What is a General Contractor And Should I Hire Now?

If you have a ghost in your attic, you call the Ghostbusters. But who do you call when you want to remodel your home?

Read our short guide on general contractors to learn what exactly a general contractor does, and when you need to hire one:  

Who’s who?

You’ll come across more than one kind of contractor while planning a construction project or home renovation. The list of specialized skills is long: plumbers, plasterers, painters, electricians, ironworkers, concrete specialists, roofers, carpenters, masons, and more.

These professionals are commonly referred to as subcontractors, performing one specific task in a construction project (plumbing, bricklaying, landscaping, etc.).

And likely you’ll need some if not all of these people or companies involved in some aspect of your project at some point. But the person who manages all these subcontractors for you? That’s your general contractor.

The GC gig:

General contractors are typically brought on board for large-scope projects like a home remodel, renovation, or new construction.

A great general contractor will in many ways carry the load for you. They are the point person on-site, handling all the details including rough materials, building permits, labor, equipment, and any other services required. They will hire from an established network of subcontractors, scheduling and overseeing their work to ensure everything runs smoothly, safely, and legally.

Some homeowners may want to move forward without hiring a general contractor, and instead choose to DIY their renovation or remodel project. The homeowner will then be responsible for coordinating and hiring all the various skilled trades needed to complete the project. And that this is not an inconsequential amount of work!

General contractor overlooking active construction site
A great general contractor will in many ways carry the load for you.

Are general contractors licensed?

Here at Beam, we recommend working with a licensed general contractor on your home renovation project. General contractor license requirements vary quite a bit from state to state, even from county to county. For more details, see this comprehensive guide to general contractor license requirements from Next Insurance.

A licensed general contractor will typically carry liability insurance (many states require this for licensing purposes). Also, many highrises, condo, or co-op buildings and homeowner associations will require you to hire a licensed general contractor with set insurance amounts. This means that if there is damage to the property, or worse yet, a worker is injured, the general contractor will be in a position to responsibly handle the situation.

A great general contractor makes worksite safety, ensuring that manufacturing guidelines are followed, and even post-construction clean-up his or her top priority.

Getting on the Schedule

At the moment, demand far outpaces supply when it comes to general contractors in many parts of the US. Data from the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University indicates not only that the pandemic has seen a large uptick in home remodeling and renovation, but that this trend will continue through the middle of 2022.

This means it can take time to get on a general contractor's schedule, and you may want to consider alternative options in the event your project is small enough to be managed by a niche team. If your project is at a scope that requires the oversight of a general contractor - plan in advance. There are plenty of planning and design decisions to be made before you get started.

In fact, it is beneficial to hire other design professionals to help you make those decisions (or make them yourself) before you even begin looking for your general contractor. Most general contractors will not be able to even put you on their schedule or commit to your project without first having a clear scope of what needs to be done.

Architect at work
Photo by Daniel McCullough / Unsplash

When to hire a general contractor for your project

If you’re looking to make small cosmetic updates or do light repair work to your home, you may be better off working with a local handyman or specialized contractor like a plumber. But when it comes to time to plan the big changes, you’re in the market for a great general contractor to help bring your remodel or renovation to life.

As for timing, it’s generally considered best practice to wait to solicit bids and have more detailed conversations with a potential GC or independent contractor, only after you have fully scoped your project.

If you intend to make major changes to your space, a design professional (architect or designer) will be the best equipped to help you define that initial scope, select materials, provide detailed design documents, and gauge the viability of planned improvements - all of which is information the general contractor will need to provide you with accurate estimates on cost and schedule.

Knowing exactly what you need to build will help you select a general contractor with the right combination of skill strengths best suited to your specific project needs.

Here at Beam, we work with a network of carefully vetted general contractors, interior designers, and architects to help bring your project to life. Whether you are considering a kitchen remodel, full basement finish, new construction, or home addition, Beam will guide you through the design and planning process and help match you with the right team.

Looking to remodel your space? Choose every fixture and finish, or let our pros guide you to success. Get in touch with Beam to start your remodel today.