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What is a Commercial Contractor? And What Do They Do?

Taking on a building construction or remodel is no easy task. You have to think about the permitting, zone regulations, state laws, budgeting, and so much more. Whether it’s a small project like an addition to a building or a project as big as constructing a new building from the ground up, there are a lot of moving parts and expertise necessary to properly initiate and complete the project.

Luckily, there are people who are trained in commercial construction and design! General contractors that specialize in commercial construction are your go-to professionals for anything related to construction and design for your building. But what exactly does a commercial contractor do and how can they help you with your construction project?

What is a Commercial General Contractor?

Construction personnel reviewing blueprints for construction build

Commercial contractors are general contractors who have experience in commercial construction for businesses. A general contractor (GC) is a professional construction company or worker that is in charge of overseeing the construction site, materials, equipment, vendors, and contractors or subcontractors that work on your construction or remodel project. They ensure the project is going smoothly and if there are any discrepancies from the beginning of the construction project to the end.

Great commercial building contractors will also have a team of specialized designers to help with the interior design of the building (if applicable). The commercial contractor will work and communicate with vendors, staff, subcontractors, designers, and architects when it comes to the project at hand. Commercial contractors are the only ones who know how to create an incredible structure that is safe and serves the intended purpose for years to come without collapsing. Basically, they make all of your dreams come true!

Commercial Contractor vs Residential Contractor

Commercial contractors are very different from residential contractors. Generally speaking, commercial construction will be much more complex than residential. Commercial buildings and offices tend to be larger and consist of different materials, budgeting, timeframe, codes and regulations than residential construction. Good commercial contractors understand the differences between working on something like a house and a hospital.

Responsibilities

When hiring a commercial contractor, the expectations of their role and responsibilities include:

  • Overseeing the entire construction project and development
  • Acquiring the proper and safe materials
  • Renting and using the appropriate equipment
  • Communicating with other project managers, owners, and vendors
  • Logistics and reporting
  • Adhering to codes and zoning regulations
  • Complying to the budget and timeline

There are a lot of responsibilities when it comes to being a commercial contractor working on a large project. The larger or unique the project, the more complicated it becomes and the importance of hiring a commercial contractor with a lot of experience is the top priority. Among other things, your main expectations are for the commercial contractor to be professional, work with your timeline for the finished project, and keep to your budget.

What Type of Work Does a Commercial Contractor Do?

Cranes being used for construction site

A commercial contractor will have experience working with construction projects such as offices, restaurants, medical facilities, retail stores, recreational facilities, and warehouses. Plenty of construction projects require contracting licensing and city permits. It is vital that a commercial contractor will have a license in order to work on a project and adhere to the laws and regulations in the jurisdiction.

If you want a new build, reconstruction of a building, redesigning of a building, additional offices or structures, a commercial contractor is the professional you want working on your project. The commercial contractor will be in charge of purchasing materials and informing other contractors working on the project as to how and where the materials should be installed. If there are any problems with the material choices purchased, the contractor will contact the material vendor and negotiate for replacements or new materials.

Aside from overseeing the entirety of the construction site and project from start to finish, the commercial contractor is in charge of the hiring process of other contractors and subcontractors. Subcontractors are hired to perform unique or specialized tasks that other contractors can’t or are missing the credentials for. Subcontractors can be individuals or businesses that specialize in plumbing, electrical work, carpeting, painting, or other significant roles that require experience and possibly other forms of expertise credentials that a general contractor most likely won’t have.

How to Hire a Commercial Contractor

H3 construction zone in Colorado in progress

It seems like a lot of work to have a successful and safe construction project, doesn’t it? Well, it is, and there’s no sugar-coating that. However, hiring a commercial general contractor is the best way to give yourself and your business peace of mind and know that the project will be a success!

Here is a list of steps and qualifications you’ll need to go through to hire a good commercial contractor for the job.

Research Local Commercial Contractors

It might seem very obvious, but it’s the first step in hiring a commercial contractor with construction and remodeling experience. Local contractors are going to have the proper licensing in your construction site’s state. They will also have better experience dealing with the natural environment and have a list of sources to purchase materials and hire subcontractors.

To find local commercial contractors, you can contact different property management groups in the area for contractors that worked on their construction projects. This might take more time, but you’ll get a list of referrals to choose from that you know have experience in projects similar to yours.

