15 Skills Every General Contractor Should Possess
Being your own boss and getting paid to do what you love should be the dream of everyone. One particular job that allows you to get paid handsomely to do what you love, and do it best, is the world of the contractor. Contractors are responsible for repairing, maintaining, and making a home liveable, safe, and beautiful. Being a contractor is also rewarding income-wise. The average salary of an independent contractor in the United States is anywhere between 50,000 to 60,000 dollars annually in states like New York. That’s not bad for doing the work you love!
What Is a Contractor?
If you don’t already know, a contractor is, in essence, a building project manager who is hired on to take on projects that range from repair to renovations, and even building a home from the ground up. Contractor job requirements include knowledge of blue-prints, construction planning, material budgeting, and costs, determining errors, keeping up with building codes, and discipline just to name a few. Contractors are some of the most valuable workers here in the United States, and highly respected for their ability to initiate a project and see it to completion. Contractors can range from general contractors to a sewer contractor, an electrician, dry-waller, and everything in between.
Why Hire a Contractor?
Not only is it important to hire a contractor for their expertise in building, but for their ability to prioritize work and complete projects in a timely manner. Without a contractor helping your building project, it’ll be very difficult to do a project perfectly without any mistakes. Even the best general contractors run into problems they must use their expertise to work around. One of the biggest contractor job requirements is the ability to run into these problems and find solutions. If you are a contractor yourself and are wondering what skills and projects you should be familiar with, or are one of the homeowners that are wondering what a good contractor must know, the following 15 skills and tips can help, and are just the tip of the iceberg. Keeps these in mind, after all, 85% of the nation’s homes that were built prior to 1980 and are in need of home improvement, and yours might be one of them.
The first, and most important, of the contractor job requirements include skills in budgeting for a project. This is important because, as suggested in the name “contractor,” contracts are drawn-up between a contractor and a client that includes pay and material costs. It’s important for a contractor to be able to budget and know how much a project will take to finish. This includes paying staffing and subcontractors, material costs, possible repair costs, and paying themselves at the end of the project.
2. 3-D Rendering
It’s a good idea to have, as part of contractor job requirements or as a contractor, the ability to 3-D render and present a project digitally. 3-D rendering systems like creo parametric and blueprinting software such as AutoCad can be very useful in presenting a client their dream home. Using this software also makes it easier to avoid mistakes and make a project smoother. As a general contractor, experience in the construction industry is not only a plus, but a given. However, this isn’t enough to seal the deal with clients. A client might want to see how skilled you are in technology, how their dream cabinets and vanities will look, and want to be assured you’re using some kind of computer software to ensure your project will be done with the highest amount of sophistication. Nowadays, online design software is easier and friendlier to use. You don’t have to be a full-fledged engineer to use this software, just general 3-D rendering skills can help.
3. Outside Resource Connections
A good contractor should be able to communicate not just with their client, but also with local county inspectors, architects, interior designers, and any other separate contractors that might be coming in to examine and plan a project. It’s a great idea to have a contractor that has their own resources and connections in project planning and building, as this can even lead to discounts on deals and the knowledge that every part of a project is executed by a trustworthy professional.
A contractor will oversee a project, and in the process by a leader to the rest of their team. One of the contractor job requirements that’s vital not to miss is being a team-leader and great team player. It’s important to motivate construction workers and subcontractors that are subject to hard labor, long hours, stressful time-constraints, and other issues. Keeping a team motivated is a skill every general contractor should have not just to be a great boss, but also to get a project finished on time.
Safety in a project is crucial in order to avoid accidents, lawsuits, and worse of all deadly injuries. From having proper lifting techniques to prevent low back pain, giving adequate breaks and rest to construction crews, and keep a construction zone safe of all possible hazards, safety is king in the construction world.
6. Building Codes
Whether you’re building a house, new condo structure, hospital, or any other project, a good contractor should know all possible building codes, zoning codes, and even HOA requirements. Without including knowledge of building codes in the contractor job requirements, a project can be totally ruined and need to be scrapped in its entirety. Make sure as a contractor, and as a client, that all possible codes are followed no matter how silly or trivial they might seem. It could cost you your home or business.
