What is a General Contractor?

general contractor in construction projects

Who is a General Contractor?

A general contractor (often referred to simply as a “contractor”) is a professional or a company responsible for the day-to-day oversight of a construction site, management of vendors and trades, and the communication of information to all involved parties throughout the course of a building project.

Here are some key points about general contractors:

  1. Scope of Work: General contractors are usually hired to manage construction projects, such as homes, commercial buildings, roads, and other types of structures.
  2. Bidding: General contractors often bid on projects. Once they win the bid, they’re responsible for providing the materials, labor, equipment, and services necessary for the construction of the project.
  3. Subcontractors: For specialized tasks like electrical work, plumbing, or roofing, general contractors typically hire subcontractors. The general contractor oversees and coordinates the work of these subcontractors.
  4. Project Management: General contractors handle aspects of project management including obtaining the necessary permits, scheduling inspections, ensuring the work is on schedule and within budget, and addressing any issues or problems that arise during construction.
  5. Contracts: The general contractor will have a contract with the owner of the property being developed. This contract outlines the specifics of the work, payment, timeline, and other important details.
  6. Liability: They often carry liability insurance to cover potential damages or accidents that might occur on the job site. They also ensure that subcontractors have proper licensing and insurance.
  7. Payments: Typically, general contractors work on a “draw” system where they receive payments at various stages of the project, depending on milestones achieved.
  8. Skills: Successful general contractors have a combination of construction expertise, managerial skills, problem-solving abilities, and excellent communication skills.

What does a General Contractor do before construction?

Before construction begins, a general contractor has a number of responsibilities to ensure that the project starts smoothly and proceeds as planned. Here are some of the key tasks and activities a general contractor performs before actual construction starts:

  1. Bidding on the Project: Before being awarded a project, general contractors often need to prepare and submit bids. This involves estimating the costs of labor, materials, and overhead, then adding a profit margin.
  2. Site Assessment: Once awarded the contract, a contractor will visit the site to assess its conditions. This helps in understanding potential challenges like soil quality, surrounding structures, and accessibility.
  3. Securing Permits: Based on the nature and scope of the project, various permits may be required from local municipalities or other governing bodies. It’s the contractor’s responsibility to apply for and secure these necessary permits.
  4. Project Planning: This includes creating a detailed work schedule, setting milestones, and determining the sequence of tasks. The plan will outline which trades or subcontractors will be on site and when.
  5. Budgeting: Based on the agreed contract and the contractor’s own estimations, a budget will be set for the project. This budget will be continuously monitored and adjusted as needed throughout the construction process.
  6. Hiring Subcontractors: For specialized tasks (e.g., plumbing, electrical, roofing), the general contractor will hire subcontractors. This involves negotiating terms, rates, and schedules.
  7. Material Procurement: The contractor either orders the necessary materials or coordinates with suppliers to ensure that materials are delivered on time according to the construction schedule.
  8. Risk Assessment: The contractor evaluates potential risks associated with the project and determines strategies to mitigate those risks. This can include safety risks, environmental risks, or financial risks.
  9. Safety Planning: Ensuring safety on a construction site is paramount. Before work begins, the contractor establishes safety protocols, provides safety equipment, and ensures that everyone on site is aware of safety guidelines.
  10. Communication: The contractor sets up lines of communication with the client, subcontractors, suppliers, and any other stakeholders. This often includes regular update meetings or reports.
  11. Financing Arrangements: If required, the contractor will work with financial institutions or the client to ensure proper financing is in place for the project.
  12. Site Preparation: Before the main construction begins, the site might need to be cleared, excavated, or prepped in other ways to ensure it’s ready for building.
  13. Contract Review: It’s essential for the general contractor to thoroughly understand the contract’s terms and conditions, including the scope of work, payment terms, penalties, and any other pertinent details.

These preparatory steps are crucial because they lay the groundwork for a successful construction project. Proper planning and preparation can help avoid costly mistakes, delays, and disputes as the project progresses.

What does a GC do during construction project?

