In construction, many trades can be involved in a single project.
So much so you need someone to manage all the contractors; in this case, we call them subcontractors.
If you need someone to handle your entire construction project, you need a general contractor. They will be the ones to hire all the necessary subcontractors to complete the job.
Project owners typically won’t have the expertise to run a construction project themself. For that reason, the general contractor can come in handy.
You’re not here to only learn about general contractors, though. You’re here to learn about the different types of contractors in the construction industry.
You need subcontractors because they’re the subject matter experts. No single company can have expertise in every trade.
Even the general contractors rely on their subcontractors to bring their knowledge and experience to the project. Your general contractor will usually know just enough to manage the job.
But before we begin, let’s look at the definition of a contractor.
What is a Contractor?
A contractor is a professional hired to complete a specific task in the construction process. They are contractually bound to perform work on a construction project until their scope of work is completed and accepted. Their work includes building houses and office buildings or renovating existing spaces.
I work for a mechanical contractor at the time of writing this post. We perform all things related to your AC system in commercial buildings.
We only specialize in AC equipment to be the experts in the field. If we took on all different types of work, we would struggle as a company.
With the volatility in the market for construction jobs, it can be challenging to maintain a large working crew as well.
It’s just one thing to think about if your company wants to take on work they are unfamiliar with.
Now, let’s go into the different types of contractors and their responsibilities on a construction project.
The 30 Types of Contractors in Construction
- General Contractor: The prime contractor manages all aspects of the construction project, coordinating with subcontractors to meet deadlines and stay within budget. They are involved in every stage of the construction process, from pre-construction planning to the final walk-through. They hold the prime responsibility for completing the project.
- Demolition: Demolition contractors specialize in the safe and systematic demolition or deconstruction of structures. They should understand structural engineering principles well to perform demolition work safely. Their part is crucial in any renovation or to make way for new construction.
- Electrical: Electrical contractors work with the electrical systems of a building, house, hospital, etc. Their work can include fire alarm systems, lighting, telecom, and power for a construction project. They would install the devices and run the necessary wiring for a functional system.
- Pipe Fitter: Piping fitting contractors install and repair high- and low-pressure pipe systems. They will install the pipes and fittings necessary and connect them to different equipment. Their role is essential in operating HVAC systems and some manufacturing processes.
- Sheet Metal: Sheet metal contractors fabricate and install products made from sheet metal. They often work on HVAC systems, creating ductwork to connect to air conditioning equipment. Their work also extends to building flashing, gutters, and downspouts to install on a roof.
- Roofing: Roofing contractors perform work related to installing, repairing, and replacing roofs of all types. They work with various materials, including shingles, metal, tile, and built-up roofing. Their ultimate goal is to protect the building from harsh weather conditions and leaks.
- Structural Steel: Structural steel contractors design, fabricate, and erect steel framing for various purposes. They work with structural engineers to validate that their planned work will meet design load conditions. Their work forms the backbone of many structures.
- Masonry: Masonry contractors construct and repair structures made from brick, stone, or concrete. They work on various structures, from fences, walls, walkways, and other masonry structures.
- Flooring: Install, repair, and replace floors such as hardwood, carpet, tile, or laminate. They have the training to use various tools to install different flooring systems. Their work can consist of both residential and commercial buildings.
- BMS or Controls: Controls contractors install and maintain building management systems (BMS). These systems control and monitor a building’s mechanical and electrical equipment, such as ventilation and air conditioning. Their part involves the energy efficiency and occupant comfort of a building.
- Fire Alarm & Sprinkler: Fire alarm & sprinkler contractors install and maintain systems that protect buildings and occupants from fires. Their work involves the design collaboration, installation, and regular testing of fire alarm systems. They must follow strict safety codes and standards, which can affect the building occupants’ safety.
- Plumbing: Plumbing contractors install and repair buildings’ water, gas, and sewage systems. They also install fixtures such as sinks, toilets, and appliances. Their work is critical for sanitation, comfort, and safety.
- Insulation: Insulation contractors specialize on working with insulation to control temperature and noise in a building. They can install insulation in walls, attics, on ductwork, piping, etc. Their work can contribute to the energy efficiency of the building.
- Rough Carpenter: Rough carpenters build the basic wooden structures that define the shape of a building. This includes walls, floors, and roofs. Their work is essential in the early stages of a construction project.
- Finish Carpenters: Work on the more detailed woodwork in a building. This includes doors, window frames, and molding. They add the finishing touches to a building.
- Landscaping: Landscaping contractors design, create, and maintain outdoor spaces. They plant trees, install patios, and create water features. They can transform a property’s exterior into a beautiful and functional space.
- Restoration: Restoration contractors repair buildings after damage from fire, water, or natural disasters. They must work quickly to prevent further damage and restore the building to its previous condition. Their work often involves coordinating with insurance companies.
- Windows & Doors: This contractor specializes in installing your windows and doors. Their work can improve a building’s aesthetics and security.
- Drywall: Drywall contractors hang, tape, and sand drywall panels to make up the actual walls of a building. Their work comes after the framing and in preparation for the painters to apply finishes.
- Painters: Painting contractors apply paint, stain, and coat walls, ceilings, buildings, metal piping, and other structures. Their work may require the preparation of surfaces before painting, such as patching holes in drywall.
- Heavy Equipment Operator: Equipment operators drive and maneuver heavy machinery used in construction. They are skilled in operating equipment like loaders, bulldozers, backhoes, and excavators.
