This question gets thrown around a lot; what is a contractor, really? Construction projects, regardless of size, often have a lot of moving pieces. These pieces have to move together like a set of gears in order to get the job done right.

From roofers to painters, to carpenters, all of these people need to work together. To oversee the whole project, you need a contractor. You can almost think of a contractor as a manager for your project. So let’s clear up any confusion. Let’s talk about who a contractor is, what they do, and how you can hire a dependable contractor for your project.

How does the Government Classify Contractors?

Contractors (also known as General Contractors) oversee a team of specialized individuals (also known as Sub-Contractors) to complete a project. In Virginia, contractors are classified by type A, B, or C; with type A allowing a General Contractor to take on the most costly of projects (we’ll talk about this later). General Contractors are responsible for submitting to you a bid. This bid will spell out the total cost and timeframe for completing whatever project you’re looking to have done.

Let’s imagine that you’re looking to have a house built (congratulations). A home is a complex project that requires many parts. You’ll need to have the earth excavated, the foundation constructed, the framing built, the windows and doors installed, the roof installed, the siding applied, the electrical work completed, the plumbing completed… and the list goes on.

Imagine trying to hire each individual worker to complete the job yourself. It would be a nightmare for you to call around to local businesses to hire each person to complete an individual part of your job. This is where a contractor comes in and makes your life easy. The contractor will have the connections to all of the sub-contractors to get the job done right, and in much less time than you could ever do on your own.

So what is a Subcontractor?

In the example above, we see that a contractor will offer you a bid to build your house. In the bid, we see that all the components of the home need to be installed separately; the framing, the windows, the doors, the roof, all of these are separate jobs. Each person (or company) that handles one of the jobs of completing the entire house is called a sub-contractor.

But Can I Hire any Contractor?

The short answer here is no. Virginia classifies contractors based on how qualified they are to complete a project. A class B contractor can only complete a project that’s valued below $120,000 (and up to $750,000 a year, across all projects). This is fine for some projects, but if you’re building a new house, you probably already know that $120,000 will only get you so far. Generally speaking, a class A contractor should be your go-to for large-scale or complex projects.

How Much Work can Contractors do?

That’s a good question. According to Virginia, a class C contractor may only do work on a project that’s valued up to $10,000. They are also capped at $150,000 in projects yearly. These contractors are great for smaller projects like a bathroom remodel or painting jobs.

Like we discussed earlier, a class B contractor may only do work on a project that’s valued up to $120,000 and they are capped at $750,000 a year. These contractors are great for medium-sized projects, like kitchen remodels.

Finally, a class A contractor is unrestricted in how costly a project that they manage can be. They can be used for any projects, big or small.

Now you know what a contractor is and why you need them for your projects. A good contractor can be the difference between a complex project getting done in a timely manner, and a lot of unnecessary headaches. Once you find a contractor that you love and trust, don’t be afraid to call them for any of your future projects.