Here’s what you should know about these behind-the-scenes costs and why your contractor bills for them
General conditions are the costs incurred during a project that generally don’t involve swinging a hammer or installing something permanently in your home. Some contractors list some or all of the general conditions costs as line items, while others cover some or all in their markup. With a bid that is a bottom-line number, these costs are usually not visible. Here’s what you need to know.
What specifically are general conditions? They fall roughly into three categories: site management, material handling and project management.
Site management includes all of the tasks that have to do with property protection and utilities. If temporary utilities are required — a temporary power pole or a temporary water source — expect that to be included here. A portable toilet for worker use is usually in this category as well. There may also be temporary storage or an office, depending on how much room there is to stage materials, and if there is dry space to work in so that plans can be consulted in a place out of the weather.
Material handling is the labor required to deliver and move materials around the jobsite. Often materials are delivered with a flat fee from a supplier, but when the truck arrives with the materials, the driver does not unload, or unloads in a location far away from where the materials need to be staged. That means staff onsite must spend time moving those materials where they need to go. This can include framing materials, millwork, cabinetry and windows. There are also one-off material needs that require a trip to a supplier, or can be met less expensively than paying the supplier’s delivery fee.
The third piece of general conditions costs is project management. Depending on the size of a project, management can happen in a few hours each week or require more than 40 hours a week. Some companies include just direct onsite management in this category, while others include in-office work done supervising the project.
Project management can include preconstruction pricing; establishing scopes of work and meeting with subcontractors; creating mock-ups or ordering materials to show options; holding onsite meetings with the owners, the architect and other designers; and meeting inspectors to have work signed off on. It also usually involves creating material take-offs, ordering and scheduling delivery of materials, scheduling and assigning tasks to staff, helping troubleshoot subcontractors’ work and overseeing jobsite safety. Project managers also keep track of change orders, write agendas for meetings and communicate with clients and architects.