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A contractor is essentially an employee that you don't hire. This is a broad term that people use when they pay someone money for a specific service without hiring them as an actual employee. There are many types of contractors you can hire to do work on your home. Some of these contractors are specialized while others are much more generalized in nature. The type of contractor you hire will depend entirely on what kind of work you need done.


Specialized Contractors. These contractors are involved in a specialized industry. Construction contractors and landscape contractors fall into this category. These specialized contractors are further broken down into subcategories of contractors. For example, a drywall contractor is a type of construction contractor. A landscape architect is an example of a landscaping contractor. Contractors here are hired for very specific, very specialized work. The work is often something that they are uniquely qualified to perform and these contractors often cost more than general contractors.

General Contractors. Colloquially referred to as "handymen" by some people, general contractors handle a wide range of issues. You may hire a general contractor when you don't need a significantly complex project accomplished. People commonly hire general contractors to build out-buildings, do general home maintenance work, and perform general landscaping tasks. The rates for these contractors are often lower than with specialized contractors.

Qualifications and Licensing Bodies for Contractors

General contractors usually only have to be licensed by state or local government licensing boards. Every state requires some level of licensing for general contractors, but the level of government is not always consistent. For example, some states require contractors to be registered and licensed at the state government level. In other states, contractors may have to be licensed at the county level, or perhaps even at both the county and state level. The governing bodies that oversee general contractor licensing are far too varied to cover here. It is best to contact your local city hall with questions about licensing for contractors in your state.

Specialized contractors have to follow the same rules as general contractors, but they often have to adhere to other industry-specific certifications. For example, drywall contractors and popcorn ceiling contractors are often associated with the Association of the Wall and Ceiling Industry. The Association of General Contractors also provides certification courses for many different types of contractors. These organizations deal mostly in education and training. No one is authorized to create legally binding standards on contractors other than state and local governments.

What to Be Aware of When Hiring Contractors

You should remember that independent contractors are not regular employees. You may be paying them to work for you, but you're not technically their boss. You hire them for their experience, their skill, and their knowledge. Hovering over a contractor while he or she is working is a fast way to get people to quit.

Remember that building time-frames are nothing more than estimates. There are a lot of real-world issues that can arise during large projects that may not be readily apparent during the planning phase. You should be prepared to allow time extensions for extenuating circumstances.

You may end up needing to hire more than one contractor for a given job. Some jobs are too large for one person to handle. If you have to hire another contractor, you should search for contractors with experience in the area that your current contractor lacks in. This a common problem that people run into when they hire contractors to fix up their basements. When a general contractor finds leaky pipes, he or she may not be qualified to fix them. In a case like this, you would want to hire a plumbing contractor to come out for help.

Keep Your Project on Track

Always get estimates from new contractors you hire. You should have a clear understanding of how much the project will cost you.

To help you retain that clarity, it is advised that you create a generalized contract that covers the scope of the work. The contract should also contain information on the payment terms you have reached with the contractor. Every single detail should be laid out very plainly and painstakingly.