What does a general contractor do?
Home construction and home repair usually entail large, long-drawn projects involving different professionals, a handful of government permits, and hundreds of small tasks. Going it alone and hiring your own subcontractors is definitely possible, but most people choose to hire a general contractor to save on time and sweat, tears and grief.
So, what is a general contractor? A general contractor is a person you hire to be in charge of your construction or home repair project. He serves as your point of contact to other players involved—subcontractors and government agencies, for example. It is also said that the general contractor is the first one in and the last one out of the project. Subcontractors come and go based on your project timeline, but a good contractor will ascertain project completion before moving on.
In a sense, a contractor is a project manager specifically serving the construction industry. He has the know-how and experience to oversee the details of a project, be it related to materials, labor, or equipment, and can even fill in for some subcontractors if necessary. Another important aspect of his job is managing subcontractors so that you won’t have to worry about hiring, scheduling, and paying them.
How can a quality general contractor help?
So, why bother hiring a general contractor if you can manage on your own? Three very simple reasons: connections, knowledge, and assumption of liability.
General contractors work with different subcontractors as part of their job. They know the industry, and they’re familiar with the people in it. Most likely, they already have specific people they intend to bring into their projects—people they trust and whom you can trust. So, instead of researching plumbers, electricians, carpenters, and a whole host of other professionals who work in your area, you can consolidate your research work into just one role—a good general contractor.
Another thing that general contractors have that you might not is the knowledge that comes with years of experience. They can serve as a key resource for building codes, materials, and techniques so that you don’t have to be constantly researching and confirming and second-guessing your choices. For example, they know what’s a good price to pay subcontractors, so they’re in a better place to negotiate a contract or decide to drop a subcontractor if anything’s amiss.
Projects like home construction and home remodeling are prone to accidents leading to injuries and property damage. As a homeowner, you probably don’t want to have to worry about such matters. Well, you don’t—that is, unless you decide you’re better off without a general contractor. If you’re going it alone, you’re liable for damages and injuries, but if you enlist the services of a general contractor, they assume the burden.
Having a quality general contractor on board brings many more advantages, but not all projects need one. As a rule of thumb, it is advisable to hire a contractor if your project will exceed a period of one week or if it will require several types of professionals. A general contractor can also be very helpful when a project involves acquiring several permits.
How does one find a reputable general contractor
On the downside, getting stuck with a lousy contractor might bring you more grief than you can imagine. A general contractor is helpful only insofar as he is competent and reliable. Look at it this way: finding a reputable contractor to hire is half the battle. But where do you find one?
As with most things, friends, neighbors, and coworkers are a good starting point for recommendations. You can also look to the Better Business Bureau listings or to your local government’s public works department, as it is their job to monitor contractors.
After your initial research and once you have a shortlist of potential contractors, you will want to visit three places: the office, a current job site, and the houses of past clients of each contractor. Make sure you consult with the contractor and request for written estimates before signing any contract, and then you’re well on your way to project success!