What is a General Contractor and what do they do?

The General contractor is employed by the client, to first assess the project with a site visit to get a better understanding of the project. The contractor will then calculate a price, also called an estimate.A general contractor is responsible for providing all of the material, labor, equipment and services necessary for the construction of the project. The general contractor hires specialized subcontractors to perform all or portions of the construction work and manages their processes, schedule, details and quality of their work. Responsibilities may include applying for building permits, securing the property, providing temporary utilities on site, managing personnel on site, providing site surveying and engineering, disposing of or recycling construction waste, monitoring schedules and cash flows, and maintaining accurate records.

When you decide to call a general contractor to assist you with a project at your home, remember these tips:

1. If you place a call to a contractor and she fails to call you back before meeting you, this is the status quo for this person. Things will not change once the project starts so if you do not want someone that you have to follow behind, take this as a hint.

2. If a start date is set for your project by the contractor, she should be able to keep the schedule. Many times though, the vendor partners are working and juggling several jobs at once, so be prepared for delays. However, the start and completion dates should be fairly close to the original estimate.

3. The 3 parts of any project are quality, price and time it takes. Select the 2 that are most important to you and be prepared to pay a bit more, if you need everything perfect by a specific time.
4. If you want to do something one way and the contractor suggests another direction, she typically has more experience than you do. Better to utilize a proven process that opt for a new one just for your project.

5. If a contractor asks you for a “punch list” they want to know the details that will satisfy you on the job once the work is completed. If you can detail a complete list, the workers can be called out one time for the work. Each time they visit costs additional money so make the list complete rather than piecemeal.

5. Most contractors want to use their own subcontractors, so do not be offended if they do not want to make recommendations and give you the names of the people that work for them. This is one way that they can get paid by staying in control of their workers and marking up the cost of the work that each one does.

6. If you call a General Contractor for an estimate on a project and they decline to provide an estimate, it could be that they do not think you have realistic expectations as to the project or your budget. It might also mean that she is overly busy and cannot provide you with the proper time to get your project done.

7. Do you have champagne taste on a beer budget? If your contractor cannot do a project for the price that you have in mind, they may be able to assist you in “value engineering”. In other words, a creative approach to the project with less expense on materials or the like.

A General Contractor provides you with the experience, vendors and supervision of your project so you do not have to manage it yourself.