During the construction phase, a General Contractor (GC) takes on a central role in ensuring that the project is executed according to plan, on time, and within budget. Here are the primary responsibilities and tasks a GC performs during a construction project:

  1. Oversight and Supervision: The GC is responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations on the construction site, ensuring that work is progressing as scheduled, and that quality standards are being met.
  2. Coordination of Work: The GC coordinates the work of various subcontractors, ensuring that tasks are completed in the correct sequence and that there are no scheduling conflicts.
  3. Quality Control: Monitoring the quality of materials and workmanship is crucial. The GC ensures that the construction adheres to the architectural plans, building codes, and industry standards.
  4. Safety Management: The GC is responsible for maintaining a safe construction site. This includes conducting regular safety inspections, ensuring that workers have and use the proper safety equipment, and addressing any safety concerns immediately.
  5. Communication: The GC acts as the main point of communication between the client, design team, subcontractors, suppliers, and any other stakeholders. Regular updates on project progress, challenges, or changes are typically provided.
  6. Problem Solving: Unexpected issues often arise during construction. The GC is responsible for addressing these challenges, finding solutions, and making necessary adjustments to the work.
  7. Material Management: The GC ensures that materials are delivered on time and are properly stored on site. This includes checking the quality of delivered materials and confirming that they match specifications.
  8. Budget Management: Keeping the project within the agreed-upon budget is critical. The GC monitors expenses, approves subcontractor invoices, and ensures that the project remains financially on track.
  9. Change Orders: If changes to the original scope of work are necessary or requested, the GC manages the change order process. This includes pricing, client approval, and implementation.
  10. Document Management: The GC manages various documents, including construction plans, contracts, change orders, and any other related paperwork. Keeping records organized and updated is crucial for legal and financial reasons.
  11. Scheduling Inspections: Depending on the jurisdiction and the nature of the work, various inspections may be required at different stages of the construction. The GC schedules and coordinates these inspections with the appropriate authorities.
  12. Labor Management: The GC manages the construction workforce, which includes hiring, training, scheduling, and sometimes even payroll for direct employees.
  13. Equipment Management: Ensuring that equipment is available, functional, and used safely is another responsibility. This might involve renting or leasing necessary equipment and coordinating its use.

In essence, the role of a GC during a construction project is comprehensive, involving multitasking and coordination across various domains to ensure the project’s successful completion.

What does a GC do after construction phase?

After the construction phase is completed, a General Contractor (GC) still has several important responsibilities to ensure the project is truly finalized and to maintain a positive relationship with the client. Here’s what a GC typically does post-construction:

  1. Final Walkthrough: The GC conducts a final walkthrough or inspection of the project with the client and/or designer to ensure all aspects of the project have been completed satisfactorily. This provides an opportunity to identify any small issues or deficiencies that need to be addressed.
  2. Address Punch List Items: A “punch list” is a list of tasks or fixes that need to be completed or corrected. After the final walkthrough, the GC will address and rectify any items on this list.
  3. Project Closeout: This involves finalizing all paperwork, ensuring all permits and inspections have been signed off, and providing the client with necessary documentation, such as warranties, product manuals, and any other relevant materials.
  4. Final Payment: The GC will facilitate the process of final payment, ensuring all work is billed and all subcontractors and suppliers are paid.
  5. Transfer of Utilities: If applicable, utilities might be transferred from the contractor’s name back to the property owner or the client.
  6. Training: For projects that include complex systems, such as specialized HVAC systems or smart home technology, the GC might provide training to the client or the end-users on how to operate these systems.
  7. Warranty Period: Most construction projects come with a warranty period where the contractor guarantees the quality of the work and agrees to repair any defects that might arise within a specified time frame.
  8. Post-Construction Cleanup: The GC is responsible for ensuring the site is clean, which might involve hiring specialty cleaning crews, removing construction debris, and ensuring the space is ready for occupancy.
  9. Feedback and Reviews: Many GCs will seek feedback from the client about their performance, potentially using this feedback for future improvements and for testimonials or reviews.
  10. Retention Release: In some contracts, a portion of the project’s payment (often called “retention”) is held back until a certain period after completion to ensure there are no latent defects. The GC will facilitate the release of this retention once the period is over.
  11. Post-Construction Meetings: Some GCs hold post-construction debrief meetings with their team and subcontractors to discuss what went well and what could be improved upon for future projects.
  12. Transfer of Building Maintenance: Especially in commercial or multi-unit residential projects, the GC might be involved in the transition of building maintenance responsibilities to the client’s designated maintenance teams or personnel.

