When To Hire A General Contractor And When To Hire A Specialized Contractor

May 9, 2023

There are two types of contractors you’ll eventually hire to work on your home: specialty contractors and general contractors. I’m going to explain the differences below and give you a list of every project that requires a general contractor and which ones would better suite a specialty contractor

Specialty contractors are good at one thing. General contractors are good at lots of things. General contractors will hire specialty contractors to complete renovation and remodeling projects.

It doesn’t make sense to hire a general contractor for specialty work, just like it doesn’t make sense to hire a specialty contractor for a renovation or a complicated project. When a home project requires multiple specialty contractors, it becomes complicated and the process needs to be looked at holistically – that’s where a general contractor comes in.

The problem comes when clients don’t know who to hire for each type of task and they spend money without seeing the project in a holistic way. I see this happen very often with new windows and doors. The new windows and doors are installed without regard for the building envelope or waterproofing details. This can become and issue over time, especially if your siding is older.

House with fascias replaced

This house needed its fascias and hidden gutters repaired before painting. A lot of carpentry was involved to make that happen. As a general contractor we took care of all of those aspects

Another common one is with bathroom renovations. This is a project for a general contractor, but I’ll see people try to attempt this will multiple specialty contractors. The reality is a bathroom renovation is complicated. It can include a building permit, abatement, demo, structural engineering, plumbing rough-in behind the walls, electrical rough-in, tile floor prep, tile floor install, drywall install, millwork install, tub installation…we’re not even finished yet and that’s been 5 trades. I’m all for DIY, but if you’re not an expert, leave it to the experts.

Funky bathroom wall tile

A proper bathroom renovation requires lots of coordination by a general contractor

Let’s get to the list:

When To Hire A Specialty Contractor
  • Plumbing Repairs
  • Small Electrical Repairs
  • A New Outlet or Electrical Fixture
  • Mechanical Repairs (HVAC)
  • Air Conditioning Installation
  • Roofing Repairs
  • A New Roof
  • A New tile floor
  • New Hardwood
  • Interior or Exterior Painting (When The Project Doesn’t Include Rot Repair)
  • Lawn or Garden Maintenance
  • Re-Landscaping
  • Lawn Sprinklers
  • Landscape Lighting
  • A New Fireplace Insert
  • New Appliances
  • New Window Coverings
  • New Shelving Inserts
  • Closet Build-Outs
  • Cabinet Painting
When To Hire A General Contractor
  • Bathroom Renovation
  • Kitchen Renovation
  • Large Home Renovations
  • Dining Room Renovations
  • Exterior Siding Repairs
  • New Windows and Doors
  • New Cabinets or Bathroom Vanities
  • New Shower Components
  • Major Electrical Upgrades
  • New Interior Doors, Millwork or Trim
  • Hard Landscaping (Concrete walls, new patios etc)
  • New Deck Membrane Installation

As always make sure to check the following when looking into hiring a specialty contractor or a general contractor:

No Matter What, Double Check These Aspects When Hiring A Contractor
  • Are their online reviews good?
  • Do they have liability insurance? How much?
  • Are they in good standing with WorkSafeBC?
  • Do they offer a fixed price?
  • Do they offer a warranty?
  • Are they currently being sued or have outstanding liens against them?
  • Are the honest, on time, clean cut and reputable?
  • Have other people in the neighborhood used them?
  • Do you like the style of work they do?

You need a yes to all of these questions, but it pays to make review them before you hire anyone.