When you want something done around the house that surpasses your DIY skills, you have several options. The first option is to call a local handyman. If you have a contact, a handyman can be a great asset for small jobs. Sometimes finding a reliable handyman can be challenging, but you can trust these TrustDALE handyman services. If you need something specific, you can usually call a specialist. If your sink is leaking or your toilet is stuck, a plumber is your best bet. If you have a light switch that isn't working or need an outlet moved, an electrician is the one to call. But sometimes, you need something bigger, a job that will require multiple specialists over a week or more to complete. With that sort of job, the person to call is a general contractor.

What is a General Contractor?

A general contractor may have a variety of construction skills and experience. But that's not what makes them unique. The 'general' in general contractor indicates a particular capability: the ability to hire, manage, and coordinate other contractors to complete a large job.

If you are renovating a kitchen, building an addition, or even building a home from scratch, you'll need lots of different specialists. You'll likely need plumbers, electricians, flooring and tiling experts, carpenters, stoneworkers, countertop installers, and even engineers for some larger projects. Most homeowners are not experienced at managing a large construction project, and trying to separately hire and manage all of the experts you need can seem overwhelming. That's where the general contractor comes in.

You can think of a general contractor as a project manager or a go-between. Your general contractor is your single point of contact for the entire construction undertaking. The general contractor will work with you to create a plan for the project, and they will be the only person you pay directly. Once the contract is complete, the contractor will take over hiring and coordinating all the specialists. They will ensure that each specialist comes at the right point in the project and all the supplies are ready. And they will take responsibility for the overall construction schedule, ensuring all the work is done on-time and on-budget.

Type of Contractor

General contractors require a license to do business. The exact licensing requirements vary from state to state, but the broad categories are mostly similar. In Georgia, there are four levels of general contracting licenses: Residential-Basic Contractor, Residential-Light Commercial Contractor, General Contractor Limited Tier, and General Contractor.

A residential basic contractor is all you will need for most work on your home. The residential basic contractor license permits the contractor to work on one or two-family dwellings, as well as single-family townhomes under three stories tall. They can do any type of work on those homes, including even building them from scratch.

A residential-light commercial basic contractor license permits the contractor to expand their construction work to include multifamily homes, like apartment buildings. They can also do work on multi-use light commercial buildings.

A general contractor limited tier can work on any type of structure and bid on any type of project. However, they are limited to projects under $500,000.

A general contractor license permits the contractor to bid on any project and perform work at any scale, from building single-family homes to constructing skyscrapers and stadiums.

To obtain any license, the contractor must carry general liability insurance and workers' compensation insurance. Residential contractors must carry at least $300,000 worth of insurance per occurrence, while all other contractors must carry $500,000 worth of insurance. The liability insurance covers both the contractor and the client should something go wrong with the job or if someone is injured.

When to Hire a General Contractor

There are many situations in which you need to hire a general contractor. (in this context, we will use the term general contractor to refer to any licensing level.) However, not all jobs require a general contractor, in which case hiring one may cost you more than you need to spend and make things more complicated.

The first consideration for when to hire a contractor is how much you will be paying for the work. In Georgia, any work valued at over $2,5000 requires a contractor license. (For specialized trades, such as plumbers and electricians, a separate license may be required.) The second consideration for when to hire a contractor is the scope of the job. If you need multiple specialized tradespeople, it may make more sense to hire a general contractor to manage the tradespeople than to try to do it yourself. The contractor will also take care of any permits that may be required for the construction.

Consider a kitchen renovation. Most major kitchen renovations take 5-6 weeks to complete and require a variety of specialized tradespeople. You will likely need a plumber, an electrician, and people to install flooring, tiling, cabinets, and counters, among others. You could try to find all of the necessary specialists and coordinate them yourself, but many homeowners wouldn't even know where to start. A general contractor has a roster of reliable tradespeople they can call upon. They will coordinate their efforts to ensure everyone shows up at just the right point in the project. Your general contractor helps with management as much or even more than they help with the actual construction.

When Not to Hire a General Contractor

While a general contractor can be a great asset in many construction projects, they may not always be necessary. Any time you hire a contractor, they will charge you more than the sum of the subcontractors—otherwise, they wouldn't make any money. You are paying for their expertise and management services. So if you don't need a contractor, hiring one can be a waste of money.

Typically, a job that requires one or even two tradespeople doesn't require a contractor. If you need an electrician and a painter, you can probably hire and manage them yourself. For a small project that will take less than a week, you may also be able to coordinate the work without the aid of a contractor. For instance, if you just need a new countertop, kitchen sink, or cabinets, you probably don't need a contractor's services. However, suppose you need multiple specialists to complete a job over a week or more. In that case, it may be helpful to hand the job over to a general contractor to take responsibility for hiring and managing the specialists.

Finding a General Contractor

Finding a general contractor is not always easy. Unlike hiring a single professional, when you hire a contractor, you need to know that you can trust them with your time and money. The contractor will take over the management of your construction project, and you need to trust that they are hiring the right people and sticking to your budget and timeline. Luckily, when it comes to finding professionals you can trust, TrustDALE has done the hard work for you. When you hire a TrustDALE certified general contractor, you benefit from Dale's extensive 7-point investigative review. And every TrustDALE business is backed by Dale's trademark $10,000 Make-It-Right™ Guarantee.


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