What Does a General Contractor Do?

Many homeowners mistakenly believe that they can simplify a home building project by preceding the hiring of a general contractor and hiring several subcontractors to perform each job that needs doing. While this may seem like a clear solution to a large (and crucial) project, as General Contractors, we often have to show up and correct the issues this so-called "solution" has caused.

Home building is a highly complicated and time-consuming project. Even sufficiently experienced builders who possess the professional knowledge needed to complete a project, fail each year.  Hiring the right general contractor is vital to run a project smoothly and efficiently.

Here are but a few of the many things you pay for when you hire a general contractor:

  • Knowledge of the Home Building Process - From start to finish, a contractor knows how to prioritize and time every aspect of the project. It's not uncommon for costs to quickly exceed budgets after removing completed work to gain access to a task that should have been completed first.
  • Knowledge of the Building Trade - Good contractors will provide supervision all of the subcontractors, and frequently check the quality of every sub contractor's work.
  • Building Code Knowledge - As a layman, can you look at a sub contractor's work and know if it will pass a current inspection? A good General Contractor can. This knowledge prevents you from having to pay re-inspection fees and living with the inevitable delays that follow. GC's also know the precise ins and outs of ever-changing local codes and construction requirements.
  • Construction Scheduling Knowledge - Your General Contractor, is in charge of planning and executing an exact schedule. GC's spend a lot of time on the phone coordinating with subcontractors to be sure everyone is on the same page. Remember it is common to have 30 to 40 different subs that need to have coordinated involvement in the construction of even the most basic house.  If just one subcontractor misses their scheduled time, the resulting cascade effect can negatively impact and delay the whole project.
  • Understanding Builder Relationships - You would be correct in assuming that suppliers and subcontractors are more responsive to and flexible with General Contractors they have worked with in the past and with whom they plan to work in the future. Quality subcontractors are selective about which jobs they will consider. Good subs take into account the General Contractor's level of construction knowledge, the likelihood of completing their work without interruption, and the client and contractor's payment history.
  • Extensive Contracting Knowledge - Do you know what constitutes a valid change order? Will you know how to distinguish a reasonable change in scope from a bogus surcharge? General Contractors work with contracts and subcontractors every day. They can tell you down to the smallest detail exactly what you agree to in each contract.

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