If you are embarking on your first construction project, you are probably researching people to hire. Something that confuses many people are the differences between a general contractor and a subcontractor. Who should you hire for your construction project?? While there are some similarities between the two, they are quite different when it comes to scope of work and the different skills they each bring to the job. Let’s take a look at these two job descriptions to better understand who is best for different types of jobs.

General Contractor

In short, a general contractor can do it all. This person acts as the main manager of a construction project and oversees the job from start to finish. General contractors can be hired for commercial and residential projects.

Usually, general contractors are the leaders of a construction project and they hire subcontractors for specialized labor. They maintain records, handle schedules and finances, maintain safety protocols, and supply materials and equipment. In addition to these responsibilities, general contractors will also be the ones to work directly with clients to communicate updates about the project such as payments and timelines. General contractors would also be the decision makers if something were to go wrong during a project.


Subcontractors are hired by contractors. They usually act as specialists for a certain area of a project such as appliance installation, carpentry, flooring, electrical, painting, plumbing, roofing, and more.

General contractors and subcontractors are both necessary for construction projects but they have very different roles. Think of the general contractor as the overall project manager, while the subcontractors perform specific tasks to complete a project. Subcontractors are experts in a specific field and take direction from the general contractor. Subcontractors usually don’t work directly with the client on the project.

Who to Hire

A general contractor can be hired for anything from small repairs to new construction. While they can be helpful for any project, there might be a few cases where you do not necessarily need to hire general contractors. When thinking about skipping right to the subcontractors, there are a few things to consider. 

First, think about how long the project will take. A good rule of thumb is that if the project will take more than one week, you should hire a general contractor. Even if you are an avid DIY-er, you might also need a general contractor to obtain certain building permits that you cannot get yourself as a non-professional. Another main reason to hire a general contractor is if your project requires multiple different subcontractors. Having a professional to manage the whole project will be helpful in this case. 

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