Differences Between General And Home Improvement Contractors

When looking to renovate or build a home or commercial space, you may have come across a few different options for your construction needs. Unfortunately, it may be difficult to tell the different kinds of contractors apart. 

The main difference between a general contractor and a home improvement contractor is the scale of their work. A home improvement contractor will typically specialize in specific construction aspects, such as kitchen builds, where a general contractor will oversee entire projects from the ground up.

Differences Between General And Home Improvement Contractors

This article will explore the main differences between general and home improvement contractors and whether a general contractor is worth the investment. We will also discuss home improvement contractors and whether or not they are suitable to perform electrical work.

What Does a Home Improvement Contractor Do?

A home improvement contractor is a professional contractor responsible for specific jobs during a home remodel or renovation. This may include tiling a bathroom or fitting a kitchen.

A home improvement contractor may be brought in during a new home build by a general contractor or by the client when renovating certain aspects of the home.

They are typically under contract for particular jobs in specific home areas, though they may be hired to perform more than one task.

These contractors will normally speak with the client to bring their ideas to fruition, create a budget and timeline for the work, and ensure that their team stays on schedule.

The contractor is also responsible for making sure the job is up to code and usually purchases the materials and equipment needed for the project.

Should any subcontractors be required, such as electricians, the home improvement contractor will hire the professional, not the client.

Home improvement contractors should be detail-oriented and have strong communication skills to work with the client and their team effectively.

In many cases, the contractor will work alongside their team, though some will only act in a supervisory position.

If they are self-employed, it is not uncommon for them to be absent from the site at times. However, they should be available to answer any questions or address concerns.

What Does a General Contractor Do?

A general contractor is typically hired for larger jobs, such as a new build, and works to oversee the entire project, acting as a manager for all subcontractors involved.

They will:

  • Meet with the client and help to plan the work
  • Hire the relevant workers
  • Schedule the project so that the workflow is completed in the proper order

This person will have complete control of the construction project and should have a detailed understanding of all aspects of home building and remodeling.

They have what is known as the ‘prime’ contract with the client, and they are responsible for providing the necessary materials, finding labor, supplying equipment, and ensuring the work is up to code.

The first step for the general contractor is to assess the project and the details provided, either by the client or architect, if it is a new build.

For renovations, they will usually visit the site to better understand the possible work involved.

Once they have all the relevant information, the general contractor will submit a bid or proposal.

This is an estimate of the costs involved in materials, labor, equipment, and potential overhead from the home. The estimated price for the project is then to be paid for by the homeowner or client.

Where the general contractor is hired by the client, the other subcontractors for the project are hired and paid by the general contractor. In this case, all contracts and payments will come through the contractor and their company.

The client will pay the general contractor, and they will then make the necessary purchases and agreements and pay for everything using the client’s money.

If the client is delayed in making a payment, the general contractor must still ensure their contracts are paid up and the workers compensated.

What Is the Difference Between a General Contractor and a Home Improvement Contractor?

Many of the general contractor’s jobs are similar to those of the home improvement contractor. Both will meet with the client and discuss the project, creating a plan and schedule that will work for both parties.

The client will pay these contractors for their work and time, and the contractor will typically supply the materials, equipment and tools necessary.

However, where the home improvement contractor may only be responsible for one room and one small job, the general contractor will be in charge of the entire build, including every aspect from the inside to the roof.

You would not hire a general contractor to renovate just one room, but rather a whole floor of your house.

In most cases, the general contractor will hire the home improvement contractor and oversee their work. In this scenario, the home improvement contractor will not meet with or be paid by the client. They will be under contract from the general contractor and will work with them directly.

For many home improvement contractors, their team and company will specialize in one aspect of a build.

For example, they will be kitchen contractors or bathroom contractors. Though they may do other jobs when agreed to, many will only work with specific rooms or aspects of the house, such as the siding.

By contrast, a general contractor will know all aspects of a build, and many will hold licenses in everything from roofing to electrical work.

To effectively run a build or renovation, this contractor must have enough knowledge to work with subcontractors and know how to schedule the people under their employ.

Can a Home Improvement Contractor Do Electrical Work?

On new builds, the general contractor will hire professional electricians to ensure the entire house is up to code. For renovations, electricians are required for everything from rewiring to fitting new light fixtures.

In some cases, a home improvement contractor may also hold an electrical license or have someone under their employ that does.

If working with a home improvement contractor with a team, they will likely have an electrician on the crew that can perform electrical work for the job at hand.

However, you should always check that the person doing the electrical work has a license to do so.

Though they may have the knowledge, the work must be done to code. Should something happen down the line, and the insurance company finds out that the work was not done by a licensed professional, they will be less inclined to pay for any damage.

Are General Contractors Worth It?

General contractors are typically hired for large jobs. With that in mind, yes, they are worth it if you do not know building or construction work.

Not only will they provide the equipment and materials, along with the labor, but they will ensure the job will pass inspections.

For small projects, such as re-tiling a bathroom, a general contractor is not necessary. This would be a simple enough DIY project, or a home improvement contractor could be brought in instead.

However, should you need to renovate the entire upstairs, a general contractor would be worth the money as they will know how best to approach the work.

For example, should the roof need fixing, they will know to have that done before working on the inside, to prevent damage should anything fall.

Do I Need a General Contractor To Renovate?

Depending on the project’s size, you may not need to hire a general contractor to renovate. When considering one or two rooms, you may only need to hire a subcontractor or home improvement contractor.

These contractors are professionals in their field and will perform most of the same tasks as general contractors.

For example, many home improvement contractors will specialize in particular parts of the home.

With that in mind, you can hire a bathroom contractor to renovate just that room without a general contractor’s need to oversee anything.

Though it is possible to employ multiple teams to work on various rooms, it can become difficult to properly schedule them without a general contractor.

General contractors are essential when looking at more extensive remodels and construction jobs.

This is because they will oversee the entire project, keeping track of each room and aspect of the job, working with subcontractors to ensure the work is completed to schedule, and that no work is conflicting with anything.

For example, they will know to plan the electrical work before bringing in the team to paint and finish the flooring.

Final Thoughts

In general, a home improvement contractor is hired to work on one or two rooms. They will typically renovate specific areas of the home, working under contract from the client.

However, in the case of larger construction projects requiring multiple rooms to be built or renovated, you will need a general contractor’s services.

They will schedule and organize the work, often hiring the home improvement contractors themselves rather than the client.

A general contractor is essential for comprehensive renovations or new builds unless you have detailed knowledge of construction.

Cheers, tools owners!


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Hi there! My name is Jack and I write for ToolsOwner. I have a passion for everything related to tools and DIY projects around the house. You often find me in my workshop working on new projects.