What Is the Difference between a Building Contractor and a General Contractor?

by | Dec 18, 2023 | Extension Ideas, Home Refurbishment | 0 comments

Contractors and projects delicately weave together in the building industry’s convoluted topography, generating a complex commercial ecosystem. This active industry includes a wide range of professions, from architects and engineers to surveyors, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, painters, and others. Among this vast range of jobs, two important positions stand out: construction contractor and general contractor.

While their functions may overlap, these jobs are unique and have particular obligations. The general contractor and the building contractor both play critical roles in the smooth execution of construction projects. 

If you’re confused about the differences between these locations, don’t worry; we’ll navigate and explain the differences to you. In this guide, we will shed light on the unique roles and contributions that define these positions in the construction landscape.

What is a Building Contractor?

Let’s start with knowing a building contractor. A commercial contractor or building contractor is in charge of managing commercial construction and remodelling projects such as stores, malls, and hotels. These contractors, who are frequently business owners themselves, generally bring past expertise in the building industry before moving into contracting.

Responsibilities of a Building Contractor

Strategic Project Planning

Starting a building project necessitates strategic planning:

  • Addressing the complexities of project conception and implementation.
  • Identifying construction equipment and materials requirements and developing procurement strategies with skill.
  • Identifying prospective changes and devising appropriate risk-mitigation solutions.
  • Handling the complicated legal and regulatory landscape.
  • Creating strong communication channels among project stakeholders.

Holistic General Contractor Functions

  • Creating and sticking to a carefully established building project budget.
  • Keeping a close eye on project expenses through meaningful budget comparisons.
  • Construction management operations such as financial monitoring, material procurement, equipment purchase, and subcontractor recruiting are led by you.
  • Assuring an appropriate workforce mix with the necessary technical knowledge.
  • Managing personnel-related operations such as employee payroll and subcontractor payments.

Dynamic Project Tracking

Dynamic project tracking is paramount for adherence to contract specifications and schedules:

  • Putting in place strict quality control methods.
  • Using prudently cost-effective building methods.
  • Maintaining an uninterrupted supply of materials and effectively timing purchases.
  • Strict safety standards are used to protect the integrity of construction sites.

Legal and Regulatory Navigation

Contractors adeptly navigate the legal and regulatory terrain:

  • Proactively securing permits and licences prior to project initiation.
  • A building Contractor adheres rigorously to local legislation and building codes throughout the construction continuum.
  • Maintaining a cutting-edge understanding of evolving legal requirements.

Safety and Well-being Oversight

Contractors are steadfast custodians of health and safety on construction sites:

  • Implementing stringent safety standards and raising worker knowledge.
  • Ensure the smooth operation of equipment and avoid accidents caused by abuse.
  • Managing and reacting to crises and unanticipated situations effectively, and immediately reporting them to the client’s supervisory staff.

What is a General contractor?

Building contractors specialise in the varied sphere of construction and demonstrate skill in completing many construction-related jobs. They frequently keep an internal team of professional builders and specialists, and when project requirements require it, they may engage other workers to supplement their staff.

Construction contractors take on supervisory responsibilities after leaving the job of builders. A building contractor often works under the direct supervision of the project’s general contractor under normal construction management frameworks.

Role of a General Contractor

General contractors play an important role in construction management since they are responsible for the precise control of the whole building process. Aside from the guarantee of a trained staff, their responsibilities include a wide range of activities critical to the project’s success.

I. Pre-Construction Phase

The commencement of any project sees the general contractor engaged in various pre-construction tasks, including:

Budget Management

The construction budget is carefully determined and managed.

Subcontractor Selection

Identifying and securing capable subcontractors for various project aspects.

Subcontractor Orientation

Increasing the effectiveness of communication and orientation with subcontractors.

Collaboration with Architects

Working with architects to achieve project alignment and consistency.

These foundational tasks set the stage for a seamless project initiation.

II. During Construction

As construction unfolds, the general contractor spearheads critical activities such as:

Comprehensive Monitoring

Supervising all parts of the project to ensure a smooth execution.

Schedule Observance

Maintaining tight project deadline adherence for effective progress.


Identifying and addressing issues that arise throughout the construction process.

The efficacy of prior planning and subcontractor orientation proves pivotal for smooth operations during this phase.

III. Post-Construction Phase

Upon project completion, the general contractor’s responsibilities extend to:

Compliance and documentation

Ensuring that the appropriate waivers and documents are carefully collected.