Find properties or structures that are similar to the exterior and interior designs that you want for your business, then perform outreach to find the contractor(s) who worked on them. Be on the lookout for positive experiences, not just the cost or timeliness of the work provided by the contractor. Cheaper and faster doesn’t mean better and efficient.

Another way to find local commercial contractors is to search online. Perform a search on Google or Bing for something like “commercial contractors near me” to find contractors in your area. Your search results will be based on proximity and you can choose the nearest commercial contractor. If your project will be in a different city or state, then type and search for “commercial contractors (city)” to find a local contractor in the appropriate city.

Your results will look something like this:

Google search for commercial contractors loveland

The hiring of a local commercial contractor with experience and great reviews is key to a successful construction project. Check reviews, testimonials, and rating scores online for the commercial contractor you think would best fit the project.

Next, visit their website (if they have one) to see a few projects they’ve worked on in the past. Only choose a commercial contractor who has good work experience with their previous clients. You don’t want to be working with someone who is difficult or overcharges you and the company.

Know the Cost of the Project and the Contractor’s Services

Obviously, there is a budget in place for your project, whether it’s a remodel or a new construction. Complications can become visible when the commercial contractor’s cost of service is higher than your budget. Your budget shouldn’t be sky-high, but also shouldn’t be ground-low. The budget dictates what materials you can afford, the type of insurance you can acquire, and who you can afford.

First, get an estimated price for the overall costs of the construction. This price is typically formulated by the structure’s square footage, insurance, and location. Next, contact a couple of commercial contractors to “bid” on the job. Sometimes, they’ll work lower than the anticipated budget. Their bids (costs) are calculated by hours to be worked, insurance and bonding, overhead costs, materials, industry type, geography and location, and a few other essentials. They’ll let you know if your budget fits the build or redesign. 

Construction costs can be anywhere from $40 to $225 per square foot. This is subject to change and an estimation of costs will be required for the commercial contractor.

Hire a Licensed Commercial Contractor

Licensed commercial contractors are legally allowed to work in your project’s state and jurisdiction. They are well-equipped for the job with knowledge of necessary permits, zone regulations, materials to be used, other contractors for hire, and project management. Never hire a commercial contractor who isn’t licensed, as they aren’t experienced to work the job and can’t easily be held liable for problems that occur at the project site.

Ask for Proof of Insurance

If a worker is injured on the job or someone makes a mistake to the build, insurance will save you a headache and money. Only hire a commercial contractor who has insurance to take care of liability and worker’s compensation. They are in charge of the project, materials, and other contractors, so liability costs shouldn’t be on your hands.

The insurance will be part of the contracting bid costs, but don’t assume the contractor automatically has insurance. Ask them for proof of insurance so you know for a fact that they are insured.

Friendliness and Professionalism

It should go without saying that you don’t want to work with a contractor who is unprofessional or even rude. A good commercial contractor will know how to deal with even the most difficult of situations without losing their composure.

When you make first contact with the contractor, get a feel for how they respond to complicated questions. Take into consideration their tone, professionalism, and the ability to comprehend what you are requiring of them. You also don’t want to work with someone or a team that doesn’t understand your vision for the build. Just remember, first impressions are the most important and should take time for both of you to get to know one another at the professional level.

If you aren’t comfortable with them taking on the project based on how they interact with you, then it’s safe to say that they aren’t the right contractor for the job.

Once you’ve found the contractor you’re certain can oversee the project, your next step is to fill in the appropriate parties as to the contractor’s hire and when the project will get started. Go through the proper legal documents and be sure to read the fine print. 

Conclusion

Commercial contracting isn’t rocket science, but it does come with its own set of complications, experience, and qualifications. You’ll want to hire a commercial contractor you can trust and has the experience and credentials aforementioned. Don’t waste your time trying to hire a contractor that’s cheaper than the rest but doesn’t have the right experience; you’ll find yourself caught in a very difficult situation.

H3’s construction and design teams are knowledgeable in new commercial construction builds, remodels, and architectural design. We have years of experience in commercial work and can take on any size construction project. Call us today to schedule a consultation and see if our experience and integrity are what you’re looking for. We take on projects in the entire Colorado state, specializing in projects located in Denver, Fort Collins, and Colorado Springs.