Jeff Sewell

What Do Contractors Really Do?

What does a contractor really do? Building or renovating a home or business is a complicated process that involves in-depth knowledge of architectural design, building codes, zoning regulations, and basic construction elements, and a residential building contractor will oversee the construction of individual houses and multi-unit housing projects, while a commercial building contractor will oversee the construction and remodeling of stores, malls, hotels, and other commercial projects. Most building contractors own their own companies and many of them have worked in the construction industry before becoming a contractor.

A building contractor finds and solicits bids from all of the subcontractors that are necessary to complete the project, and schedules the work prior to starting. The new homeowner or business owner contracts with the building contractor, and the building contractor contracts with the subcontractors, tradespeople, and suppliers. A contractor will typically charge from 10 percent to 15 percent of the total project cost for this service; as an example, if the contractor oversees a $1 million project, his or her fee for doing so would be in the neighborhood of $100,000 to $150,000.

A potential new homeowner or business owner should consult with at least two or three contractors and request bids from each. The contractor of a larger firm might have a bidding department that analyzes projects and submits bids, while small contractors will figure their own bids. If chosen, the building contractor handles everything from obtaining permits, meeting with Homeowner Associations (HOAs), ordering materials, scheduling code inspections and overseeing the construction.

A contracting company can be a single, self-employed individual or a large corporation with a board of directors, supervisors, site and project managers and office staff. The size and scope of a contractor’s business will usually correlate with the need for housing or business development in the area where the contractor does business. In rural areas, a contractor might employ only a handful of framing carpenters and subcontract with tradespeople who provide other construction services, such as excavating, roofing, electrical and flooring. 

Most building contractors will be experienced in the construction industry before starting their own contracting company. Typically this will involve working for a general building contractor for a period of time, and in some communities, prior experience will be a necessary requirement. Individual states set their own licensing standards, but individual counties or municipalities often have even stricter standards, and these can include testing, providing proof of commercial liability insurance, obtaining surety bonds for specific projects, and limits on the scope of a project a contractor is allowed to bid. A degree in construction management is beneficial for students who would like to become contractors, but hands-on training is still extremely helpful and desirable.

The team here at Ascension General Contractors has all the skills and experience necessary to get the job done right.