You might need a general contractor to help you get through it.
But what exactly is a general contractor, and how do you know if you need one?
At Deslaurier Custom Cabinets, we work closely with general contractors all the time; from new build designs to kitchen renovations. In light of this experience, we understand how important a professional general contractor can be to ensuring construction projects are efficiently coordinated and completed on schedule.
This article will walk you through everything you need to know about general contractors and help you determine whether or not your home improvement project would benefit from their services.
Let’s get started!
Table of Contents
What Is A General Contractor?
You’re probably familiar with the term general contractor, but who, or what, exactly is that?
A general contractor (GC) is someone who is hired to manage and coordinate a residential renovation, home improvement project, or a new build. General contractors are sufficiently licensed, insured, and bonded in accordance with provincial and municipal law.
These licences and bonds will allow them to acquire the required permits for your home. This is especially important if you plan on doing a renovation that requires moving any electrical or plumbing, making structural changes, or adding build-ons or additional rooms.
General contractors are responsible for the day-to-day function of a worksite. They’ll organize materials and communicate information to all necessary parties throughout the build. General contractors will also hire and manage required subcontractors and trades, such as electricians and plumbers.
Essentially, general contractors oversee the entirety of the project and make sure everything is completed on time and within budget. Think of them as a jack-of-all-trades. They will know the ins and outs of construction and will have the valued project managing experience needed to successfully complete a renovation or new build..
Why Hire A General Contractor?
A good general contractor will assist you in ways you never knew you needed!
If you have a large renovation or a new build that requires permits and a multitude of sub-contractors, hiring a general contractor to manage your project will greatly benefit you.
General Contractors will provide a dearth of knowledge regarding building codes, necessary building permits, and other things that ensure a project is approved and completed without a hitch. They’ll gain these permits and also deal with city inspectors (something you most likely have little to no experience with).
Contractors will hire, coordinate and schedule the required subcontractors for you. This is where an experienced project manager provides immense value - construction can be an unpredictable industry. Whether it be unforeseen issues, scheduling mixups, or unreliable trades, problems are bound to arise. Thankfully, a GC will take care of all of that on their own, ensuring that your project is completed as planned.
Another added bonus of hiring a general contractor is that established, reputable contractors will likely be able to receive a better price from these subcontractors than you would when hiring them individually.
Speaking of pricing, general contractors will take care of your budget! Before beginning your project, they will have given you an estimate or quote for the project and together you will have settled on an allocated budget. Within that budget will be the cost of subcontractors, as well as building materials and any other ancillary costs.
The cost of materials, like subcontractors, can often be acquired at a cheaper cost for a reputable contractor than it would be for you. They typically provide consistent business for these companies and will receive better pricing. Additionally, contractors have experience knowing the required amount of materials for a specific job. This will ensure that you don’t make the mistake of ordering too much lumber or not enough hardwood for your floor.
Finally, general contractors will also transfer liability if any unforeseen accidents happen. Any credible contractor will have worker’s compensation insurance for their employees and the subcontractors they hire. This means that in the unfortunate case that someone is injured on your job site, the GC will protect you from liability.
Do You Really Need A General Contractor?
No, not always. Particularly with smaller renovations, a general contractor is not always necessary to complete the project.
For example, let’s focus on a renovation project that is just updating the kitchen and there are no design or structural changes being done.
This can consist of removing and installing new cabinets, new flooring, or giving the walls a fresh new paint colour. A project like this can be completed with the help of a “handyman” or general carpenter.
In fact, if you are proficient in DIY projects or have the construction experience necessary (and the available time that it takes), you could tackle this job yourself and save some money!
In this scenario, you could remove your old kitchen cabinets, install new flooring and repaint your walls yourself. Then, a cabinet supplier like ourselves, Deslaurier Custom Cabinets, would manufacture and install your kitchen cabinetry.