- Scaffold Builder: A scaffolding contractor erects and dismantles scaffolding or shoring. Scaffolding allows workers to reach higher elevations safely during construction. They are responsible for ensuring the scaffold is safe and secure to work on.
- Surveyors: Surveyors measure property boundaries and provide data regarding the shape, contour, location, or dimension of land features. Their work provides information for the planning and design of a construction project. They determine the legal property boundaries for the project as well.
- Welder: Welders use specialized equipment to join metals together. They are used heavily in projects that involve structural steel framing, bridges, and other structures. They may also fill holes, indentations, or seams in metal production.
- Crane Operator: A crane operator controls any crane to lift, move, and place equipment around the job site. They must have a good understanding of safe crane operations and load capacities to perform their job. They are essential in large-scale construction projects such as high-rise buildings.
- Hazmat Abatement: An abatement contractor safely removes hazardous materials like asbestos and lead-based paint from buildings. The work involves containment and proper disposal of hazardous waste. They require a specific contractor license to ensure they can comply with safety regulations.
- Glazier: Glaziers cut, install and remove glass in buildings and other structures. In homes, a glazier will install items like windows, mirrors, shower doors, etc.
- Bricklayer: Like the mason, bricklayers work on structures built from cinder blocks, brick, and other masonry materials. Their work can also involve the construction of fireplaces and walls.
- Elevator: Elevator contractors are involved with the installation, maintenance, and repair of elevators, escalators, chairlifts, and moving walkways. There’s significant testing involved in ensuring these systems properly operate for people to use.
- Scanning (Ground Penetrating Radar): Ground penetrating radar professionals use radar pulses to gather information on existing utilities beneath the ground. This is done in preparation for any work that involves excavation, cutting, and drilling into the earth. Their work can prevent costly mistakes during construction.
Choosing the Right Contractor
Selecting a good contractor can be time-consuming, but it is essential for the success of your project. I’ve dealt with my fair share of bad contractors to know how much more stress this can add to a project.
Being on both sides as a general and subcontractor, it’s never fun when you must work with a bad contractor. Their communication is poor, and they expect you to do all the work without giving anything in return.
That said, be cautious if you can select your contractor. Some things you should look for when making the selection:
- Their reputation
- Valid contractor license
- Liability insurance
- Portfolio of previous experience
These items can signify that you’re dealing with a legitimate contractor.
How to Find a Good Contractor
There are many ways to find contractors. Using the internet is probably the quickest way and looking for contractors in your area. Different platforms will provide a rating system to determine if they’re legitimate.
Once you find the contractor, research them a bit if they have a website. If they don’t have a website, you must rely solely on what is available online. Another option is to ask a colleague or friend in construction that has worked with or heard of them before.
If they don’t have a website or no reputation, then you’ll be taking a risk hiring that contractor.
How to get Quotes From Contractors
When you’ve found the contractors you want to work with, you’ll need to make requests for pricing. You should get several quotes so you can estimate how much the project will cost you.
They will request to see any construction drawings you might have for the project, assuming you have a design in mind. If you don’t have any drawings, they may need to see the site and review the scope of work with you.
The contractor’s responsiveness to quotations might inform you of their communication ability. You always want to make sure the contractor you select communicates well. If not, you’ll never know what is happening with your project.
How to Make a Contract with a Contractor
Once you’ve selected the contractor you want to work with, you’ll need to enter into a construction contract. The legal document outlines the responsibilities of both parties, the scope of work, payment terms, and how potential dispute resolution.
There are templates online for contracts to issue to a contractor. If you select an online template, then I suggest having a lawyer review it.
The lawyer should review the vocabulary to ensure it is fair for both parties involved in the contract. The upfront cost may be a lot to have this done, but it will protect you in the long run, should an issue arise.
How to Monitor the Progress of a Project
Monitoring the progress of the job will require two things. Follow up with your contractor and conduct occasional site visits.
Conducting site visits will show the contractor you’re serious about the work and want to be involved. As issues arise, it can be best to resolve them on the job site and come up with a quick solution.
You’ll want to do this until the project is complete to ensure proper construction.
Paying the Contractor
Depending on the contractor, some may require a downpayment before work begins. Only do this if you are working with a trusted contractor!
I have heard horror stories of contractors walking away with the downpayment money and stopping all communication with the owner.
Most commercial construction projects require completing work or storing material onsite before getting paid. In construction, this is just a standard practice, and it’s a risk that construction companies take on. They understand part of the job will be financed by the company until payment can be issued.
You’ll release payment to the contractor in monthly installments as they complete the work. Inspect their work to make sure it follows the plans.
Your contract should include a portion about retention, 5-10% of the construction cost. This will be the final payment to the contractor. Do not issue this until project completion and everything is closed out.
Hiring a qualified contractor is essential for a successful construction project. You’ll need to find a good contractor, get quotes, sign a contract, monitor progress, make payments, and resolve disputes. While this may seem daunting, taking it one step at a time will get you through the project.
Don’t rush the process of choosing a contractor. Take your time and find someone who understands the vision of your project and can bring it to life.
The journey of a construction project is a long one. Understand how each contractor fits into the construction puzzle so you can effectively manage your job. Whether it’s air conditioning systems, electrical work, or erecting structural steel, each contractor will have their role in the process.
Before you go, consider checking out my article on the difference between general contractors and subcontractors. There you will see how the roles work together to complete a project.
Thank you for reading.
Table of Contents