Differences between Atlanta general contractors and subcontractors
November 14, 2021 at 4:00 PM
Contractor with tool kit on his belt

So you’ve got a home remodel or redesign project coming up — should you hire a general contractor or a subcontractor? Technically, if you hire anyone to perform work or services under a contract, that person is a contractor. But on a home improvement project, there’s a huge difference between a general contractor and a subcontractor. It’s important to understand what makes each role unique, how they work together to get the job done, and who bears the liability should something go wrong.

Need a starting point? Let’s break down the differences between Atlanta general contractors and subcontractors, so you know exactly who’s working on what during your home improvement project.

What is a general contractor?

A general contractor is the individual or company that you hire directly to oversee your project. They take care of everything, from the initial project plan assessment to organizing the supply of materials, even to managing the actual labor required. General contractors typically work under a contractual agreement, which specifies their fees, scope of work, project milestones, payment terms, and more.

In many ways, a general contractor is like an event planner. You’re not hiring them to do one specific task, but to take over management of the project and ensure it goes off without any hitch.

Sometimes, a contractor may be able to complete the project with their own crew. But on a typical remodel or renovation project, they may need to bring in specialized help to tackle specific tasks in the project. This is where subcontracting comes in.

What is a subcontractor?

A subcontractor is the individual or company that the general contractor hires to work on a specific niche of a project. They’re also hired on a contractual basis, but not directly by you. For example, if you’re doing a complete kitchen remodel, the general contractor may need to hire a subcontractor for specialty individual projects like plumbing, appliance installation, and electrical circuitry.

What ultimately defines a subcontractor is that they are onboarded through a subcontractor agreement. This contract divvies up the scope of work in the original agreement and assigns specific portions to the subcontractor to complete within a specified timeframe.

Because they bring expertise that the general contractor may not have, subcontractors help alleviate project risks and ensure the project is completed on schedule.

How are they different?

There are three primary differences between general contractors and subcontractors.


General contractors have their agreement with you, the project owner. Subcontractors, on the other hand, have their agreement with the general contractor. It’s possible that you might not even meet the subcontractor throughout the project since you didn’t hire them directly and they don’t report to you.

Scope of work

General contractors focus on the big picture — sourcing materials, organizing labor, providing quality assurance, and so on. Basically, they are expected to handle all the details and any issues that may arise from the start of the project to completion.

Subcontractors focus on the specific aspect of the project for which they were hired. Once they’ve completed their niche specialty work, they’re off the project.


The compensation for a general contractor is in accordance with the terms of the agreement that you both signed. In other words, you are directly responsible for their compensation. On the other hand, the compensation for a subcontractor comes from the general contractor who hired them. The payment comes from the money set aside for the project and the general contractor disburses it in accordance with the terms of the subcontractor agreement.

Can you hire a subcontractor directly?

Yes, you can. However, it might not always be a good idea, especially if you’re undertaking a large construction or renovation project. When you hire a general contractor, you’re paying for peace of mind and project management expertise. They also bring some necessary requirements to the job like insurance, license, and worker's compensation.

If you hire subcontractors directly on a big project, then you’re assuming the role of the general contractor, and with it, the liabilities for any injuries and property damage during the project.

Are you looking for experienced general contractors in Atlanta?

Elite Construction & Renovations is here for you. We are tried and proven Atlanta general contractors specializing in home improvement projects, including bathroom remodels, kitchen renovations, custom carpentry, general repairs, and more. Elite Construction & Renovations proudly serves homeowners in Atlanta, Gainesville, Cumming Georgia, and the nearby communities.

Contact us now by calling 770-624-9216 or through our contact form. Let’s help you fall in love with your home all over again.