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General Contractors vs. Construction Managers: What’s the Difference?

 

When embarking on your construction project, you will have to determine who should manage the process. Construction managers and general contractors have similar responsibilities for a project, but there are key differences that affect your entire project. The differences vary depending on how you pay for the service to your level of involvement in the process.

Learn the distinction between the two so you can select the right company that will best suit you and your project.

What are General Contractors and Construction Managers?

Both general contractors and construction managers are responsible for managing your construction project. They manage the project schedule, hire subcontractors, ensure quality, site safety, and much more. Construction managers typically don’t perform construction at the job site, but the general contractors might. Both will have a network of subcontractors they trust to complete the work.

Owner Relationship

One difference between general contractors and construction managers is the relationship with the owner. Construction managers typically have a long-term relationship with the project owner, since they get involved during the project’s design phase.

You are more likely to find your construction manager by interviewing potential candidates and determine if their expertise, core values, and track record align with your project. They will work closely with you to set a budget, track the spending, and regularly communicate with you so that you have a clear idea of what is being spent. If you are looking for a collaborative partner for your project, a construction manager is the way to go.

General contractors, however, are typically found through a bidding process. They will estimate the cost of the project based on the design drawings and submit a lump sum bid to complete the work. This cost will include their profit. Typically, the lowest bidder wins the project. The general contractor will communicate with you and provide project updates, as a vendor instead of a collaborative partner.

Timeline

As previously mentioned, construction managers start work on the project during the design phase. They will develop and maintain a thorough understanding of your project from concept to completion. They work jointly with you and the architect, manage subcontractors, and complete all the end-of-project necessities. Since construction managers are there from the start, they provide value engineering suggestions during the design and construction process to help keep your project on-time and on budget.

General contractors typically have a very similar role as the construction managers during the construction phase. However, a general contractor is not involved in the pre-construction process (the design phase).

Project Payment and Budget

Another difference between general contractors and construction managers is how you pay them. Construction managers typically charge a percentage fee for their services. With general contractors, you pay them based on their lump sum bid. If there are any unforeseen circumstances or the project scope changes, they will request change orders to complete the project.

Construction managers will work with you to closely monitor the overall project budget and review the subcontractor bids, then select the appropriate contractors. General contractors will manage their budget and independently select the subcontractors.

Which Should I Hire?

Depending on your project goals, preferences, and budget, one might be a better choice than the other. Think about the type of partner that will be best for you and your business. Would you rather hire a general contractor to get the work done or have a construction manager who will be a collaborative partner during the preconstruction phase of your project?

A general contractor may be right for you if you prefer to receive lump sum bids and invest less time on the construction. However, a construction manager may be right if you prefer a negotiated fee instead of a flat rate and a collaborative partner to manage the entire project.

Whether you want a general contractor or a construction manager, we have good news! A.R. Brouwer Company offers both services to meet your project needs. Contact us to schedule a time to discuss and learn how our services can help you build your project.