Differences Between General Contractors and Subcontractors
A general contractor is qualified to undertake various construction projects. Their services are required when either planning, constructing or enhancing a commercial, residential, industrial, or civic structure. A general contractor, principal contractor or subcontractor is ultimately responsible for the supervision of trades, management of contractors and suppliers, and all other details related to a project during the duration of its completion. In essence, they are the individuals who ensure that the project is completed on time and within budget.
The term ‘general contractor’ refers to anyone who undertakes work for another party, either an individual or an institution. General contractors usually do not undertake construction projects themselves; rather they hire other individuals and companies to conduct the overall project management. Their duties depend on the nature of the construction project and the type of contract they have signed with their clients. For instance, a general contractor may oversee the design and layout of a residential building, oversee construction of the structure itself, oversee construction of the foundation, and oversee the construction of electrical, plumbing, drainage systems, etc. A general contractor may also be called upon to coordinate the installation of carpets, tiles, wallpaper, flooring, kitchen fixtures, sinks, fixtures for heating and air conditioning, etc. Some contractors may also be required to undertake repairs and alterations to structures as part of the contract.
Contractors are usually independent entities, although there are some construction companies that specialize in a particular field such as plumbing or heating. Regardless of whether or not they work under a single company name, all general contractors are answerable to just one customer. This means that each customer is responsible for their own financial statements, schedule, quality assurances, and delivery schedules. The majority of general contractors operate on larger projects that take several months to complete. When hiring a general contractor, potential clients must ensure that the company has years of experience in that particular field and that they are able to meet delivery deadlines on a timely basis. A reputable contractor will have no problems with providing references and will often conduct a background check on their employees prior to hiring them.
In contrast, when a contractor is hired directly by a client, this means that a contractor will have several employees that will be involved in the project, but none of the other employees will be overseeing the company’s financial records or other aspects. Some general contractors will have a property manager or a leasing agent that is directly hired to oversee the construction of the project. In instances where the contract installation is being overseen by a general contractor who is not an employee of the client company, the company is not responsible for hiring employees of that contractor either.
One of the main differences between direct hiring and contracting with a general contractor lies in the amount of oversight that is afforded to the client. Contractors will usually have hired several employees over the years that have been knowledgeable in the different aspects of construction. These employees will typically have in-depth knowledge of everything from plumbing to interior design. When a general contractor is hired directly, there is typically no oversight provided to ensure that the contractor fully understands the construction project. The same can be said for contractors that are hired through a firm.
The most common scenario in which a general contractor is hired directly is when the project is large and complex. When the project is so large that hiring several individuals to perform various aspects of the construction is not feasible, hiring a general contractor is utilized. For instance, if the interior designer needs to be hired to build a set from scratch in order to create a new design or theme for a room in the house, several interior designers may be hired for the job. If the plumbing company needs to be hired to install and repair pipes for a basement, a plumber will probably be hired as well.