What is a general contractor?
A general contractor manages the entire process of building your new home. Although no specialized education is required, all 50 states require general contractors to pass written exams before these professionals can obtain a required license2. The general contractor does the following:
- Estimates the costs of materials and labor
- Hires and manages subcontractors
- Coordinates the subcontractors' work
- Ensures schedules are met
- Oversees the entire construction process
Although the contractor oversees the overall project from start to finish, the subcontractors are the professionals who will do the majority of work of building the home.
What is a subcontractor?
A subcontractor specializes in performing a specific type of task related to building your home. This level of expertise can help the project progress faster. Subcontractors account for about 77% of the costs associated with building a new home.3
Types of subcontractors
If you're building a home, it's important to understand the types of subcontractors that'll be working on your house. Subcontractors are most commonly used to install or build the following:
- Security System Installation: Security specialists know not only where best to install cameras, but are aware of the latest security systems and how to link them in a connected home.
- Carpeting: Professional carpet installers have the skills and equipment to install seamless, ripple-free carpeting and to border carpeting to tile, wood and other surfaces.
- HVAC: Heating, ventilation and air conditioning specialists not only install these systems but can also match components and advise on duct placement and design – like the location of walls and soffits – to ensure the home is properly, vented, heated and cooled.
- Electrical wiring: Periodic electrical code updates may change the types of breakers and outlets a home can have and determine their numbers or placements in specific rooms. Licensed electricians are aware of these code updates and are also equipped to handle this typically hazardous type of work.
- Plumbing: A plumber installs all the piping in the home, whether it's for water, sewage or drainage. Plumbers also have knowledge regarding newer types of plumbing products that can increase utility efficiency in your new home.
- Technology: If you're interested in building a smart home, this type of contractor can install connected devices and communications systems that are compatible with one another.
- Foundation: The type of foundation you need varies not only by housing design but by type of soil, depth of the water table and the quality of backfill. These subcontractors know about the appropriate methods and materials to create a strong support structure for your home, whether it involves a basement, slab or posts.
- Drywall: Drywall installation and spackling is a type of finish work that involves installing the walls in your home. It takes a specialist to ensure that seams and dimples from drywall screws are invisible.
- Masonry: Laying rockwork versus brick, and horizontal versus flat installation, each require specific skills to ensure tight, moisture-proof construction. Masons know how to lay patterns and make complicated cuts in interior and exterior stonework.
- Concrete: These specialists ensure concrete used in the home has the right consistency, the right additives and the right finish. They also know how to seal it properly to keep it durable.
- Roofing: From flat aggregate roofs to asphalt, tile, steel, solar panels and rubberized steel, each type of roofing has its own special installation needs. Roofing specialists help prevent problems that lead to later damage.
- Countertops: Installing granite slabs without them cracking and installing Formica with perfectly smooth seams are two very different skills. Choosing a subcontractor who works regularly with the type of countertop you choose ensures a polished appearance, regardless of the surface.
- Ceramic tiling: Tiling professionals have a wealth of resources for specialty products, like edgings and tile. They’re knowledgeable about the grout, adhesives and backing board that are best for specific uses and in certain areas of your home.
- Flooring other than carpeting and tile: Professional floor installers know the techniques to install multiple flooring options, including bare and prefinished wood and engineered products. These skills can shorten your overall construction time and ensure your floor is both beautifully laid and durable.
- Painting and wallcovering: Painting and wall-finishing experts have the expertise and tools to prepare surfaces for painting. They may also know how to apply textured treatments to walls.
- Landscaping: Professional landscapers are well-versed in outdoor drainage and natural aesthetics. They consider the mature landscape as well as the immediate appearance of the home when planting.
- Kitchen cabinets: Custom cabinetmakers and carpenters offer unique solutions that maximize useable space. They can deliver and install high-quality, durable cabinets.
- Exterior doors and windows: In addition to hanging doors properly, professional installers put up the weather sealing that eliminates drafts and helps homes stay warm in winter and cool in summer.
- Framing: “Rough” or framing carpenters build the structure of the house based upon the blueprint. They also install subflooring.
- Exterior siding: These experts have the tools and expertise to ensure that siding is not only level but installed to prevent rain and dampness from entering a home.
- Interior doors: With multiple doors in a home, installation speed is a consideration. Door hangers quickly ensure that each door is leveled and shimmed properly.
- Finished carpentry: Finish carpenters bring technical precision and artistry to a job, ensuring that millwork or built-ins look professional.
Once construction is complete on you new home, you’ll need to protect it. Learn how Nationwide can help by requesting a homeowners insurance quote today.
 “The Average Home Takes 22 Subcontractors to Build.” https://www.fieldpulse.com/academy/building-home-subcontractors/ March 30, 2018
 “What is a General Contractor?” by Michael Schoenecker, https://www.homeadvisor.com/r/general-contractors/, December 11, 2018
 “Subcontracting: Three-Fourths of Construction Cost in the Typical Home” http://www.nahbclassic.org/fileUpload_details.aspx?contentTypeID=3&contentID=247385&subContentID=656869&channelID=311 (page accessed April. 16, 2018)