In essence, while the bulk of a GC’s responsibilities culminate during the construction phase, the post-construction phase is crucial for ensuring client satisfaction, wrapping up all loose ends, and maintaining the contractor’s reputation for future business opportunities.

What are the differences between General Contractor and Contractor?

The terms “General Contractor” and “Contractor” are sometimes used interchangeably, but they can represent different roles depending on the context. Here’s a comparison table to highlight the differences:

AttributeGeneral Contractor (GC)Contractor
DefinitionA professional or company responsible for the overall coordination and management of a construction project.A broad term that refers to anyone involved in the construction industry who signs a contract to provide services or materials. This includes general contractors, subcontractors, and specialty contractors.
Role ScopeOversees the entire construction project from start to finish, including hiring subcontractors, managing the budget, ensuring quality, and communicating with clients.Depending on their specialization, contractors might focus on specific tasks, like plumbing, electrical work, roofing, or masonry. They might be hired by a general contractor or work directly for clients on smaller projects.
Hiring SubcontractorsGCs frequently hire subcontractors to perform specialized tasks that they themselves do not execute.Contractors, if they are not acting in the capacity of a GC, usually don’t hire other subcontractors. However, if they are operating as a general contractor on a particular project, they might.
Contractual RelationshipTypically has a direct contract with the project owner or client.Can have a direct contract with a client (like in the case of a home renovation) or with a general contractor (like a plumber being hired for a new building’s plumbing).
Project SizeOften involved in larger projects that require the coordination of various trades and professionals.Can be involved in both large and small projects, depending on their area of expertise.
ResponsibilitiesCovers a wide range of tasks, including budget management, timeline adherence, quality control, and communication among all parties.Responsibilities are typically more narrowly focused on their area of expertise or the specific tasks outlined in their contract.
LiabilityGenerally carries significant liability for the entire project and ensures that all subcontractors have appropriate licensing and insurance.Carries liability for their specific scope of work but not for the entire project unless they are acting as the GC.

It’s important to note that the distinction can sometimes be blurry, especially in smaller projects where a contractor might take on the role of a general contractor. The specific responsibilities and titles can also vary based on regional differences, industry practices, and specific contractual arrangements.

Software for General Contractors companies

  1. Procore:
    • Overview: Procore is a cloud-based construction management software solution that provides tools for various construction tasks, including project management, financials, and field productivity.
    • Features: Document management, job costing, time tracking, drawing management, client communication, and more.
    • Best For: Medium to large construction firms that need a comprehensive solution for project management and client collaboration.
  2. BuilderTREND:
    • Overview: BuilderTREND is a cloud-based construction project management tool designed for home builders and remodelers.
    • Features: Bid management, budgeting, client communication, document and photo management, and scheduling.
    • Best For: Home builders, remodelers, and specialty contractors looking for an all-in-one solution.
  3. CoConstruct:
    • Overview: CoConstruct is a web-based and mobile construction project management software designed for custom home builders and remodelers.
    • Features: Budgeting, scheduling, communication tools, client and subcontractor portals, and job logging.
    • Best For: Custom home builders and remodelers focusing on client communication and project collaboration.
  4. PlanGrid:
    • Overview: PlanGrid is a construction productivity software solution that provides teams with access to project plans, punch lists, project tasks, progress photos, daily field reports, and more.
    • Features: Blueprint management, task tracking, photo documentation, and team collaboration.
    • Best For: Contractors and construction professionals needing a mobile solution for field communication and documentation.
  5. ERPIxel ConstructMate
    • Overview: ERPIxel ConstructMate is software designed for construction companies
    • Features: Bidding, Tasks Scheduling, Contact management, Job management, document sharing, and budget tracking.
    • Best For: Contractors in various trades looking for a straightforward task and contact management solution.

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