What is a General Contractor – Marwood Construction

09:41 May 2023
general contractors

What is a general contractor? A general contractor represents a construction company that has the capabilities to facilitate both design and construction improvements of real estate property.

As the prime building contractor, they manage the entire process of construction including pre-construction, construction, and post-construction activities.

They are responsible for project management leadership of onsite construction activities and the administrative duties associated with the execution of the project.

An oversimplified definition of general contracting would be that they are the gatekeepers for anything to do with the construction process. This is why they are commonly called builders.

There are many common misconceptions about this kind of building contractor like people thinking of them as one size fits all as building contractors.

In addition, if you need any type of repair project or anything associated with real estate built you can just call a general contractor.

It is also common to consider that general contractors are all the same and provide identical services. Both of these misapprehensions are ill-advised.

We will examine the different types of general contractors and discuss the various services that they provide.

We will also offer some insights on how to work through the process of selecting, vetting, and hiring the right building contractor for you.

Learn About the day-to-day Tasks Describing What is a General Contractor

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Types of General Contractors

There are many different types of building contractors that operate in the construction services industry. There are residential general contractors that offer their services to homeowners and there are commercial general contractors that service commercial property owners.

In some cases, these builders crossover and will serve both construction industry sectors. In addition, a building contractor can provide new contracting services and remodeling and renovation services.

Residential General Contractors

A residential general contractor serves homeowners for new home contracting and home remodeling.

When it comes to new home construction, they come in many sizes and often specialize as either a production home builder or a custom home builder. Production builders produce volumes of houses.

They may offer 4 to 6 different models in planned housing development, but they do not offer their clients an opportunity to make substantial changes to these home plans.

Whereas with custom home builders they traditionally work with clients that want unique one-of-a-kind home plans built. Custom homes are normally larger houses with distinct architectural features.

These homes take a much longer time to build and commonly require the owner to participate during the contracting process making decisions and selecting most of the products. This is not the case with production home builders.

There are some builders that produce home plans that construct a hybrid house which is an off the shelf design plan that allows their clients to make substantial changes to the home plans. These builders are commonly called semi-custom home builders.

A Home Remodeling Contractor is a building contractor that offers home renovations and remodeling services. This type of general contractor comes in a larger variety type of construction companies than the home builders segment.

A home remodeling contractor traditionally offers their services to homeowners for larger more complicated home improvement projects, such as kitchen remodeling, bathroom remodeling, and home additions.

This is why they are building contractors because they hire a large number of subcontractors and material vendors to execute their projects.

But over the years the descriptive tag representing the home remodeling contractor has been loosely associated with the general home repair and services also known as the home improvement industry.

Although the home improvement industry crosses over the home remodeling industry in its project activities, home improvements are distinctively different in one major aspect.

Home improvement construction companies normally are self-performing contractors, performing the skilled trade services with company employees. They do not normally hire a variety of skilled trades to complete a home improvement project.

As you can tell it can get a bit confusing to a homeowner that is wanting a major home remodel and getting home improvement contractors showing up at their home to view the project instead of home remodeling contractors.

It gets even more confusing when homeowners need home design work done or construction documents prepared. Most remodeling contractors do not prepare these documents or develop home designs.

Design Build Contractors are specialty contractors that prepare home designs and facilitate building activities. These types of contractors will take you through the process of home design for new ground up or remodeling services.

Capture these designs on CAD files and create building documents. From these documents, they can prepare accurate building costs and execute their services.

Visit this link to learn more about design build contractors.

Houston general contractors

Commercial General Contractors

Commercial General Contractors provide contracting services to commercial property owners with new ground up and remodeling service needs.

Like the residential building contractors, they may serve one or both of the industry sectors.

They also operate much like residential general contractors in that they hire subcontractors to perform the skilled trades work and are responsible for the both management and administrative functions of the project.

Although the differences in the building contractors are in the types of property structures they build.

There are a greater number of commercial property structures than there is in home building. There are retail strip centers, medical centers, big box stores, manufacturing centers, and schools.

These projects differ in many regards then residential contracting but none more than the requirements for life safety in the commercial sector.

Commercial Remodeling Contractors offer remodeling services and renovations to commercial property owners for many different needs.

From office remodeling to building expansions, commercial remodeling contractors serve a required role in commercial contracting.

Visit the link to learn more about the different types of general contractors.

General Contracting Responsibilities

General contracting is the science of building real estate improvements through construction. The general contractors’ responsibilities consist of both management services and administrative services.

The construction management services are associated with onsite quality controls such as scheduling, procurement, and compliance inspections. These duties also include project leadership, construction supervision, and problem solving.

The general contracting administration responsibilities are associated with back-office activities like accounting, financial affairs, and contracts.

These activities translate to accounts payables/receivables, subcontractor scopes of work development, and insurance administration. They also include the many preconstruction tasks like quantity take-offs, estimating, and bid proposal preparations.

Last but not least the building contractor is responsible to act in the best interest of the project and protect the owner’s interest.

This means openly and regularly communicating with the owner about contracting progress and discussing plan errors and construction issues as they develop.

There should be a high level of professional trust between the owner and builder. The builder should be the owner’s trusted adviser through the design and building journey.

For further discussion on this matter visit general contracting performance standards.

Selecting a General Contractor

Identifying a small list of general contractors is where the selection process begins. This can be done by researching general contractors online for the relevant service you need.

Study their website, read some of their published articles, and read their client’s reviews. This will provide you with a strong sense if you are interested in working with a general contracting firm such as this.

Start with a phone conversation with each of the builders to see if there is any common ground of interest. Tell them a bit about your project and some of your concerns and see how they respond to you.

Are they helpful in their suggestions and are they like-minded in their ideas? If there is a connection send them what you have to study and invite them to meet on your project.

Before you meet with them get yourself prepared beforehand. Outline what is important to you about your future relationship with your builder and what you expect from the building contractor.

Once the meeting takes place listen to the ideas and remarks the general contractor shares with you.

 Are they like-minded in their ideas or do you like their answers to your questions?

So, what are the best questions to ask a general contractor?

Before you end the meeting, you should request a sample contract and a bid proposal from them. Their bid proposal should contain a clear and complete scope of work detailing their task and approach toward executing the project.

Carefully read the contract and if you have questions ask them to explain them to you. One word of caution about just using the lowest price as the decisive factor in selecting your building contractor.

The problem with overvaluing the lowest bid price is that if you are not an expert in identifying a complete scope of work, it is impossible to know if you have the lowest price. 

The ultimate goal is to find the right general contractor for you. There are many factors to consider such as price, like-minded philosophy, craftsmanship, completeness of scope of work, contract terms, and business acumen.

It is also important to understand what you expect from your builder and what they can expect from you. Having a positive working relationship with a professional general contractor has far greater long-term benefits than strictly focusing on the lowest price.


The general contractor is a key construction partner when planning and executing major construction services. Not all construction companies provide general contracting services or are a good fit for your project needs.

Taking the time to research a select few general contractors that service your needs and can be professionally vetted to determine a good working relationship is essential for successful results.

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