What Is A General Contractor

The general contractor may be called a builder, building contractor, remodeling contractor, etc.

What makes him or her a “general” contractor is that he enters into a contract with the owner to complete a project and takes full responsibility to get the job done for the bid price. In general, he purchases the materials, hires the tradespeople, and brings in subcontractors to get the work done. The subcontractors are responsible to the general contractor, not to you, the owner.

No other single decision will have a greater impact on the success or failure of your project than your choice of a general contractor.



  • Detailed plans, contracts, and construction documents won't result in good work from someone lacking in skills or integrity.
  • Find a GC whom you can trust and feel comfortable working with. If you have to pay a little extra to hire the right person, you won’t regret it. 
  • Choose a company that fits your style and personality.  After all, you and your contractor will essentially be business partners for length of the job, so choose someone with honesty and integrity - and with whom you feel comfortable.
  • Assume that there will be issues along the way and select a contractor whom you feel will work cooperatively with you to find the best solutions. 
  • Review bids carefully.  Make sure you are comparing "apples" to "apples."  The savings from hiring the low bidder often evaporate as the job progresses.  Often, the savings you thought you were getting later evaporate into extras, inadequate allowances, low quality and headaches.

General Contractor Responsibilities

While doing all of the above, the GC is often meeting with the owners to address their concerns, while juggling the many little things that can turn his tightly scheduled enterprise into chaos. For example, bad weather slows down the framing crew, so the plumbers and electricians need to be rescheduled, but his favorite electrician will not be available when needed, delaying the insulation crew. Later, the special-order windows are shipped with the wrong jamb profile, requiring custom shop work or another long delay. And so on…

  • Estimating and bidding the project
  • Negotiating a contract with the owner
  • Hiring and negotiating contracts with subcontractors
  • Obtaining the necessary permits and scheduling inspections
  • Establishing a payment schedule based on work progress
  • Disbursing money to subs and material suppliers
  • Creating a schedule for workers, subs, and deliveries
  • Negotiating material prices and ordering materials
  • Interpreting the plans and specifications
  • Supervising and coordinating the work of employees and subs
  • Troubleshooting job-site problems

A good contractor has good relationships with competent and reliable subs. That means the subs will show up when needed and do good work with minimal supervision. They know what level of work the contractor expects, they know they’ll get paid promptly, and they know that the job will be ready for them when they show up.

Questions To Ask A General Contractor

  • How many jobs like this have you completed?
  • What is the average square-foot cost for this type of job?
  • How much experience do you have with energy-efficient construction, green building, passive solar (or whatever your special interests are)?
  • Who will supervise the construction on site? Who will I be working with once the construction begins?
  • What work will your own employees perform (as opposed to subs)?
  • How do you prefer to work: competitive bid, cost-plus, negotiated price, or something other?
  • What is your company’s greatest strength?
  • (For remodeling): What efforts do you take to keep the job site clean and safe for children, and to keep dust out of the living quarters?

Next - The Design/Build Process

Building in our area and haven't chosen a general contractor? Need design/build dervices? Call us at 828.264.8971 or email us. We would be delighted to help .