Management of the Payment Chain

Assuring that all persons participating in the project are properly compensated.


Taking care of any post-construction difficulties that may occur.

Other Types Of Contractors 

When going into building projects, it’s critical to understand the diverse functions that various sorts of contractors perform. Each specialises in a particular topic, bringing unique experiences to the table to ensure the success of residential and commercial ventures.

General Contractor

General contractors serve as adaptable leaders, handling a wide range of residential and commercial building projects. The broad construction knowledge of renovation contractors enables them to manage a wide range of activities, making them crucial for significant renovations or extensions. As project managers, they use their knowledge to choose the proper subcontractors and organise diverse specialties to guarantee seamless collaboration.

Design-Build Contractors

Design-build contractors are experts in transforming places to fit unique demands. These contractors provide complete services and are ideal for clients acquiring land or planning big improvements. They not only make architectural plans but also guarantee that they are carried out smoothly by coordinating the work of professionals. This method reduces the delays and irritation that might occur when diverse contractors fail to collaborate successfully.

Specialist Contractors

Specialist contractors specialise in a single subject to guarantee that homes fulfil high criteria in that area. These contractors are frequently called in for repairs or specialty tasks, and some of the most common experts are:


From unclogging pipes to sewer repairs, plumbers address a spectrum of plumbing issues.


Handling tasks from installing light fixtures to complete rewiring, electricians specialise in electrical systems.


Professional painters contribute essential skills for a flawless finish, particularly in prep work to avoid overspray.

Tile Installer

With specialised skills, tile installers ensure meticulous attention to detail for high-quality finishes.

What is a Home Improvement Contractor? Do Not Get Confused!

Now, what is a home improvement contractor? A home improvement contractor, whether an individual or a company, is a specialist in a specific facet of home improvement, such as carpentry or plumbing. Typically, these professionals operate with an in-house team capable of managing a range of projects without the need for external subcontractors.

In cases where the scale of a project surpasses the capacity of the in-house team or demands a specialised skill beyond their expertise, a home improvement contractor may opt to outsource labour. This strategic decision ensures the successful execution of projects by bringing in additional resources when necessary and maintaining a commitment to delivering high-quality results.

Building Contractor vs. General contractor  


Aspect General Contractor Building Contractor
Responsibilities Oversees and manages subcontractors. Manages the entire project. Oversees construction, handles paperwork, and ensures supply completeness.
Key Tasks Day-to-day site supervision, communication management, cost estimates, safety assurance, personnel management, and permit applications. Solicits bids, oversee construction, handles paperwork, ensures material supply, and checks structural integrity.
Collaboration Works with engineers or architects hired by the client. Collaborates with subcontractors for bids and completion of the job.
Titles (UK) Main contractor (replacing the term general contractor). Building contractor (differentiated from a builder).
Project Scale Manages projects of various scales, including large organisations. Handles residential or commercial construction projects.
Employment of Workers Manages own team, and designates tasks to subcontractors. Directly employs workers for the building project.
Qualifications Skills and talent in project management. Education in construction management, and experience under a general contractor.
Portfolio Expectations Completion of projects, positive client feedback, and reasonable contract prices. Bid solicitation, overseeing construction, and paperwork management.
Hands-On Involvement in Construction Generally oversees but may not be hands-on. Not necessarily hands-on in plumbing, excavating, or rewiring.
Budget Management Manages project budget, and records cash flows. Outlines and closely follows the construction budget.
Emergency Handling Manages emergency issues during the project. Handles emergency issues arising during project implementation.


By leveraging the experience of the custom home builder for your project, you can start your construction adventure with confidence and precision. The appropriate people make all the difference, whether it’s a general contractor directing the entire project, a specialist contractor catering to specific demands, or a home improvement contractor assuring painstaking details. 

Consult with professional contractors who understand the individual requirements of your project for a smooth and successful building experience. Contact Powerpillar today to discuss your building options and make your idea a reality!

Emmanuel Nwaebo

Emmanuel Nwaebo is the Managing Director at Powerpillar Ltd and has more than 25 years experience in building construction and renovations. He has a bachelor’s in Electronics and Electrical Engineering with certification in Construction Health and Safety Technician (CHST). With an experience in managing construction and renovation services for years, he is extremely passionate about property management and loves helping people find their dream property.

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