General Contractors: Their Key Responsibilities Explained

A General Contractor, also known as a main contractor, prime contractor, or builder, is responsible for the day-to-day oversight of a construction site, management of vendors and trades, and communication of information to all parties throughout the duration of a building project.

General Contractors

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In addition to overseeing the project as a whole, the general contractor is also responsible for managing a team of subcontractors that handle various specialties like plumbing and electrical. The contractor is responsible for negotiating contracts, hiring and supervising the subcontractors and purchasing materials to fulfill all the required tasks. The project manager ensures that all the requirements listed in the contract are fulfilled and that the work is done to meet building codes and zoning regulations.

General contractors typically focus on commercial construction projects such as office buildings, retail stores and restaurants. They are experienced in obtaining permits, supply purchases, working with architects and engineers to deliver a project on time, within budget and to the owner’s specifications. They often manage multiple projects at once, requiring them to coordinate schedules and oversee the work of other subcontractors on site.

While both the general contractor and construction manager have responsibilities for delivering the construction project, they are not interchangeable. The general contractor comes on board after the engineering design is complete, and the construction contract is awarded through competitive bidding.

On the other hand, the construction manager is brought on earlier in the process as part of the Construction Management at Risk (CMAR) delivery method. They are usually paid a fixed fee to provide construction services and can be involved in the preconstruction phase as well as overseeing on-site quality inspection during construction.

In this delivery model, the project manager helps set the Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP) during the development and design phases and is liable for any additional costs above that amount. Alternatively, they can use a Unit Price contract to agree on a unit price for each phase of the construction project.

Whether you’re the leader of an entire construction company or just starting your own one-person business, ProjectManager is the software you need to get your projects organized and completed. With a variety of project management tools, like Gantt charts and task lists, plus the ability to share files and comment at the task level, you can keep your crews on site productive while collaborating with architects and engineers in the office.

Subcontractor Management

The successful completion of a construction project relies on the coordination and collaboration of multiple different parties. General contractors serve as the linchpin in this process, ensuring fluid communication and coordinating projects from start to finish. This often requires a substantial amount of subcontractor management. As such, it’s important that general contractors are able to effectively manage the process in order to avoid project delays and cost overruns. This can be accomplished through setting clear procedures, openly communicating and even using helpful software tools like HammerTech.

One of the most crucial aspects of subcontractor management is timeline management. This involves establishing an effective timeline and tracking the progress of individual tasks to ensure that all work is completed as expected. It’s essential to communicate these timelines clearly to all members of the project team so that they can work collaboratively to keep everything on track.

Another element of timeline management is ensuring that all subcontractors have the necessary documents needed to complete their work. This includes having the proper licenses, insurance coverage, and safety records. Using compliance and management apps that allow subcontractors to securely store and easily share this information will help to eliminate any miscommunications or misunderstandings.

Subcontractor management also involves managing a positive relationship with your subcontractors. This is important because in most cases, you’ll find that construction subcontractors are willing to bend over backward to satisfy your every whim. However, it’s crucial that you don’t abuse this power dynamic. If you do, your subcontractors will become disgruntled and may refuse to work with you again in the future.

When it comes to subcontractor management, the best practice is always to get things in writing. Verbal agreements are easily forgotten and don’t hold up in court as well as written contracts do. This can be especially critical when it comes to financial agreements, as a general contractor must ensure that all terms are outlined properly in order to protect themselves in the event of disputes or non-payment. Additionally, having a legal professional review any contracts is a good way to mitigate risk.

Vendor Management

Vendor management is a key part of any project, with contractors needing to ensure they work with trusted trade partners who can meet deadlines and budgets. Cultivating strong vendor relationships involves ongoing communication, regular evaluations, and timely issue resolution. It also requires assessing risk and aligning performance with business objectives. Using strategic procurement management to reduce risk and increase efficiency is an important part of the process, as is making sure contracts are clear and understandable by all parties involved.

One of the most important tasks of a general contractor is to prequalify vendors before they are hired. This includes conducting a thorough interview, reviewing qualifications and certifications, and ensuring the vendor can provide the services you need at the price you can afford. In addition, this step should include evaluating vendor performance, which may involve asking for references, checking past projects, and analyzing customer service metrics. Having a solid plan and implementing software for contract management can make these chores easier, as they allow you to track each vendor’s progress and make decisions more quickly.

Once the contractor has been vetted and a contract agreement has been signed, it is time to monitor and evaluate performance. This will include comparing pricing, service levels, and termination provisions against the company’s needs and expectations. It is important to involve relevant stakeholders in the review process, including department heads and legal or finance departments. Using a software system to manage contracts can help you speed up the process and keep all information in one place.

Another important aspect of vendor management is communicating with the contractor regularly to ensure they are working on the correct project, using the correct materials and following the timelines you set. It is also essential to communicate any unexpected changes and provide a response based on the impact of the change to the project. This can prevent issues like delays and cost overruns.

Finally, monitoring for any changes in the vendor’s financial stability is critical. A deteriorating financial situation could cause the vendor to stop providing products or services or may even put your business in jeopardy. A good vendor management program can spot these issues and move to find a new supplier as soon as possible.


Whether you’re constructing a shopping mall or remodeling a bathroom, communication is key. Good communication is necessary to ensure everyone is on the same page, which in turn, helps to maintain a project timeline and to deal with any issues that may arise. It’s important to have clear, concise communications and to avoid ambiguity, even when dealing with seasoned professionals. It’s also a good idea to use professional language, avoid abbreviations and to always follow up on communication to make sure you’ve clarified your points.

In most construction projects, GCs work with subcontractors to complete the various elements of a project. A GC typically selects subcontractors through the bidding process and is responsible for managing all aspects of the project from start to finish. On design-build projects, the GC is the owner’s representative and handles both the design and construction of the project. In a design-bid-build project, the GC is responsible for the design phase of the project and may be contracted separately from the architect to manage the construction phase of the project.

The responsibilities of a general contractor also include the financial management of the project. A GC works to maximize value, minimize cost and ensure the project is completed within budget. This involves planning and coordinating with the design team, project managers, subcontractors, suppliers and vendors. It’s a complex job to ensure that everyone is working together as a cohesive unit to bring the project home on time and within budget.

In many cases, the GC is responsible for paying contractors and vendors on behalf of the project owner. This can become complicated when there are delays in the project schedule, weather events or other unforeseen circumstances that affect the progress of the build. It’s important for a GC to stay in contact with all parties to provide updates and to make adjustments accordingly.

The best way to assess the experience of a potential GC is to ask for references from previous clients and to look up online reviews. Make sure the GC has the proper licensing and bonding requirements in your area before you hire them.