A general contractor’s job is often oversimplified as being the main coordinator of a construction project. But their day-to-day tasks require a lot of different duties. They are the person in charge of multiple groups of workers coming together to make your design dreams a reality. Let’s take a closer look into what a general contractor does, how to hire an excellent one, and what is expected of you as the client.
What Makes A Good General Contractor
There are a lot of skills a general contractor needs in order to be successful. Among these include:
- Have an understanding of inspection procedures
- Understand and know all building codes and laws
- Be able to follow safety procedures dictated by OSHA and other laws
- Budgeting and accounting
- An understanding of basic architecture and engineering
- Project management and development
- Site planning
- Construction methods and materials
With so many different areas and specialties they need to be familiar with, let’s take a look into how to find the best candidate for your construction project.
The main person who is responsible for preventing tragic incidents is the general contractor. By law, they have to abide by the standards set forth by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to prevent electrocution, death, dismemberment, and other serious injuries. The good news is that fatalities are down since 1970 when 38 worker deaths occurred a day in 1970. In 2017, only 14 were occurring per day. However, of all the worker deaths that occurred in 2017 in private industry – a total of 4,674 workers – 971, or 20.7 percent of those were in the construction industry.
A general contractor’s responsibility to the property owner and the workers is to ensure that adequate protective equipment has been provided to all workers. Protective respiratory equipment failure or an inadequate supply of equipment were the top reasons for construction fatalities, as well as injuries to the face and head. These are preventable accidents and injuries.
A general contractor is also concerned about the well-being of non-workers who may need to access the worksite. Whether it’s a home or commercial building, sometimes people can’t stay away while work is being done, so cordoning off certain sections, keeping the air breathable, and keeping messes in parking lots and driveways to a minimum is how a general contractor can help their clients stay safe and not miss out on work or family responsibilities.
Education and Training
When you’re looking to hire a general contractor, keep in mind that this person will be your main point of contact throughout the entire process. Look at their credentials. If they do have a college degree, it should be in civil engineering, construction management, or construction science.
Their coursework will include a lot of role-playing and thought experiments, using real case studies from construction projects. They will examine cases of extreme failure causing the structure to collapse, or how to determine fault and safety issues when an accident has occurred. Using case studies prepares your contractor to know how to respond whenever an emergency arises. This is useful because hopefully, they won’t have to learn the first time when an actual life is at stake.
Interpersonal and Leadership Skills
But even if they did not go to school you still want to think about how you feel about them as a person, and what your faith in them as a leader is. Many successful general contractors worked in the business and moved up the ranks without college. They will set the tone for the entire construction project, all the way down to the subcontractors. They need to know a bit about engineering, architecture, and people. Teams that have any sort of hostility toward their general contractor will do shoddy work. Here are some questions you can ask yourself when interviewing different general contractors:
- Are they recommended by anyone? Usually, the architect or the engineer will have a few people in mind. They may have strengths in different areas, too.
- How do you feel when they respond to your questions? Do you feel relaxed, insulted, belittled, or unheard? If you have any problem with how they communicate, it will breed resentment.
- Do they have a track record you can look up or testimonials from other clients?
After falling, poor communication was one of the most cited reasons for a workplace injury or death on a construction site. You want a general contractor with a track record of excellent communication not only between themselves and their clients but also their crews.
Licensed and Bonded
In the State of Washington, anyone who will be modifying property must be licensed. This encompasses all tradespeople and those who work in construction, whether it’s for roads or commercial buildings or homes. Before you hire anyone or let them onto your property, ask to see their license first. Additionally, all general contractors and subcontractors are required to have surety bonds. These basically guarantee between two parties that the work will be completed no matter what. Any residential work that totals $1,000 or more requires a disclosure statement to be given to all customers. Be sure to ask about these documents, and stay away from companies that don’t have them.
Your Responsibilities As the Property Owner
Now that you know what kind of technical and people skills general contractors should possess, it’s time to think about your obligations in this process so you are not surprised. Obviously, this is a task that you have hired workers to do for you, so it should go without saying that missing payments or requesting changes to the contract after construction has begun is not acceptable. They are business owners and have accepted this job under written contract.
Another expectation is that you will be open to communication, available to receive estimates and updates and that you will be clear about your vision. When you give the general contractor vague ideas of what you want, it’s harder to bring your vision to life. Communicate to get what you want!