That being said, renovation projects don’t always go as smoothly as anticipated. Maybe your small kitchen facelift requires unexpected electrical work, or perhaps some plumbing lines need to be moved. Having a contractor to take care of these issues and find certified trades workers or subcontractors to accomplish these tasks will save you a major headache.
If your kitchen is having extensive remodeling done, or you’re making any additions to your home, it is always best to consider the services of a professional general contractor before beginning your home improvement project.
How To Hire A General Contractor
Sifting through the yellow pages or sourcing online for a trustworthy contractor is a tall order. A general contractor is responsible for ensuring the quality of permanent work done to your home. With this, it is crucial that you find someone reputable and qualified.
Here are a few questions to keep in mind while you hunt down the right person:
- Are they licensed?
- Are they insured?
- Do they provide a detailed timeline?
- Does their quote break down include labour and material costs?
- Do they have positive reviews?
- Do they have photos of their past work to show you?
Make sure your prospective contractors answer these questions with a “yes” before making a commitment.
You may notice that not all reputable contractors will have a large online presence, as is the norm in the industry. The ones that do, however, will likely answer a number of these questions on their website. Even so, it’s always important to make direct contact with general contractors you are considering working with to ensure you know everything about their services!
Also, if you’re working with a kitchen designer, make sure to ask them for reputable GC referrals!
Can You Be Your Own General Contractor?
In theory, yes. As the property owner, you may act as your own general contractor, depending on the jurisdiction (this will, however, vary by jurisdiction and scope of the project, so be sure to check your local laws).
Acting as your own general contractor is a laborious task. However, it is a good way to save a large amount of money. Contractors are expensive (more on that below) and taking over the role of project manager is a great way to significantly lower the cost of your project’s overall expenses.
When coordinating your own project, you will be responsible for hiring and managing all of the other sub-contractors. Be it plumbers, electricians, HVAC, framers (and more), it is your job to organize and schedule their work in congruence with one another.
Acting as a GC will also require you to keep a constant line of communication between yourself and your subcontractors. You’ll need to ensure the necessary work is completed by each trade in time for another to be able to efficiently fulfill their job. It is a much more hands-on approach that will give you significant control over your entire build.
Budgeting and materials will also fall on you. You’ll have to source your own materials (without the business connections of a GC) and make sure you stay within your fixed budget. You’ll also be in charge of tedious behind-the-scenes responsibilities like gaining the necessary building permits from the city.
All that being said, if you’re up for the challenge, being your own general contractor is a great way to gain experience in the industry while saving money. You’ll no doubt develop a basic understanding of plumbing, electrical, HVAC, cost of materials, and more!
How Much Does A General Contractor Cost?
At Deslaurier, we know how pricey kitchen renovations can get.
A general contractor can add to that expense but is typically a necessary part of a renovation or remodel. Since they are responsible for the entire project from start to finish, they do not come cheap.
Pricing for a GC can be tricky, as some contractors will charge by the hour while others who are managing larger, long-term projects will typically charge a percentage of the total construction project cost.
Generally speaking, expect to pay anywhere from 10% to 20% of your total expenses for a general contractor to manage your home improvement project. Larger, more prestigious projects may even require 25% of the project's total cost to be spent on a general contractor’s services.
Every general contractor is different! When considering local GCs in your area, ask for personalized estimates and see how it fits into your budget and timeframe.
Additionally, there are online tools to help you get estimated quotes for general contractors in your area. Try out a website like Compare Home Quotes, which allows you to input the details of your prospective project in order to provide you with multiple, local estimates!
Discover Deslaurier Custom Cabinets
Having read this article, you should now know what a general contractor does and if their services are something you should consider for your home improvement project.
If you have your eye on custom cabinetry for your new build or kitchen renovation, Deslaurier Custom Cabinets has everything you need! With more than 40 years of quality craftsmanship, we provide our clients with a wholly customized design process with our talented team of designers.
Book a free consultation today and meet with one of our Deslaurier design experts in our Jupiter, Florida showroom!