General Contractors vs. Restoration Contractors

When you need upgrades or repairs to your home, whether as small as remodeling your kitchen countertops or as major as a complete roof replacement, you will want to hire a contractor to make sure the job is done properly. If you’ve been shopping around for a contractor to hire, you might have heard the terms “general contractors” and “restoration contractors.” These terms might be confusing, and you might wonder, “What’s the difference?” 

This article will explore the differences between general and restoration contractors and help you be better informed about which kind of contractor you should hire.

What Does a General Contractor Do?

A general contractor is likely who you’re thinking of whenever you’re considering upgrades for your home. If you have a relatively minor project like installation of new cabinets, then you might be better off either doing it yourself or hiring a handyman, but for anything more major, like adding a room, you will want to hire a general contractor.

 A general contractor is a professional you can hire for any large-scale remodeling or new construction projects. They are able to provide labor, materials, tools, and equipment — whatever is needed to complete the project. They will also handle communicating with and managing any subcontractors (e.g. masons, carpenters, roofers, plumbers, electricians, etc.) in order to ensure that the overall quality of the project is up to standard.

Are General Contractors Licensed?

Another key characteristic of general contractors is that they are licensed and regulated by a state licensing board (e.g. Fresno contractors are licensed by the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) in California). 

This license is important because if you ever want to undertake major projects like moving walls or adding rooms/square footage to your home, you will need permits from your city. Major structural modifications require permits because they need to comply with your city’s safety standards for fire hazards, electrical shock, structural failure, and other possible risks. These building permits will only be approved if it’s been filed by a licensed general contractor. 

A general contractor’s license is usually renewed every few years, and you should always check that your contractor has a valid license on their licensing board’s website to protect yourself from risk.

How Can You Pay for a General Contractor?

When you pay a general contractor for their services, you will generally pay out of pocket or with the help of a construction loan. Some homeowners choose to borrow against their home’s equity to cover the cost of renovations, remodelling, or additions.

Costs will vary depending on the contractor and the current costs of materials. Most contractors will charge you for their time to manage the project in addition to the costs of labor and materials. As you will be paying out of pocket, you will want to ensure that you hire a trustworthy contractor, as some may end up driving up the costs of the project. Ask them for an estimate at the start of the project, and check in with them during the project to make sure that the budget is being followed.

What Does a Restoration Contractor Do?

On the other hand, you might be searching for a contractor to repair your home after it has been affected by fire, flooding, mold and mildew, or any other natural disasters, instead of just looking to remodel. This is when you will need to hire a restoration contractor.

Emergency Response Services

Restoration contractors are similarly licensed to general contractors, but they have several key differences. One among them is that restoration contractors are typically more emergency-oriented. They typically have 24/7 response services with a team to respond to calls at any time of the day or night. Responsiveness is highly important for restoration contractors, as a quick response can mitigate the amount of damage done to a home. They usually have specialties in areas like water or fire damage and provide free consultations. 

If your home has suffered damage from fire, smoke, water, wind, hail, or the like, you will need a restoration contractor instead of a general contractor. They have the years of experience and knowledge necessary to accurately assess the damage, as well as provide an estimate for the scope of work needed to restore the home to as close to the original condition as possible.

Unlike general contractors, they provide services that will help you secure and protect your home after the disaster. With their quick response period, they will be able to board up your property to prevent additional damage from sources like flooding or vandalism. Boarding up your home also gives the restoration contractor a safe environment to work on repairs without worrying about further damage.

Their restoration services extend further than just the home, with fire remediation and cleaning services for your items damaged by the disaster. Restoration contractors are also able to work in situations that pose health concerns. General contractors will usually not work in these situations, but restoration contractors have the experience for situations that require special handling, such as sewage clean-up or remediation for mold and mildew.

Restoration Contractors Work With Your Insurance Company

The last key difference is that restoration contractors will work with your insurance company to cover the costs of the work done. They have a better understanding of the process of insurance claims and adjustments compared to general contractors and will be able to help you with negotiating with your insurance provider. With their experience in damage assessment, they should be able to submit a comprehensive scope of the work needed, as well as accurate pricing for it.

Ideally, your insurance will be able to cover the costs of restoration, but at times you may have to settle for items or materials of lesser value to what you owned before. However, this is still preferable to paying full costs out of pocket. One thing to look out for is that your insurance company might have a list of preferred contractors that they will want you to use. Be cautious when reviewing the list, as the contractors they refer may be more invested in your insurance company’s best interests rather than yours. At the very least, consult with several different contractors to get an idea of the fair price for your renovations.


In summary, general contractors are best hired for large-scale home remodeling such as adding rooms. When you hire them, you will be paying out of pocket. On the other hand, restoration contractors are best hired for repairing the damage done to your home due to disasters like fire. When you hire them, your costs may be covered by insurance. Whichever one you may need for your next project, always consider their credibility and experience to protect both your home and your finances.


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