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What is a Building Contractor vs General Contractor

The terms building contractor and general contractor are often used interchangeably by people without experience in the construction industry. However, they are two different positions. Each is tasked with specific duties, and even though there's occasionally some overlap between them, they are still separate positions.

The main difference between a building contractor and a general contractor is that a building contractor is specifically involved with the construction aspect of a building project, while a general contractor oversees everything related to the project. A general contractor has a wider range of duties in the construction projects they work on.

What is a building contractor?

Building contractors specialize in all tasks related to construction work. They usually have their own team of builders and other experts, but might hire additional people if the construction project calls for additional manpower.

Construction contractors are not builders themselves - this is a management role. In typical construction management setups, a building contractor usually works directly under the project's general contractor.

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What is a general contractor?

General contractors have a broader scope of duties. They are involved in the construction aspect of the project and everything else as well. The duties of a general contractor include:

  • Hiring subcontractors and site surveying.
  • Facilitating communication between different team members.
  • Resolving conflicts.
  • Securing all necessary permits for the project.

Every complicated process involved in the construction project usually has to go through the general contractor at some point. Even if they don't directly oversee its execution, they should at least give it their final approval.

Does a project require both?

Every large-scale construction project should have both a general contractor and a building contractor. The number of tasks that have to be handled is usually too great for a single building contractor. There are also various specialized tasks that are best left to general contractors.

Both positions require licensing and are strictly controlled in most jurisdictions. Most general contractors usually have a background as building contractors, as this provides them with a good head start into the position and its requirements.

Building contractors might also be familiar with various types of specialized work that the project's general contractor has not been involved with directly in their career. The input of both experts is required for every major stage of the project.

Here is the main differences

General contractor Building contractor
Hires general subcontractors Hires construction subcontractors
Oversees budget Oversees the construction process
Works with auxiliary specialists like engineers Verifies the project is executed according to quality standards
Is responsible for general project safety Assists with the final inspection
Procures permits

Understanding the differences between general contractors and building contractors is important when heading into a large project that will require multiple specialists from different fields. Ideally, both contractors should be sourced internally to ensure they are already familiar with specific processes used by the company. In some cases, companies might opt for external specialists instead. This is common when a project calls for more in-depth experience in specific fields.

Clara Annesley

Writing about construction, Interior design and renovation.