Trade Contractor vs Subcontractor vs General Contractor: What’s The Difference?

Trade Contractor vs Subcontractor vs General Contractor: What’s The Difference?

The terms subcontractor and trade contractor are used interchangeably due to their similarities, but it is a comparison; trade contractor vs subcontractor. Both roles generally demonstrate knowledge and skill for a specific element of a construction project. Although they both have many similarities, there are minuscule differences that make trade contractors and subcontractors a little different.

What is a Trade Contractor?

A trade contractor is essentially a type of subcontractor that specializes in a specific part of a construction project. These specializations can range from electrical and plumbing to painting and site preparation. The term “trade” refers to a skilled job, one that usually requires much training and manual skills. Trade contractors are highly educated on the plans of their project.  They know project details to keep the project on schedule. Trade contractors are usually cost-conscious and do their best to minimize them as much as possible.

What is a Subcontractor?

subcontractor is just a type of contractor. Subcontractors, like contractors, work contractually meaning they are hired specifically for that one project. This process of contracting is used a lot in construction. Firms in construction get these contracts by competing with each other and winner gets the contract for the project. Similarly to trade contractors, subcontractors focus on a specific part of the project.

What Do Trade Contractors Do?

There are many different types of responsibilities trade contractors take on including repair, remodel, and construction sites. The term trade contractor in of itself can refer to many positions such as carpenters and electricians. Every official trade contractor has a specific craft that they specialize in. An example of a responsibility that falls under an electrician’s duties is installation. Some trade contractors, like electricians, install heating, ventilation, air conditioning systems, and everything else that comes along with controlling the temperature and atmosphere of a building.

Another example is trade contractors that specialize in the installation of safety systems in buildings. These systems include alarm systems, sprinklers, and the attention to fire codes of the building. These trade contractors are in charge of installing and repairing these systems mentioned above and usually do so within residential, industrial, and commercial buildings.

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What Do Subcontractors Do?

A subcontractor is generally hired by a general contractor and assigned a specific task that is part of an overall project. The most common subcontractors are those in construction and civil engineering. Subcontractors have recently been expanding to more industries such as information technology.

Variety in Trade Contractors

There isn’t only a single type of trade contractor. A few variations of trade contractors may include drywall installers, roofers, and even plumbers. Most trade contracting only needs some training which usually has some shadowing and hands-on exercises involved and a high school diploma. Trade contractors that are more civil engineering based are usually hired by the government and work on roads, bridges, highways, etc.

What is a General Contractor?

A general contractor is essentially a supervisor. A general contractor is responsible for the oversight of the construction site. What goes on day to day, the management of vendors, and making sure everyone is on the same page are all tasks a general contractor would take care of. General contractors are the ones who hire subcontractors and trade contractors.

Variety in Subcontractors

Similarly to trade contractors, the types of subcontractors can significantly vary. The most common subcontractor is a construction subcontractor. Construction subcontractors are in charge of the majority of the building. “Building” includes roofing, framing, foundation building, and all of the other elements of putting together a building. Another type is a demolition subcontractor. Demolition subcontractors are responsible for just that, demolishing. If a previous structure already exists on the property, then they use tools such as wrecking balls, TNT, and many others to get rid of the structure.

Next is a mechanical subcontractor who plays a significant role. Mechanical subcontractors are in charge of all of the mechanical aspects of the project. That includes the plumbing, electricity, air conditioning, and many others. Another type of subcontractor is a finish subcontractor. They are responsible for all of the finishing details of the building. This includes drywall, flooring, painting, etc. Finish subcontractors are also often referred to as carpenters.

Trade Contractor vs Subcontractor

A significant difference between trade contractor vs subcontractor is that subcontractors are contracted directly by the construction manager, whereas trade contractors are contracted by the client themselves. This separation in trade contractor vs subcontractor significantly reduces costs considering the construction manager is responsible for the management aspect. The motivation for hiring subcontractors usually comes from the cost reduction and the alleviation of risks that come along with it.

If you have any questions about how eSUB can streamline your field communications, project management or any other aspect of your team’s work, contact us today to schedule a demo.