General contractor

A general contractor is responsible for the day-to-day oversight of the construction site, management of vendors and trades, and keeping communication between the involved parties open and clear throughout the course of a project.[1]

A general contractor must first assess the project specific documents (referred to as tender documents). In the case of renovations, sometimes a site visit is required to get a better understanding of the project. As a result of this, the contractor will generate a price, also called an ‘’estimate’’. The general contractor considers the cost of materials, equipment as well as the cost of labor to provide the owner with an approximate price for the project.

In these contract documents, the contract agreement includes budget, the general and special conditions and the plans and specification of the project that are prepared by a design professional such as an architect. In many instances the general contractor is the project engineer or project manager for construction projects.



A general contractor is responsible for providing all of the material, labor, equipment, (engineering vehicles and tools) and services necessary for the construction of the project. In order to get these tasks done, the general contractor hires more specialized subcontractors to perform portions or all of the construction work.

Depending on the size of a project, responsibilities may include: • Filing for building permits, Securing the property, • Providing temporary utilities on site • Managing personnel on site • Providing site surveying and engineering • Disposing/Recycling of construction waste • Monitoring schedules and cash flows • Maintaining accurate records as construction progresses. [2]

UK and commonwealth usage

In the United Kingdom and certain former British Commonwealth countries the term 'general contractor' was gradually superseded by 'main contractor' during the early twentieth century. This followed the practice of major professional, trade and consumer organizations issuing standard forms of contract for undertaking the variety of construction works spanning the whole spectrum of the industry. It was and is usual for the term main contractor to be used and defined in all these contract documents, and as a result the term general contractor became an anachronism.[1]

General contractors that conduct work for government agencies are typically referred to as prime contractors.

Requirements for Licensing

There are no set educational requirements to become a general contractor, although most employers do prefer that you have a bachelor's degree. Some general contractors obtain bachelor's degrees in construction science, building science, surveying, construction safety, etc.

General contractors usually start out as regular construction workers. While gaining work experience, they learn about different aspects of construction, including masonry, carpentry, framing and plumbing. Aspiring general contractors network with subcontractors and may learn the management skills they need to run their own company.

Experience in the construction industry as well as references from customers, business partners or former employers are demanded. Some states go as far as requiring candidates to prove financing to own their own general contracting firm.

General contractors often run their own business. They hire subcontractors to complete specialized construction work and may manage a team of plumbers, electricians, builders, carpenters and other specialists. General contractors build their business by networking with potential clients, buying basic construction tools and ensuring that their subcontractors complete high-quality work. General contractors don't usually complete much construction work themselves, but they should remain familiar with construction techniques so they can manage workers effectively.

Because general contractors are usually at the top of the employment line the only benefits are the ones that they buy themselves. However, if the general contractor works under a company, getting heath insurance is a plus. Because the jobs vary in complexity, they get paid by the job. Also, some materials cost more than others. For example, tiling a bathroom will cost more than putting siding on a house.

As a business owner

For legal reasons it can be easier to hire and also release a contractor compared to an employee that has Permanent employment. Large numbers of business owners choose to hire contractors because of uncertainty within their business or have constraints such as maternity, illness or other legal factors which entail that hiring a permanent employee is not a feasible option.[3] Both business owners and private homeowners are well served by vetting their general contractor prior to doing business. The first step in the vetting process is to perform a contractor licensing lookup, to ensure the contractor is properly licensed to perform the work desired. Most states in the United States have free online license check databases available to the general public.[4]

General contractor example

An owner or real estate developer would develop a program of their needs and select a site (often with an architect). The Architect assembles a design team of consulting engineers and other experts to design the building and specify the building systems to meet those needs. Today contractors frequently participate in the design team effort by providing pre-design services where they will help in providing more accurate estimation of budget and scheduling during design to improve the over all economy of the project. Otherwise the general contractor is hired just to build the building(s) at the close of the design phase. The owner, architect, and general contractor work closely together to meet deadlines and budget. The general contractor then works with subcontractors to ensure quality standards in addition to timeline and budget.

See also


  1. ^ Hendrickson, Chris. & Au, Tung. (2000) The Design and Construction Process. Project Management for Construction: Fundamental Concepts for Owners, Engineers, Architects and Builders. (Chapter 3)
  2. ^ Allen, Edward, & Iano Joseph (2009). Fundamentals of Building Construction Materials and Methods. 5th ed. Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons.
  3. ^ Why do companies hire contractors?
  4. ^ Contractor licensing lookup by state

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • general contractor — ➔ contractor * * * general contractor UK US noun [C] (US PRODUCTION, PROPERTY ► a person or company that agrees to manage a project, especially a building project, and provide materials and workers, and that might employ subcontractors to do… …   Financial and business terms

  • general contractor — n: a person or business entity that contracts to be in charge of a building project usu. involving the use of subcontractors – called also original contractor, prime, prime contractor; Merriam Webster’s Dictionary of Law. Merriam Webster. 1996 …   Law dictionary

  • general contractor — n. a person who contracts to construct a building or buildings, for a stipulated sum, in accordance with certain plans and specifications, or to remodel or build an addition to a building * * * …   Universalium

  • general contractor — n. a person who contracts to construct a building or buildings, for a stipulated sum, in accordance with certain plans and specifications, or to remodel or build an addition to a building …   English World dictionary

  • general contractor — noun A contractor hired to manage a project and to hire subcontractors. (If a customer serves as their own general contractor then this means they undertake the management tasks and the hiring of subcontractors.) …   Wiktionary

  • general contractor — One who contracts for the construction of an entire building or project, rather than for a portion of the work. The general contractor hires subcontractors (e.g. plumbing, electrical, etc.), coordinates all work, and is responsible for payment to …   Black's law dictionary

  • General Contractor — Eine Zenekon (jap. ゼネコン, von engl. General Contractor, wörtlich: „Generalunternehmer“) nennt man in Japan eine sehr große Baufirma. Eine Zenekon führt typischerweise alle mit dem Bau eines Gebäudes verbundenen Tätigkeiten aus: Sie ist also oft… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • contractor — con·trac·tor / kän ˌtrak tər, kən trak / n: one that contracts: as a: one that contracts to perform work or provide supplies b: one that contracts to erect buildings Merriam Webster’s Dictionary of Law. Merriam Webster. 1996 …   Law dictionary

  • contractor — con‧trac‧tor [kənˈtræktə ǁ ˈkɑːntræktər] noun [countable] COMMERCE a person or company that makes an agreement to do work or provide goods in large amounts for another company: • The company has no plans to expand the use of contractors in place… …   Financial and business terms

  • Contractor — may refer to: General contractor, organization or individual that contracts with another organization or individual (the owner) for the construction of a building, road or other facility Subcontractor, an individual or business that signs a… …   Wikipedia

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