For most construction jobs in residential and commercial settings, general contractors and construction management services are the two most common types of entities that consumers will interact with. They both serve much the same role, acting as liaisons and supervisors for construction tasks, hiring specialists or other firms as needed to complete the work. For more extensive operations, construction management services are the equivalent, usually with a central point of contact who oversees several workers. In this article, we’ll discuss the difference between general contractors and construction management services, talk about the typical kinds of things they do, provide some brief advice on when you may need to hire a specialist vs. a general contractor, and offer some information on how to choose the right construction management company to suit your needs.
From the start, though, we should point out that not all general contractors or construction management services are equal. Depending on the region, competition, bonding, licensing standards, and other factors, the skills and abilities of one general contractor firm or construction management services firm to the next might vary considerably. As always, consumers are advised to do some basic research online as to the areas of expertise, work history, and reviews of any home or business construction management service before committing.
It’s important to understand a bit more about the differences between general contractors and construction management services. At the basic level, it is a question of scale. General contractors are usually a single individual, overseeing a small team, generally of in-house personnel or a few outside specialists. It’s rare that a general contractor would be handling multiple dozens of workers. That means they are usually the most common with residential and small commercial jobs. The most typical building, renovation, and construction tasks can be carried out by a general contractor, their firm, and any specialists they may hire.
In contrast, construction management services tend to be much larger firms. They may hire general contractors to work on a job, as a sort of sub-supervisors, and pool the resources of several general contractor firms while providing a single point of contact and liaison for the customer. At the same time, many more significant or more well-established construction management services are full-featured, one-stop shops, offering all the various general and specialty construction services that a builder or commercial property owner may need.
For most consumers, they are much more likely to be dealing with general contractors for their needs, just because most consumers don’t even have the kind of projects that would necessitate a larger team run by a construction management service company.
General contractors and construction management services can do pretty much anything with regards to residential and commercial property building, renovation, repair, expansion, and similar. For small jobs, a general contractor may merely work for himself, taking care of the task. More commonly, for situations that are a bit more involved, a general contractor serves as the prime point of contact or manager of the project and hires additional firms or individuals (or use staff from his firm) to complete the various aspects of the job. In a sense, they are managers, who also must be skilled in all the different trades that they oversee, at least to some extent, to know what personnel, materials, and equipment are needed, and whether the work provided according to the code and expectations for quality.
The same holds true for larger jobs, which are the domain of construction management services. Here, an individual, or a team of individuals, run more complex job sites, using internal staff or external contractors and services, to manage the project and get the work completed.
In both cases, the general contractors or construction management service providers may be involved in an active role, doing some work themselves, or providing more managerial or supervisory tasks – it all depends on the firm, the job, the staffing levels, and similar. Most consumers will tend to interact with a single general contractor, who may have employees working for him, for most residential-type jobs. General contractors are hired typically for a wide range of services, including:
While both general contractors and construction management services hire specialists to work on areas like plumbing, electrical, and similar, consumers may sometimes need to refer to a specialist on a job, rather than leave it up to the general contractor or construction management services firm working the job. For example, highly customized work is an example of when specialists, chosen by the consumer, are usually called. A lot of time and effort between a consumer and a firm to custom design something (e.g., a custom fireplace, custom bathroom, or custom flooring, etc.) usually warrants the consumer integrating that specialist firm into the construction process.
That can be difficult in some cases, as some general contractors and construction management services quite rightly expect to be given a free hand to hire who they want to complete the job and act as the central point of contact and decision-maker for all aspects of the building project. At the same time, ultimately, the consumer who is footing the bill has the final say. If you retain the services of a specialist for complex or unusual work, it is not unreasonable. Just keep communication lines open between yourself, your specialist, and the general contractor or construction management service running the worksite. Discussion and planning up-front can avoid any turf wars or other conflicts on the job site.
Of course, most people don’t hire general contractors or construction management services companies on a regular basis. They are usually hired when there is a specific building project or job that must be done. Therefore, many consumers don’t have a great deal of experience in evaluating and choosing one of these construction management companies for their building projects. Below are six key areas that all consumers should use as a guideline when trying to select a general contractor, construction management service, or any home or office-improvement or construction-type service provider.