Engineering blog
01 Feb 2023

Contractor vs Subcontractor vs Builder: What’s the Difference?

In the building industry, an owner employs a contractor to finish a project. This contractor has the option to use subcontractors to carry out particular tasks as part of the larger project. Although contractors and subcontractors have several things in common, they have separate roles to play within a project.

This article will take you through the specific differences between contractor vs subcontractor, as well as builders.

As a contractor or a business owner, this blog will also help you understand the importance of using marketing tools such 3D rendering and virtual reality (VR) to grow your business.

Contractor vs Subcontractor vs Builder: An Overview

Before we deep dive to study the difference between contractor and subcontractor, let’s define who they are.

What is a contractor?

A contractor is a person or business that is hired to provide labor or materials on a contractual basis. There are various categories of contractors, but when used without specification, the term typically refers to one of these: general contractor (GC), subcontractor, or independent contractor.

In this article, when we say “contractor” by itself, we mean either a general contractor (who is responsible for the overall management of a building project) or an independent contractor (who is hired to provide specific work, such as masonry). 

Although almost every building contract refers to this hired individual or entity as the “contractor,” they are also frequently referred to as the original contractor, prime contractor, or general contractor.

Acquiring projects and establishing contracts

  • Contracts are negotiated. These define the kinds of tasks and work that need to be accomplished in a specific project. Of course, before this, projects need to be secured.

  • Build a solid reputation so that home and property owners will seek them out for projects.

  • To find jobs, contractors use marketing to demonstrate the services they provide and network to connect with their potential clients.

The delivery of completed building projects

  • Once a contract has been initiated and signed, the contractor has to accomplish the designated task. This is done in various ways.

  • They either use their own skills to complete the tasks at hand or hire laborers for the specific handiwork.

  • They even have the option to get subcontractors on board who use their own skills or hire skilled laborers.

    • If the project is a small one, a contractor could do the job entirely on their own or hire a small number of staff.

    • However, on the majority of building projects, the general contractor uses subcontractors to carry out specific tasks to ensure the successful completion of bigger projects in the given timeline.

What is a sub-contractor?

A subcontractor is a person or organization that performs part or all of the obligations of another contract. They are hired by the general contractor, who will still be responsible for the overall management of the construction project.

  • A percentage of the construction work is done by subcontractors. This can include painting, plumbers, windows, roofers, or HVAC.

  • Subcontractors frequently contribute to lowering risks in the construction environment, since they provide skills that the contractor may not be equipped with. This is one of the significant differences between a general contractor vs subcontractor

  • These subcontractors must sign a contract with the contractor, regardless of whether they are people working as independent subcontractors, consultants, or part of a bigger organization.

  • The precise scope of work agreed upon is outlined in the agreement signed between the two parties.

What is a builder?

A house’s construction is normally handled by a builder. This can involve laying the groundwork, building walls, and roofing the structure. Mechanical undertakings, including plumbing, electricity, and HVAC, are not managed by builders.

  • Usually, the builder employs their own workforce. Most of the workers on the construction site are directly employed by them.

  • If they have a small company, their employees won’t include trade contractors for experts like HVAC technicians, but they will collaborate with reliable long-term partners that operate in these fields.

  • A builder, most often, physically supervises the work on a daily basis, while also taking part in construction operations on the site.

Subcontractor vs independent contractor

A third designation that is frequently mentioned in a construction project is the “independent contractor.” Let’s understand the difference between subcontractor and independent contractor.

  • There isn’t always a single general contractor overseeing hired subcontractors on building projects.

  • In order to retain greater control over building project operations, the owner has the option to directly engage several contractors rather than a single contractor.

  • In these circumstances, a manager employs independent contractors and assumes the management role of a general contractor.

These are the duties that they take on

Project manager

  • A project manager is an employee of the home or property owner who is given the management role to carry out a specific building project.

  • They are responsible for hiring multiple contractors and oversee everything. The contractors have the option to hire laborers and supervise their work.

Independent contractor

Instead of the hierarchical interactions between contractors and subcontractors, an independent contractor employed alongside other independent contractors are generally on more equal terms.

Now that you have some clarity on what a contractor, subcontractor, and builder is, let’s explore the core differences between contractor vs subcontractor.

What is the Difference Between a Contractor and a Subcontractor?

Knowledge, skills, and management


The management role

  • The main responsibility of a contractor is to develop and carry out the defined strategic plans for building projects. They might have to handle multiple construction projects simultaneously.

  • To accomplish the contractual project, contractors need skills in accounting, recruiting laborers or subcontractors, and scheduling.

Technological skills

Contractors manage accounting, planning, and demonstration of projects using tools, technology, and software on the computer.

They could use technology to handle their workforce’s payroll and billing as well. Given the humongous tasks and responsibilities at hand, using technology can make these processes less tedious.

Excellent communication skills

  • Negotiation is a big part of their role as they need to build a good rapport with subcontractors and potential clients.

