When you hire a general contractor for a remodeling project, you select the person or company that will supervise the job. However, that doesn’t mean the general contractor (or GC) will personally perform all the work needed to meet the specifications of the project.
In fact, in a bathroom or kitchen renovation, it’s likely the general contractor will hire out or subcontract much of the work.
What Does the General Contractor Do?
As the job supervisor, the GC performs many functions. Those include:
- Getting any permits required for the job. [add internal link to Do you Need a Permit article]
- Keeping an eye on the budget.
- Ordering materials and scheduling their delivery so that they are onsite when needed. The GC also makes sure supplies aren’t delivered too early when they could clutter the job site and be damaged.
- Hiring subcontractors to perform specialized work such as plumbing.
- Scheduling the job so that work is tackled in the proper order. This requires getting the right workers in and out at the right time so everything that needs to be completed or prepped is ready before the next group of workers shows up.
- Checking the work to make sure it’s done correctly and meets the quality standards necessary to pass inspection.
- Scheduling inspections.
- Communicating with the property owners and keeping them apprised of progress and setbacks.
What the General Contractor Can Do
If the licensed GC or company you hired has its own laborers, these workers may perform some of the less-specialized tasks like removing old cabinets, pulling up flooring, or doing basic demolition.
They may also be tasked with carpentry, installing cabinets, or painting.
What the General Contractor Can’t Do
While general contractors must understand the entire building process to run the job, they don’t necessarily need to have highly specialized skills in every trade. That’s why they are “general” contractors—they are generalists.
When it comes to specialized work like plumbing and electrical, the GC can’t do the work without being licensed in those skills. To pass inspection, someone with the required licensure and training must perform these tasks.
While the general contracting company may have a licensed plumber or electrician on staff, it’s more likely the GC will bring in subcontractors to take care of those aspects of the project.
The rules on what specialty trades need to be licensed can vary widely from state to state. Most, including New York, have strict rules about the education and experience required to become a licensed plumber or electrician. HVAC contractors usually need a license, too.
California has a whopping 44 different kinds of contractors licenses for everything from electrical and plumbing to landscaping and painting.
In many cases, the GC will use subcontractors for a variety of specialties, including tiling and plastering, even if those trades don’t need to be licensed. It makes more sense for them to call in someone with specific skills when needed rather than to keep them on the payroll full-time.
Why a Good GC Is Important
As you can see, GCs will touch every aspect of the job in some way or another, so it’s essential to select someone who has a good network of reliable subcontractors. Skilled workers can be in high demand and they’re most likely to be available for your project if they have a good relationship with your GC. A great general contractor also:
- Understands how projects work
- Schedules sensibly and makes sure things are ready before bringing subcontractors onsite
- Pays on time.
If you’re undertaking a remodeling project, interview several general contractors (internal link to the article on how to check out a GC) before hiring anyone. Find a general contractor who has experience in renovations similar to what you’re trying to achieve.
Alternatively, you can select a company like Block, which only works with general contractors who have passed their stringent vetting process. Block’s contractors have extensive experience working on both kitchen and bathroom projects of all shapes and sizes so you know you’re getting someone qualified for the job.