What is a contractor?A simple definition of a contractor is anyone who provides labor or services on a construction project. They deliver the labor or services according to the terms of a contract between themselves and the project owner or another contractor. It’s actually an umbrella term that describes almost everyone involved in a construction project. In a typical construction contract, “contractor” typically refers to the general or prime contractor. This contractor would be the one engaged in a contract with the project owner, but the term can actually mean anyone working under the contract. While businesses hired by the general contractor are typically referred to as subcontractors, they’re just a lower tier of contractor.Also, unless an individual is an employee of the property owner or another contractor, everyone contributing labor to a project is technically a contractor. This includes architects, designers, engineers, and others. While it’s more common to refer to them as “design professionals,” these persons can also be considered types of contractors.But overwhelmingly, the term “contractor” most often describes the companies or individuals providing physical labor of some sort.
20 types of contractors in constructionLarge construction projects might require a ton of contracting companies to make them happen. Many times, there can even be several different types of contractors performing the same work in different areas on the job. Even a small residential home build can require upward of a dozen contractors and subcontractors before the job receives its certificate of occupancy.Let’s take a look at a few of the most common types of construction contractors.1. General contractorsThe general contractor is the person or firm who contracts directly with the project owner. The role includes hiring, scheduling, and managing subcontractors, as well as generally steering the ship. There may also be some additional aspects of the project that the GC might handle.2. ExcavationAn excavation contractor is typically the first subcontractor on the job. They’ll dig foundations, drill for columns, grade the land, and cut trenches through the ground for utilities.3. ConcreteConcrete subcontractors will often frame and pour foundations, floors, pads, parking lots, and other concrete surfaces. Some specialty concrete subs will also build concrete-reinforced slabs in a shop and deliver them to the site, acting as much as a supplier as they are a contractor.4. FramingThe framing contractor will typically build the structure of a building. Their job involves wood and metal framing, depending on the project at hand. They will also typically sheath the building and might even install windows and doors.The general contractor will often take on this contractor’s role, depending on the licensing requirements where the project is taking place.5. SteelFor buildings where wood framing isn’t an option, the steel contractor will erect the structure. They often build the steel beams themselves, deliver them to the site, and install them in place. They’re commonplace on commercial projects, but they could be called upon to build and install a steel beam in a residential structure.6. Window and doorInstalling the windows and doors might typically fall under the tasks of the GC, framing crew, or even the finish carpentry sub. But, with custom orders, manufacturers often like to use their own installation crews to ensure the job is handled correctly for warranty purposes.7. ElectricalThe general contractor will typically hire an electrical subcontractor to run wires through the house and install the electrical service box. They’ll also install outlets, switches, and lighting throughout the building.8. PlumbingPlumbing contractors are responsible for a few aspects of any project. They install backflow preventers and water supply pipes to bathrooms, kitchens, break rooms, and utility closets on a typical project. They also install drains and tie them into the existing sewer or septic systems. 9. HVACThe HVAC subcontractor is responsible for keeping everything comfortable. They install air conditioning systems, air handlers, heat exchangers, boilers, and more systems to both heat and cool a building. In some cases, they might also handle refrigeration tasks for large cold storage warehouses, restaurants, and more.10. Fire alarm and sprinklerThe fire alarm and sprinkler subcontractor is responsible for installing the fire control panels, smoke detectors, and other alarm devices through the structure. They might also install the sprinkler system and piping for fire prevention. These roles can often be contracted to the electrician and plumber, but commercial projects require a specialty contractor.11. RoofingRoofing subcontractors are responsible for protecting the structure from the top down. They install asphalt shingles, rubber roofing membrane, and metal roofing products to keep the elements out — and protect the project owner’s investment. 12. InsulationInsulating used to be a job that general contractors would handle, but with the advancements in energy-efficient building, the job has become far more specialized. These subcontractors use a wide range of materials like foam, batts, mineral wool, and other materials to keep extreme temperatures on the outside of the building.13. DrywallOnce all the in-wall utilities and insulation are ready for covering, the drywall subcontractor will come behind and hang up the wallboard. On smaller jobs, the GC’s carpentry crew might hang the drywall, but dedicated crews are a necessity for larger projects.14. TapingIf the GC’s crew handles the drywall installation, they’ll often sub-out the actual taping of the seams. Taping subs are experts in making drywall with whips and bows look like a perfectly smooth flat surface, so they’re usually worth paying for.15. PlasterIn addition to drywall, some walls are made of plaster. Plastering a wall is a totally different process than drywalling — so there are plastering subcontractors who specialize specifically in plaster.16. FlooringFlooring subcontractors’ jobs are to put the finished floor down through the project. They’ll install vinyl flooring, tile, hardwood, or carpet, though each might require its own specialty flooring sub. The flooring sub will usually cover the floor with protective paper to allow the other subs to continue working without damaging the floor.17. Finish carpentryThe finish carpentry sub will install door trim, baseboards, crown molding, and other decorative woodwork throughout the project. In a traditional residential build, they’ll usually hang the doors as well. It’s best to get them in ahead of the painters, especially if the trim requires painting.18. PaintingPainting contractors have the job of putting a fresh coat of paint on everything. They’ll start by patching any damage caused by the flooring or finish carpentry subs, and then painting the ceiling, walls, and trim according to the specs.19. MasonryMasonry subs might handle a few jobs on a build. They might be installing fireplaces, building patios, constructing stone walls, and plenty of other brick and stone-related jobs. 20. LandscapingThe landscaping sub will handle most of the work around the project. These subs repair the ground damage caused by heavy equipment, as well as install gardens, water features, walkways, and other accents to bring a site to its finished state and add curb appeal.
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