Contractor or Subcontractor: What's the Difference?

contractor wearing a utility belt

Updated August 17, 2023

Contractors and subcontractors are the two parties responsible for completing demolition and construction projects, and while they often work in tandem to complete a project efficiently, there are a few important differences between them that homeowners—or anyone hiring a contractor—should know.

Understanding the role of contractors and subcontractors in the demolition or construction process can help you make better choices when it comes to hiring the right company for your project.

In this article, we'll discuss...

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What Contractors Do

A contractor is a person or a company that is hired by customers. They obtain contracts and ensure they are carried out properly.

A contractor’s main goal is to build and maintain a solid reputation among customers so that their business can be successful.

For example, a demolition contractor specializes in demolition work, which they perform for clients on a contractual basis. Likewise, a construction contractor specializes in construction work.

What Subcontractors Do

A subcontractor is a type of contractor.

Like a contractor, they also specialize in providing a particular service and work on a contractual basis. However, subcontractors form agreements with contractors, not with customers.

Subcontractors are generally hired by contractors to ensure a project is completed as efficiently as possible.

For example, a contractor hired for a large commercial demolition may hire a subcontractor to remove an oil tank if one exists on the property.

This not only ensures the oil tank is removed properly, but it also frees up the contractor to work on other aspects of the project while the subcontractor completes the oil tank removal, which equates to more efficient and safe results.

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Differences Between Contractors and Subcontractors

Contractors are responsible for obtaining business by networking with or advertising to customers and generating leads. Subcontractors, on the other hand, typically only network with contractors who might have work for them.

Because of this, contractors tend to be more customer-oriented than subcontractors.

Subcontractors also tend to specialize in a more specific area than a contractor, i.e., they may be experts in insulation, plumbing, or tiling rather than general remodeling.

Contractors need to be able to see the project’s “big picture”—they need to understand the financial side of things as well as the customer side of things, not just how to get the work done.

So, while subcontractors are extremely effective and specialized workers, a contractor is responsible for keeping customers happy by ensuring everything is organized and properly managed.

How to Be Sure You Hire the Right Pro

Regardless of your project, make sure you hire the right person for your project by getting multiple quotes from contractors in your area. This will ensure you hire the right person to do the work without overpaying.

Comparing contractors will ensure you get the best customer service, too.

Hometown makes it easy to find local demolition experts in your area that can perform the work you need, read customer reviews, and request quotes from as many contractors as you'd like.

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