A general contractor is one of those jobs that have many, varied aspects. It can encompass anything from plumbing to construction and even engineering in some cases. Electrical-related work tends to be a common element of projects like kitchen remodels.
But what type or degree of electrical work is a general building contractor legally allowed to complete? Can they do this work without being a licensed electrician? Do they have to outsource to an electrician, or can they accomplish specific tasks with the right license?
Use this guide to help you learn about general building contractors, what they do, and when to opt for a licensed electrician versus a general contractor.
What Is a General Contractor?
A general contractor is someone who handles all aspects of a building project, including the hiring and supervision of subcontractors, securing building permits, and setting up inspections.
Depending on the state, a general building contractor may be required to have specific certifications or not. These certifications are usually for projects that exceed a specific amount set by municipal and state guidelines.
Most GCs have background experience, having worked their way up in one specialty area before branching out to a broader project management role. General contractors may have training and experience in various construction and related fields, including working as builders, carpenters, or electricians.
The broad supervisory role means that a GC won't necessarily be a licensed electrician, but they can be. In many ways, they can perform basic or even essential electrical work due to their background. In contrast, electricians are specialists in electrical work.
What Can General Contractors Do?
There are several subgroups, or classes, within contracting, each requiring different capabilities. Each class determines what types of duties a general contractor can perform. Below is a quick breakdown of the three classes and the types of projects these professionals in each can complete for clients, including those who can complete electrician work.
- Class A: This class refers to individuals who can complete large-scale or engineering-centric projects. For example, a class A contractor could build a parking garage, a bridge, or a skyscraper.
- Class B: This class designates a general building contractor with a permit to build a residential or commercial project from the ground up. It involves carpentry, remodeling, and even building additions onto a home or building.
- Class C: A type C specialty contractor specializes in project buildings like elevators, mold remediation in the home, weatherproofing the home, and electrician jobs.
Besides telling you about the specialized capabilities that a contractor may have, these classes indicate a higher degree of credibility. Professionals with these extra certifications tend to provide a broader range of services and have surpassed various licensing exams to accomplish higher-end projects.
How Do I Know If a Contractor Is Licensed?
Most states require a contractor to pass an exam and hold a license to practice. The license needs renewing every two years to be active.
The licensing is crucial as it indicates to clients that they can expect a certain level of standards. Clients can trust that a licensed general contractor is reliable, knowledgeable, and qualified because they must have passed an exam proving their capabilities. But how can you know for sure if someone has an active license or not?
Many companies make it easy for you by including their license number available for clientele to view. If you cannot find a number, the Contractors State License Board or equivalent in your area will often have a database. The registry allows you to search active licenses to verify your GC's active license status.
It is essential to verify license and insurance to ensure that the work contractors perform on your home or commercial building is safe, legal, and worth your time and money. This point is especially relevant for a job that requires highly skilled technicians, such as electrician work.
When Should I Use a General Contractor vs. a Licensed Electrician?
While both a general contractor and a licensed electrician may be able to perform many of the same duties, there are key differences. These distinctions may make one specialist more optimal over the other.
A general contractor is advisable for simple electrician projects that don't need a permit. Some examples include installations and replacements of switches, sockets, and minor circuits. They can also perform lighting fittings.
If you're completing a home build or business renovation, it may be more optimal to work with a GC than hire an additional electrician. If they are already completing a project for you, they may be able to hire a subcontracted electrician at lower industry rates.
A licensed electrician holds a level of expertise guaranteed with the profession. They will be a more suitable hire for significant electrician projects, like panel work or fire damage. If you have an outage or need a large circuit installation, the licensed electrician will be your best bet.
Note that contractors can get their licenses and become electricians to expand their prospects. If you're a contractor, use the Contractor Training Center to help you pass your licensing exam.
The Bottom Line
While general contractors and electricians may perform similar duties in electrical work, there are some key differences. The next time you need panel work or fire damage repair, you will want to contact a licensed electrician. For smaller projects or general electrical projects that may be part of a multi-part remodel, a general contractor is a reliable choice.