Residential General Contractors – What They Do and When to Hire

When to Hire a General Contractor

A residential general contractor is a home remodeling professional who organizes and executes larger remodeling projects. Often these professionals are confused with home improvement pros. But as they will be quick to tell you, a home remodeling professional deals with longer projects that incorporate specific design and architectural ideas to provide a homeowner with a better living experience, either by adding space or making better use of an established space.

A home improvement contractor is usually tasked with smaller, though no less important items, such as installing new windows, flooring, cabinets, siding, landscaping, etc. A good way to think of a residential general contractor is that he is in charge of home improvement contractors, or what are referred to in the field as “subcontractors”.

When to Hire Residential Contractors

Many people do not realize that the average kitchen remodel takes 5-6 weeks to complete. Not to mention that to complete the remodel you are likely to need an electrician, a plumber, a countertop contractor, a cabinet contractor, a flooring pro, a painter, and someone to install the appliances. That’s a lot of people.

The brilliance of a residential general contractor is that he can not only coordinate all of these other professionals and schedule them so that one person is not in another’s way, but he also knows what a good price is on their labor charge and how to do some of the work himself, whereas the average homeowner will not.

Rules to Follow

We have often found that many people hire a residential general contractor when they don’t really need one, and on the flip side of that, there are people who don’t hire them when they should. Here are some quick rules of thumb:

  • If the job is going to take more than a week, hire a GC.
  • If the job requires several different pros to complete, hire a GC.
  • If the job requires a few permits, hire a GC.

When selecting a home professional, using a few guidelines can help protect you from fraudulent contractors. These warning signs indicate a contractor who may be running a scam:

  • Does not list a number in the phone book.
  • Asks you to get required building permits.
  •  Only accepts cash.
  • Solicits door-to-door.
  • Says you will get a discount if you find other customers for that contractor.
  • Says your job will be a demonstration.
  • Offers exceptionally long guarantees.
  • Asks you to pay for the entire job up front.
  • Tries to scare you into signing for repairs claiming they are urgent.
  • Demands a lien on your property.

Always read and understand every word of a contract before signing. If you don’t understand something, ask for clarification. Make sure when you are hiring that you ask for a residential general contractor because this title also applies to professionals who specialize in commercial and industrial projects. Using the word “residential” helps you to ensure that you are not wasting time talking to the wrong person.

  1. Sandy Pinnell,
    October 6:

    We want to have vinyl siding on our house but there is some dry rot on a window sill and porch pillar. Who should we call?

  2. Ms Kelly,
    May 13:

    I hired a res. General Contractor and I would never hire one again. I was working with a 50k budget. I had a new roof, ac, hurr. Shutters, kitchen cabinets countertops, sink, all doors replaced, outside painted, my bathroom gutted and a walk in shower to replace a tub, ceilings repairs and painted, wooden fence repaired. At first I was going to have hi do everything until I figured out he was charging 3k over the costs of the roof, ac,and the shutters – I got seperate estimates and saved over 6k alone by getting a roofer, ac guy and shutter guy – I should have done that withthe entire job with a handyman hired full time for 2 -3 weeks. He did not hire professionals resulting in things having to be done 2-3 times his loss on money my major inconvience with time it has been almost 3 months and it’s still not finished – the kitchen and bathroom cabinets were not installed properly and he is trying to say that they are right and they are a mess they are not even the correct lengt – everything we discussed I should have tape recorded or put in writing he is going back on what wa included – for instance a shower door – he’s not including one – the toilet paper holder was put on the wall crooked – he’s charging me 2300 for replacing two exterior doors – he bought them at Home Depot and they were 115 each. I have been totally ripped off I have no more money he took every penny I lost my job for taking too much time off having to be home for 3 months vs estimated 3 weeks. I have been ruined by hiring a contractor and trying to fix up my home – at this rate I’m probally going to lose everything. I need help I dont know what to do – I am beyond lost for words. I’m sure there are honest men out there I just have very bad luck. He took every penny I had and there’s no recourse I’ve tried everything. I need a miracle and an angel

  3. Craige Legette,
    June 22:

    How much does it cost build a DVD case measurement 4ft height and 30 inches and 8 shelf of wood

  4. Becky,
    February 12:

    All I know is that for the past 4 years we’ve had the money saved to finish our basement and we never did anything. Then I learned a neighbor was a general contractor, asked him to come take a look. The next week he had an estimate, the week after they started, and he expects to be done in 3-4 weeks (our basement area is relatively small, but a bathroom is being added). Best choice ever for people who find the process daunting and are uninterested in coordinating things themselves. We are also considering an interior designer to work our main floor since we don’t know how to decorate. Some of us just do not have the interest or skill to complete these tasks on our own, and the extra cost is more than worth it (because our personal time is also worth something ;-)).

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