Running into hard-headed or harsh clients is an absolute given when working as a contractor. After all, it’s a person’s home or new business you’re dealing with as a contractor. But, whether you run into a problem and are scared of what the outcome will be, need time extended due to weather or other restrictions, or any other detail with a project, it’s essential to communicate between contractor and client throughout the entire project no matter how difficult it may be. Without communication as part of the contract job requirements, a project can be sure to be a failure.
8. Material Choice Decisions
Sometimes materials need to be re-thought and re-chosen either due to new, unforeseen building codes, damages, or simply a client not liking a material and having second thoughts. As a contractor, it’s important to take this into account and be knowledgeable in all material choices. This can range from roofing to framing and more. The foundation, insulation, and even the flooring materials might need to be considered.
After materials are chosen, it’s important to remain in touch with the appropriate suppliers, such as a concrete supplier, throughout the project and continue to communicate with a client all changes and new budgeting and costs.
9. Time Management
As a contractor, time management is everything. Failure to manage a project properly can not only lead to losing a client’s business, but also lead to a domino effect in delays. Building a home or business is a delicate process, and without having time management as part of your contractor job requirements, a project can be disastrously late.
Problems are a natural part of life, and even more a natural part of building projects. From finding out a foundation is bust, to running ordering the wrong amount of materials, and everything in between, a good contractor should have the experience and discipline necessary to problem solve any and all issues. For instance, what if an employee can’t find a ride to work and is needed to finish a project? Can you order him a lift service? Or what if a client suddenly decides the materials you used are in the wrong color? What happens then? Problem-solving is one of the most important contractor job requirements, and only the very best contractors may carry this vital skill.
11. Subcontract Appropriately
Subcontractors, ranging from commercial plumbing services to electricians, HVAC technicians and so on must be hired on for a building job to complete the project. A skilled general contractor will know what subcontractors to hire for what part of a project, and will know what to look for in these subcontractors as well. In addition, hiring a contractor involves checking to see if they’re licensed, taking out possible insurance plans, setting up workers’ compensation insurance, and getting written estimates. It’s no easy task to hire subcontractors, but a good general contractor will know the ins and outs of this important step of the building process.
12. Eye for Detail
A customer, as mentioned before, might suddenly decide that the color of the home you’re building just isn’t right, or the custom shutters you ordered aren’t in the right style. As a contractor, you must learn to have an eye for detail that will detect any little imperfection, criticism, or problem your client might have with your building. Not only is an eye for detail one of the most essential contractor job requirements to keep your client happy, but also to avoid mistakes. The brain is a powerful tool, and it learns and adapts by way of new experiences. Once you’ve been constructing, designing, and contracting for a while, it’ll be easier to pick up on details that might have gone unnoticed until it was too late. A wrong order number, wrong shade of grey, wrong measurements- a strong eye for detail is key.
13. General Carpentry
As mentioned time and time again, experience in construction as a contractor is a given. Most useful, however, are skills in general carpentry. One of the biggest parts of the home-building checklist involves site and foundation, framing, masonry, roofing, and siding tasks just to name a few. There are many steps in between these tasks, which include setting up walls and beams, framing inspections, installing windows and doors, and checking all material like flashing and roof shingles. That’s a lot of tasks! And, these all involve the knowledge of general carpentry and having experience will make the life as a contractor so much easier.
14. Knowledge of Appliance Repair
It’s good to be the first line of defense for all issues that arise. Simple, basic knowledge in appliance repair can go a long way. Appliances make up so much of a home, and knowing the basics of residential heating repair, kitchen, and washer and dryer repair can be extremely helpful. It’s better to have more knowledge and speed up the process of repairs as a contractor in order to get a project done as soon as possible.
15. Landscaping Knowledge
Contractors don’t just need to worry about the inside of a home or business, but also the outside. Landscaping is an integral part of any project. Landscaping includes small things from cutting and graveling a driveway, to clearing out land for the foundation of a home. The more a contractor knows of the landscaping side of things, including zoning and environmental codes, the better and easier it will be to work with a landscaping subcontractor.
Plan for Success
The contractor job requirements listed are just a small fraction of what a skilled contractor should know, and are just a summary of all the skills a general contractor must possess. Whatever the building project might be, the key thing to remember is to prepare for success. As a contractor, don’t just stick to what you know but expand your knowledge by knowing every part of a building job. As a homeowner, it’s important to research only the very best contractors, and communicate with them about your concerns, questions, and most importantly, the vision for your new home or business.