- Project plans
- Project activities
- Legislation and standards
- Industry context
Last edited 25 Jun 2018
Builder vs contractor
Traditionally, a contractor has been considered to be an organisation that co-ordinates the resources necessary to undertake construction works, including contracting a number of trades required to carry out the actual works. This use of contracted trades allows them to vary the workforce on projects depending on the nature, scale and location of the works required without having to employ, or lay off direct employees.
A builder on the other hand, directly employs workers that undertake all of the roles necessary to undertake construction works, they do not have to contract trades. Typically this has been associated with domestic construction, as housebuilding is a relatively repetitive process, for which the workforce required is predictable and so direct employment of the workforce does not limit the builders capability.
However, this distinction has become blurred since the 1960’s, when builders 'de-risked' labour problems by sub-contracting more and more work. As a result, most builders will now contract some construction work to trades.
Similarly some contractors may have an element of direct workforce. Civil Engineering Procedure, 7th edition, published by the Institution of Civil Engineers defines a 'general contractor' as '...a contractor who undertakes the whole of the construction of a project, but usually in turn sub-letting parts of his work to specialist or trades contractors and others as sub-contractors'.
Today, housebuilding is generally associated with ‘builders’ even where they contract other trades, whilst other types of building may be associated with ‘contractors’, even where they a significant direct workforce.
 Find out more
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Approved contractor.
- CIS contractors and CIS sub-contractors.
- Commercial manager.
- Construction Industry Scheme.
- Construction manager.
- Construction contract.
- Contractor vs supplier.
- Contractor's working schedule.
- Due diligence when appointing a contractor.
- Main contractor.
- Management contractor.
- Principal contractor.
- Procurement route.
- Tender documents.
- Trade contractor.
- Trades contractor.
- Works contractor.
Featured articles and news
From alabaster to travertine – how many types do you know?
Well-designed lighting helps maintain a healthy physiological and psychological balance.
Transferring the risk for obtaining the target BREEAM rating.
A simple but effective way to determine the root cause of an issue.
BSRIA report suggest the European market will double to 415 million Euros by 2023.
Why a wellbeing strategy is vital for property managers.
An ECA briefing for members about the commercial implications of leaving the EU.
A crucial moment on any project - and fraught with danger.
The performance gap from a Northern Ireland perspective.
Book review: Buildings of protestant nonconformity.
Design and testing for health and wellbeing - free download from BRE.