Commercial and General Contracting

Are you about to start a construction or remodeling project? Decide if you need a residential or commercial general contractor to help.

If you have ever seen a home construction television show or witnessed any type of construction job in person, you probably know major construction requires a professional touch. You may have even seen general contractors working. Yet, you may not know exactly what they do. You also may have concerns or questions about exactly when general contractors are helpful or specifically required. 

General contractors (GCs) do not work on all projects, especially when those projects take place in private homes. For example, if you want to make a minor change in your own living room, you may not require a contractor. However, there is a difference between a DIY home project and a major construction project. In a residential setting, determining when a general contractor is required is sometimes tricky, but a commercial project almost always requires a general contractor. Below are some points to help you figure out why and when general contractors are necessary.

What is a General Contractor?

A GC is a coordinator for a construction project. He or she is responsible for overseeing a worksite from top to bottom. It us up to the GC to make sure all legal work permits required are obtained. He or she must also hire and oversee subcontractors. Subcontractors are specialists needed to get a job done. They may include:

  • Plumbers

  • Electricians

  • Roofers

  • Carpenters

  • Concrete Specialists

  • Painters

  • Heating and Cooling System Installers (HVAC Specialists)

A general contractor can and usually does perform construction tasks on a worksite. However, he or she is also in charge of maintaining schedules, safety, and other aspects of the operation that keep the project on track. Additionally, it is the GC who typically takes charge when a member of the construction crew suffers an on-the-job injury and whose liability insurance typically covers those costs.

How Do Residential and Commercial General Contractors Differ?

Although a GC can obtain licensing for residential work and separate licensing for commercial work, it does not happen often. That is because the responsibilities, duties, and types of expertise required are vastly different. Repairing or remodeling a small home is not the same as constructing a large office building. 

Commercial GCs are highly skilled individuals (or sometimes teams of individuals) who must manage huge worksites. They must also order and work with many materials not commonly used during residential construction projects. Additionally, they must adhere to entirely different sets of building codes from those that apply to residential construction. Commercial GCs are often called upon to oversee unusual construction projects and features unique to larger commercial buildings, such as indoor water features, elevator installation, or construction of common indoor commercial spaces, such as restaurants. Each of those spaces have unique features not found in homes.

Why Should You Hire a Contractor?

Particularly for a residential project, you may not always need a general contractor. Yet, there are still many good reasons to hire one. The GC can take over many of the responsibilities for the project. A GC may also have many connections and skills you do not have. For instance, your GC may help you get materials at a lower cost. Other possible reasons to hire a GC include:

  • Stress Reduction

  • Project Time Management Assistance

  • Easier Access to Suppliers and Subcontractors

  • Insurance and Reduced Personal Liability in Case of Accidents

  • Assurance of Properly Completed Projects

How Do You Find Top Residential and Commercial Contractors?

Finding a general contractor is different based on your location and needs. If you are seeking a commercial contractor, you can look for one in your area by doing an online search. You can also seek recommendations from colleagues in your industry. Another option is to contact one of the larger commercial contracting construction companies n the U.S., many of which have teams of GCs and construction crews who take on projects in all U.S. states. Some of those top companies and projects for which they are best known include:

  • Kiewit is known for constructing Hawaii's Pacific Aviation Museum.

  • Bechtel is famous for its creation of the Boston Central Artery Tunnel, as well as the Western Hoover Dam.

  • Turner Construction has offices in multiple countries. In the U.S., one of its most famous projects was the construction of New York's Madison Square Garden.

  • AECOM is known for Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Georgia and New York's One World Trade Center.

  • Clark Construction Group is famous for building Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland, as well as Los Angeles California's City Hall.

Finding a residential contractor is sometimes a bit more difficult. You may benefit from asking neighbors for recommendations. It is always beneficial to hire a residential contractor based in your general area. A local GC has knowledge of local building codes and construction concerns specific to the location. You can also check local online reviews to find a GC with a good reputation.

How Much Do Renovations Typically Cost?

Before you hire a general contractor, you need to have a rough idea of the cost of the renovation you want done. That way you can make sure the quotes you receive are reasonable. The cost of each renovation project is different. It is based on factors like the size of the space and materials required. Some spaces also have added renovation challenges, such as the removal of asbestos tiles or mold remediation. Commercial office space renovations and residential renovations are similar in that respect. However, you can make some assumptions based on known average costs. Here are the approximate average costs of renovating spaces in a home rounded to the nearest thousand dollars, according to Business Insider:

  • Kitchen – $24,000

  • Basement – $15,000

  • Bathroom - $10,000

  • Bedroom - $8,000

  • Living Room - $7,000

You may also want to renovate a home office. If so, how much you need to spend depends on the space itself and the features you want your home office to have. Every home office is different. According to HomeAdvisor, you can expect to pay approximately $100 per square foot for a professionally remodeled home office.

What Determines if You Absolutely Need a General Contractor?

If you are still wondering if you need a GC or not, there are ways to tell. A GC is absolutely required for a large project. You need a professional, insured project leader to help coordinate the many aspects of a large construction or remodeling job. A GC is also required to make sure the subcontractors work efficiently. Additionally, a GC is usually legally necessary for any project requiring major construction permits or work that is only safe for professionals to perform. For example, rerouting electric or plumbing lines typically needs the oversight of a GC.