  • They are responsible for communicating the client’s requirements to the subcontractors and ensuring the tasks specified are understood and accomplished successfully by them.

Resolving hurdles along the way

  • It is extremely common for problems to show up at the building site. Contractors need to take the lead to find resolutions for these issues.

  • Their creativity and problem-handling skills will ensure that project is completed within the stipulated time and meets the client’s expectations.


Strength and physical endurance

  • Subcontractors are often required to put in long hours. They need both physical stamina and strength to complete their duties successfully.

  • They need to toil or supervise throughout the day which could include activities such as bending, climbing, and standing.

Skills and proficiency

A contractor needs specialists at each stage of the project since they might not be able to handle the task on their own or completely comprehend the intricate specifications and skills of these tasks. Subcontractors need to be the specialists in the area they are hired for.

Time management

  • A project may be finished in the stipulated time with the aid of self-management and commitment to the timeline given for each of the tasks.

  • Every subcontractor is in charge of completing their specific responsibilities and making a contribution to the building project.


Networking is important for subcontractors to ensure they find work easily. Building good rapport with professionals and contractors can also aid with skill development and stay updated with the advancements in the construction industry.

The core responsibilities of a contractor vs subcontractor

  • A contractor’s core responsibility is to secure contracts, network, and keep finding construction projects to work on. They give more time to the management role and less to physical labor.

  • On the other hand, a subcontractor is hired by contractors to perform specific tasks that involve a lot of physical work. They do not have to worry about securing contracts or clients but rather focus on tasks that require their skill sets.

    • Although the subcontractors should get their own tools to successfully complete the specified tasks, the contractor is likely to supply materials like timber or lumber.

The work stages and schedule

  • For contractors, getting a client isn’t easy. It all boils down to market sustainability and the number of years of experience they hold.

    • They need to work on building rapport and securing trust among the potential home or property owners through various marketing techniques and innovations. This helps them to get the contractual projects.

  • A subcontractor, on the other hand, cultivates connections with the general contractors to obtain employment all year long

  • Before landing a contract, contractors need to pass time-consuming and stressful stages. After which they still need to finish all the contractual formalities before they can hire subcontractors or perform any task on the construction site.

  • Based on their market reputation and connections with general contractors, subcontractors receive employment. They don’t need to go through these time-consuming stages or deal with the exhausting contractual formalities.

Investment cost and salary

This is of the most critical differences between a contractor vs subcontractor.

  • Many different kinds of machines and equipment are required for a building project in order to carry out various jobs. These are high-priced and require expensive upkeep.

    • A contractor buys them in order to upgrade his workspace and get more contractual projects thanks to having this equipment. It’s risky as the contractor has to put a lot of money into it.

  • Since the contractors purchase them, the required tools are already available, so subcontractors don’t need to incur any such costs.

    • In contrast to subcontractors, who are exempt from these investment costs, this raises the cost that contractors must bear.

  • Contractors have the discretion to choose their own prices. They make an average hourly wage of $26.04 while a subcontractor usually earns $30.98 on an hourly basis, claims Indeed Salaries.

    • However, there is a chance for contractors to make more money based on their location, experience, and skills. The scale of client projects they oversee might also have an impact on their income.

    • Subcontractors are hired by contractors. The people they are recruited by have an impact on their pay. A Subcontractor’s skills also have a significant influence on their pay.


Knowing the distinctions between contractor vs subcontractor will enable you to recruit the best team possible for your construction projects.

Contractors need to concentrate more on marketing as a supplement to the other methods they use to secure contracts. This can help in acquiring several leads. If your company doesn’t have a strong internet presence, your rivals may quickly steal leads for lucrative construction projects.

In the construction industry, differentiating oneself may be challenging. To capture clients’ attention, some contractors are using new and inventive marketing methods.

This implies that the competition in brick and mortar stores is fierce and that creating an identity for your business or showcasing your unique abilities is crucial.

With 3D product visualization and 3D product rendering services, you can present visually spectacular examples of your work and projects. This will help you stand out by catering to your client’s demands.

If you are still on the fence about what you can do to build or grow your business, talk to our experts to know more about it.

Browse our portfolio to see how we’ve supported contractors and businesses around the globe.

Ready to market your business and create high-quality renders with our top-notch 3D rendering and VR servicesContact us now!



Your Citation

CAD Evangelist. "Contractor vs Subcontractor vs Builder: What’s the Difference?" CAD Evangelist, Feb. 01, 2023,

CAD Evangelist. (2023, February 01). Contractor vs Subcontractor vs Builder: What’s the Difference?. Retrieved from

CAD Evangelist. "Contractor vs Subcontractor vs Builder: What’s the Difference?" CAD Evangelist (accessed February 01, 2023 ).

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BluEnt is a design, technology and engineering group with offices in New York, Toronto, London, Muscat, and Amsterdam. We partner with home builders, real estate developers and general contractors to efficiently manage projects. Companies rely on BluEnt for architectural drawings, Revit modeling, shop drawings and more.

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