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design build vs general contractor

The difference a between design build firm and hiring a general contractor

In today’s remodeling world, there are generally two types of ways to execute a project: traditional construction also known as Design-Bid-Build (DBB) and Design-Build (DB). For the most part, a lead contractor is involved in both types of construction, however, there are some differences. So, what’s right for your project? Design-build vs. general contractors?

Traditional / Design-Bid-Build

This scenario involves a lead contracting company that designs, bids your project out to subcontractors and then oversees the build. Whirlwind Steel offers some of the pros and cons of this type of contractor.

Tight control over who designs the project and how it will be built. In most communities, DBB contractors are what you’ll see in the most in entire homes being built. Why? Residential home builds are more artistic and creative and some require certain types of licensing. That means it’s cost-effective to design the project first, put it out for bid and then complete the project.

There are disadvantages to using the DBB method.

    • Length of Project – In the DBB world, it will take longer to complete the project. That is because there are more steps in this process. You have the designer, the contractor, and the subcontractors.>
    • Money – Because of the three elements in DBB, the cost of the project might be more than expected—again due to the personnel involved in the project.
    • Owner Risk – This can be high for the homeowner. With a designer, a lead contractor, and subcontractors there may be finger pointing at who is responsible for any flaws or problems with the build.

One might think of the DBB method as “too many cooks in the kitchen” where accountability is hard to determine.


Simply put these firms design and build the project. Most design-build firms will utilize the same construction staff to complete their projects or keep them in constant employ. This makes for easy flow of a renovation or other construction project. Everyone is under one roof and everyone is on the same page.

K-Con, Inc. offers the advantages of design-build.

  • Cost – This can be markedly lower. In fact, up to 5.2 percent less than DBB contractors.
  • Length of Project – With everyone under one roof, working together, the length of the project will be more streamlined. This means great communications and fewer bottlenecks during the project. Overall, design-build projects are completed 33 percent faster than DBB projects.
  • Changes and Changes – With design-build contractors you won’t see the disconnect DBB contractors face using the too many cooks in the kitchen scenario. Changes mean change orders and design-build firms see everything they need to complete upfront with few if any change orders.
  • Better Workmanship – Because design-build firms stick with the same builders for most projects, what is shown to you in the design is what you’ll get upon the completion of your construction or renovation project.

Home Building vs. Home Renovations

For home building, a DBB contractor may be the way to go. They are experienced and have the subcontractors needed for every part of the job from the roof to the foundation.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for home renovations like a kitchen, bathroom or other room, a design-build contractor is the way to go. Design-build firms have tackled home renovations more than they have tackled entire homes.
If you’re thinking of renovating all or part of your home, the structure of your home will most likely not change. This is where you would want to hire a design-build firm.

Check Licenses and Get References

Whether you choose a DBB firm or a design-build firm, be sure to check for licenses, bonds, and required insurances. It’s also a must-do to check references and portfolios before you make a determination on which firm to hire.