins, general contractors are generally responsible for the following:

  • Creating and managing a construction budget
  • Collaborating with architects to ensure the design is realized
  • Hiring subcontractors to complete tasks

While all these tasks are in motion, the general contractor will also manage the budget, work with the architect, and interact with subcontractors to ensure everything is ready before a project begins.

During construction

After construction begins, the general contractor will handle the following:

  • Oversee construction work
  • Keep the project on schedule
  • Respond to schedule delays

During construction, the primary role of a general contractor is to ensure everyone is working well together and resolve any challenges that may arise that could affect the schedule or budget.

After construction

Once construction is complete, a general contractor still has responsibilities, including:

  • Collecting and tracking lien waivers
  • Managing issues with payments
  • Ensuring the subcontractors are paid

As a project wraps up, it’s the job of a general contractor to manage any moving parts that are left — including making sure the work is completed to specification and that payment is disbursed.

General contractor licensing requirements

Most states require contractors to be licensed, which benefits all parties involved in construction projects. For example, states and municipalities require licensing for regular contractors to ensure they follow insurance, taxes, and safety guidelines. Property owners who hire a licensed contractor know they are getting someone credible to work on their project, while contractors can protect their lien rights in most states.

Handyman vs. contractor: What are the main differences?

There are several differences between a handyman and a general contractor. However, the main difference is the licensure and trade-specific knowledge. A handyman typically comes prepared with their own tools for a job but may lack the license and know-how for specific projects. For smaller projects that don’t require licensing, you should consider hiring a handyman.

On the other hand, if you have a large project that requires multiple workers, like a kitchen remodel or home addition, you will need to find a general contractor with the proper credentials. Some contractors are unlicensed and don’t have the know-how required for large-scale projects, which is why doing your research is important before you hire.

Get in touch to learn more.

You can learn more about what to expect when working with a general contractor by reaching out to us at J. Schwartz, LLC Remodeling & Fine Home Building. Give us a call at 610-644-6700 or send a message using our contact form.