What’s the Difference between a General Contractor and a Subcontract

When starting a construction project, you might be overwhelmed when determining who to hire, between a general contractor and a subcontractor. Interestingly, a few people understand the differences between these two. However, you should note that both general contractors and subcontractors have different skill sets. Besides, each of them plays a different role during a construction project. Thus, determining the contractor that you need depends on the scope of your project. 

Do you need a place to start? This post shall highlight the differences between a general contractor and a subcontractor to assist you in making an informed decision about who to hire for your project.

General Contractor 

A general contractor is in charge of the entire construction project. And, they can be a company or an individual who’s hired for a residential or commercial construction project.  When starting a major construction project, you will need to hire a general contractor to assist you in managing the project. Your general contractor will perform numerous tasks, from assessing the entire project plans to managing the employees—a general contractor will do it all. 

Responsibilities of a general contractor

General contractors don’t have a specific role, as their responsibilities vary depending on the project. The following are the roles of a general contractor, which range from before, during, and after the project:

  • A general contractor is responsible for providing the materials required for the project.
  • It’s the responsibility of the contractor to supply all the labor required.
  • Provides their equipment, tools, and vehicles.
  • Sourcing for subcontractors to do specific jobs, especially where specialized work is needed.
  • Overseeing the quality of work done.
  • Ensuring that the project timelines are followed. 
  • Monitoring payments, cash flow, and employee work schedule.
  • Keeping records of all important aspects of the construction project. 
  • Making sure that safety measures are observed at the construction site. 


Unlike a general contractor who’s hired by the project owner, the general contractor hires a subcontractor in order to perform specialized tasks. Subcontractors are brought on board to work on smaller tasks, which are part of the larger construction project. 

Just like general contractors, subcontractors can also be a business or an individual. Besides, they must ensure that they complete any task that’s assigned to them by the general contractor. Typically, subcontractors are hired because of their reputation for being specialists in certain areas of the construction project. 

Responsibilities of a subcontractor

Typically, subcontractors perform specific tasks, which they are experts in. Thus, they focus on individual projects, rather than the entire project. Besides, subcontractors work on a contract basis, and they report to the general contractor. 

The following are some of the different projects that subcontractors are assigned to:

  • Electrical work
  • Tiling 
  • Installing appliances
  • Plumbing
  • Carpentry
  • Insulation
  • Drywalling
  • Painting
  • Sewers
  • HVAC

These are some of the few areas that subcontractors specialize in. As said earlier, it’s the responsibility of the general contractor to hire the right subcontractors. Thus, as the project owner, you’ll not need to worry about hiring the subcontractors required for your project. 

The differences between a general contractor and a subcontractor

While a general contractor and a subcontractor can be working on the same project, each work from a different angle. As highlighted earlier, a general contractor is the overall project manager, and they are expected to handle all project details and deal with any problems that might arise in the course of the project. Subcontractors, on the other hand, focus on specific aspects of the project. So, we can break it down as the big picture work vs. niche specialty work. 

According to the general contracting company, AFS General Contracting, subcontractors are specialists in their field. Besides, they are supposed to follow the instructions given by the general contractor supervising the entire project. Since the general contractor acts as the subcontractor’s main contact person. That means, a subcontractor doesn’t deal directly with the client, and the contractor handles any communication between the subcontractor and client. As a client, you should allow your general contractor to decide on whether your project needs a subcontractor or not. This will give you peace of mind since the process of hiring a reputable general contractor is stressful enough.

Bottom Line

If your project requires simple repairs, hiring a subcontractor will be the best option, as they can get the job done faster and efficiently. But, you must note that there isn’t the same kind of motivation and personal connection as the one you’ll find with a general contractor. Typically, general contractors handle larger construction projects. That means, they value establishing personal relationships with clients and are committed to quality. 

Therefore, you should do your due diligence before choosing the right general contractor for your project. Although most contractors will boast of their qualifications and experiences, make sure that you see their work before hiring them. Besides, you should gather a list of testimonials and recommendations before making your final decision. Further, both general contractors and subcontractors have their benefits. So, you should focus on your needs, and make your final choice based on them. 

Kishan Rana

Kishan Rana is a SEO Consultant and professional Blogger. He has 5+ years of experience in SEO. He loves Blogging Very Much.

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