stucco-subcontractorDo you feel that you need to upgrade your kitchen? Are you looking to add more outdoor space to your home by building a patio? Do you think it’s the right time to remodel your master bedroom? If you are looking to take on any of these construction projects, you will be required to hire a contractor and several subcontractors to ensure successful completion of your project.

We have written this article to help you understand the differences in the roles and responsibilities of a general contractor and a subcontractor.

Understanding the Difference between a Contractor and a Subcontractor

In the simplest terms, a general contractor is the construction industry expert while a subcontractor specializes in a particular niche, such as plumbing, concrete, electrician, etc.

General contractors are licensed for almost all the phases of a construction project while subcontractors or specialty contractors are licensed for a particular task. This will also depend upon which state your in. We can define a contractor as a person who signs a contract to work with the client through the entire project, from landscaping to project completion. On the other hand, a subcontractor signs a contract with the general contractor and agrees to provide their services for a specified period of time.

Do Contractors Have Their Own Subcontractors?

One of the important considerations of hiring a general contractor is to know whether they will hire several independent subcontractors for your project or do they have their permanent team of employees.

Big construction firms that work as general contractors for several projects at any given time, may have their own subcontractors. This is true especially in remodeling. It is more economic on the contractors end because they are required to pay fixed monthly salaries to their staff only. On the other hand, hiring independent subcontractors requires the contractor to pay a portion of their earnings from the project.

Smaller contractors generally prefer working with independent subcontractors because of inconsistent workload. This way they can avoid the fixed expenses of having a permanent team of subcontractors.

What are the Considerations of Hiring a Contractor and Subcontractor?

subcontractors-vs-contractorsIn order to determine whether you should hire a contractor or a subcontractor, you should first understand the job responsibilities of general contractors and subcontractors and consider the scope of your project.

Job Responsibilities of a Subcontractor

Subcontractors work for a general contractor. The general contractor assigns them a particular task according to their skills and expertise. A subcontractor is responsible to comply with the terms of the subcontract agreement and complete their task within the set deadline. They are accountable to the general contractor and their client for the quality and timeliness of their work.

In order to understand the client’s requirement, a subcontractor may have to communicate frequently with both the general contractor and the client. Depending on the terms of the contract, a subcontractor may also be responsible for buying supplies and hiring workers.

Job Responsibilities of a General Contractor

A general contractor or construction manager is responsible to oversee the entire construction project from its inception through completion. Although job responsibilities of a general contractor may vary depending on the terms of the contract signed between the contractor and the client, certain tasks are typical, which are listed below.

  • Planning – General contractors are responsible to develop a comprehensive project plan, which should include the estimated cost of building materials, the cost of acquiring required building permits, the cost of construction machinery leased for the project, and an estimated timeline identifying milestones of the project. If there is an architect involved, the contractor is required to interact with them to ensure that the project is appropriately planned.
  • Hiring Subcontractors – For every specialty task, such as plumbing, landscaping, etc., the contractor is required to gather and evaluate bids from several subcontractors and hire the one who offers good-quality work vs price.
  • Coordination – A construction project may involve a number of individuals. It is the responsibility of a general contractor to coordinate with all of them and make sure that the estimated project budget and completion dates are met.
  • Compliance and Permits – Contractors must ensure that the construction parameters set by the local authority are met. They must ensure safety of the workers working on the construction site. Also, they should have updated knowledge of the construction materials approved according to local building ordinances. The contractor must acquire all necessary building permits on the client’s behalf as well.

Scope of the Project

While many construction projects can be done as “DIY” jobs, complex projects may demand management skills and expertise of a professional construction manager. For example, remodeling a home or building an addition involves complex planning and cost control and it is therefore important to hire a general contractor to ensure timely completion of the project.

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