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The Role of a General Contractor in Construction
6 minute read
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Tim Forestell
August 21, 2023

The Role of a General Contractor in Construction

Have you ever wondered what a general contractor does? This article will provide an in-depth overview of the pivotal role that general contractors play in the construction industry. Essentially, general contractors (GCs) work to orchestrate and execute construction projects from the beginning to the end.

Who is a General Contractor? Defining the Role

General contractors are person or company who oversees and manages one or multiple construction projects, from beginning to end. Beyond this, GCs are in charge of sourcing materials, labor, equipment, and more. They're also in charge of overseeing all the work done by subcontractors and getting building permits.

What is the Role of a Construction General Contractor?

Some of their primary tasks include coordination within the hierarchy, subcontractor management, and general construction oversite. A general contractor responsibilities include working with clients, architects, and engineers to understand project requirements, scope, and objectives. They also create a detailed project plan that includes timelines, budget estimates, and resource allocation.

When looking at general contractors vs. subcontractors, there are a few key differences. GC hires and manages subcontractors specialized in different trades, such as plumbing, electrical work, carpentry, and more. They coordinate and schedule subcontractors to ensure that each phase of the project is executed as seamlessly as possible. General contractors oversee the day-to-day construction activities, ensuring that work is progressing according to the project plan and specifications.

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The Multifaceted Responsibilities of a General Contractor

General contractors oversee a variety of tasks throughout the day, ranging from initial project planning to budgeting and coordinating with different tradespeople. As a GC, it's important to keep in mind the necessary tasks that need to be completed before, during, and after construction. Here are some of the duties of a general contractor:

Before Construction

Before beginning construction on a site any GC will have a fair amount of planning to complete. The planning will also depend on the type of construction, and the size of the project, among other factors.

Regardless of these variables, a budget will need to be set, as well as a general timeline. Hiring subcontractors and specialized tradespeople is another key component of the preliminary work that must be done.

During Construction

While the construction is taking place it's essential to keep updated documents on the progress of the project. Alongside documentation, it's important to keep the project on schedule and budget. Documentation will help to ensure that all tradespeople are coordinated and working seamlessly. Additionally, completing quality checks throughout the work process is the key to a successful project.

After Construction

Even when construction is completed there are a few tasks that must be completed. One of the most essential tasks to complete after construction is ensuring that all subcontractors get paid and calculate the final budget.

Construction Manager vs General Contractor: Understanding the Distinctions

While both are responsible for planning, coordinating, and supervising different aspects of construction projects, there are many differences between them.

Similar to GCs, construction managers focus on the technical and operational aspects of the project, including scheduling, budgeting, resource allocation, subcontractor coordination, and quality control. However, they do not typically self-perform the construction work but rather oversee and manage the various teams involved in the project.

A general contractor, on the other hand, is a professional or company that takes on the overall responsibility for the construction project. They can self-perform some construction work but also hire and oversee specialized subcontractors for various trades. Their role is more comprehensive and involves not only the technical and operational aspects but also the overall project management, communication, and client interaction.

Typically, the smaller GCs will perform more of their work while large GCs like Turner and AECON do both.

Key Qualifications: What Makes an Effective General Contractor?

Licensing requirements to become a GC vary by location and can take several months to a year or more to complete, depending on the specific demands. The process duration and details will differ based on your location and the needs of the project.

Here are some of the key qualifications for a general contractor to have:

Strong project management: This allows them to meticulously plan, oversee, and complete construction endeavors.

Effective communication skills: Enable seamless interaction with clients, subcontractors, and stakeholders, fostering collaboration and clarity throughout the process.

Problem-solving skills enable general contractors to quickly overcome challenges, ensuring smooth project progress and confident decision-making.

Bidding Process: How to Choose the Right General Contractor for Your Project

There are many benefits to hiring a general contractor for your project and it is essential to choose the right one, which is why we are here to help. Here are 3 tips to help you make an informed choice:

1. Check References and Past Work: Look into the contractor's track record by requesting references from past clients and examining their portfolio of completed projects. Contact these references to inquire about the quality of work, communication, adherence to schedules, and overall professionalism. A general contractor in construction management will have work that reflects them and their experience.

2. Verifying Licenses and Insurance: Ensure that the general contractor is properly licensed, bonded, and insured. A valid license demonstrates their compliance with local regulations and their commitment to professionalism. Insurance coverage, including liability and workers' compensation, safeguards you against potential liabilities and accidents that could occur on the job site.

3. Evaluate Communication and Compatability: Effective communication is essential for a successful project. During your initial interactions, assess the contractor's willingness to listen, answer your questions, and offer suggestions. A contractor who understands your vision and communicates clearly is more likely to deliver results that align with your expectations.

Navigating Challenges: Potential Obstacles Faced by General Contractors

Some potential issues faced by GC include subcontractor risk, cash flow problems, and reliance on paper. Subcontractor risk refers to the challenge to find good-quality subcontractors. And while there are many good general contractors, it can be a challenge to connect with them.

Cash flow problems are another challenge faced by many construction companies. Some ways to combat this issue are to find alternative funding to help with delayed payments or help you get paid sooner. Lastly, a company's reliance on paper has continued to prove to be an obstacle.

A general contractor's role ranges from transforming construction visions into realities to serving as the orchestrator of complex projects. Their expertise spans from initial planning to final execution, ensuring seamless coordination among various stakeholders, trades, and tasks.

Guiding projects through every phase, managing schedules, budgets, and resources while maintaining adherence to safety protocols and building codes. Their ability to troubleshoot unforeseen challenges, foster efficient communication, and adapt to evolving circumstances is indispensable for achieving successful project outcomes.

Are you a large or small GC looking to rent equipment for your next project? DOZR helps general contractors find the best equipment possible for their job, at the best price. Check out DOZR Marketplace for your next rental! 

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Tim Forestell
Tim Forestell is one of DOZR’s co-founders and CCO. Tim got started in the industry as VP Operations for Forestell Landscaping before founding DOZR with Kevin and Erin. Aside from the amazing team at DOZR, his favourite thing about DOZR are the customers. Working with DOZR renters every day gives him a peek at the evolution of different projects and hearing stories about projects being developed from start to finish.
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