A general contractor is someone or a company in charge of the entire construction project, whether it’s commercial or residential. Bidding on a job, obtaining a job, providing all materials, labor, and equipment needed to complete the job, and overseeing its completion are all responsibilities of the general contracting company. While general contracting duties may include some or all aspects of a construction project, particularly carpentry, more specialized work, such as plumbing, electrical, and mechanical, may be subcontracted out.
Although a bachelor’s degree in construction science is preferred many larger companies, no degree is technically required to become a general contractor, also known as a main contractor in Europe and a prime contractor the US government. Before obtaining a license to work, people in this position must pass a written exam on general construction practices and laws in every state in the United States. Before obtaining a license in some states, a contractor must demonstrate that he or she has the financial means to run a general contracting business, as well as provide recommendations from previous employers, clients, and business associates.
A general contractor’s job entails looking for work and submitting construction bids in order to be hired to manage a project. Before submitting an estimate to the client, contractors will typically estimate the cost of materials for the project, add in their projected cost of labor, including payment for subcontractors, and their profit margin. When the client accepts the bid, the contractor will almost certainly obtain a performance bond, especially for larger projects, to ensure that the client is financially protected in the event the project is not completed on time or in the manner requested.
The general contractor will then solicit bids for the specialty work required for the project that the contractor’s company is unable or unwilling to handle once the paperwork is completed and the contract is signed. In some cases, especially when working for the government, the contractor will be required to provide a list of subcontractors to the client either before or after the contract is signed; subcontractors are sometimes subject to the client’s approval.
From there, the general contractor is in charge of all aspects of the project and is personally liable for any problems that arise during construction. Unless the agreement with the subcontractor or subcontractors states otherwise, any delays or issues with the project may be paid for the contractor. While some general contractors do the majority of the work themselves, those who hire subcontractors are still accountable for the work’s timeliness and quality.