What exactly does a general contractor do?

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Think of the general contractor as the head of your reno’s family tree. (If your project involves an architect, the general contractor comes second.) Your general contractor is the project point person who

  • works one-on-one with you
  • hires and coordinates all the sub-contractors needed for your project, including but not limited to the electrician, plumber, carpenter, flooring and window installers and craftspeople
  • is your representative with the local building officials who issue permits and do inspections

A general contractor is responsible for coordinating all aspects of building or remodeling, from start to finish. Your GC may also have hands-on responsibility for doing some aspects of the work and be experienced in areas such as framing, roofing, landscaping or masonry as well as basic jobs like laying tile, hanging drywall and painting.

In terms of the GC’s big-picture responsibilities, they are to:

  • work within your budget and allocate funds to the various components of the project
  • organize all workers and keep them on schedule
  • order materials, examine them as they arrive and oversee their installation
  • ensure the quality of the work and that your vision is being realized

With this much responsibility for keeping your job on track, the GC you choose should have the right credentials. In most states, a GC needs to be licensed and insured. Your GC should be local to your area and completely familiar with specific building codes. A working relationship with your city or town’s building officials is a definite plus.