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Become a General Contractor in Ontario

general contractor reading plans in an renovated house
general contractor reading plans in an renovated house

Become a General Contractor in Ontario

Renovation tradesBecome a General Contractor in Ontario

Venturing into the construction industry in Ontario? This guide will walk you through the steps to become a licenced general contractor. Starting with completing your high school education, gaining work experience, and honing your skills, you'll learn everything you need to kickstart your journey.

Discover the importance of business licensing and the role of the Ontario regulatory authority. Whether you're in Toronto, Ottawa, or any part of Ontario, get ready to turn your builder's dream into reality.

What's the meaning of "general contractor"?

General contractor shaking hand with owner 

Source: Canva

A general contractor is a person or entity that undertakes a construction project on behalf of an owner. They are primarily responsible for overseeing the entirety of the project, ensuring that it is completed to the expectations of the owner and in accordance with the Ontario Building Code and Safety Regulations.

General contractors can be hired directly by the client, making them the main point of contact. They bear the overall accountability for the project's success, which includes hiring and paying subcontractors to execute specific portions of the construction work like plumbing, electrical, and roofing tasks.

Additionally, a general contractor is expected to ensure the health and safety of workers on the project, following guidelines stipulated by the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA).

How do we define "constructor" and what are their duties?

In this regard, the general contractor acts as the project's "constructor", with the authority to manage daily operations and workplace safety. The role requires a high level of business sense, project management skills, and understanding of construction projects.

It's important to note that, while the roles of constructor and contractor may overlap in some cases, especially when the contractor is also the entity overseeing the project's management, they are not inherently the same. The constructor typically holds broader responsibilities related to project management and compliance, while the contractor focuses more on executing the actual construction work and managing the workforce.

What are the duties of a contractor?

Here is an updated list of duties a constructor may be expected to perform, depending on the specific project at hand and employer, according to Indeed:

  •  Generating production reports for projects

  • Conducting training sessions for new employees and apprentices

  • Estimating costs for labour and materials

  • Managing procurement and organization of materials and supplies

  • Supervising team members on-site

  • Arranging setup of equipment and tools

  • Addressing challenges and resolving issues at the worksite

  • Providing guidance on strategies to meet project objectives and deadlines

  • Offering recommendations for recruitment

  • Developing and presenting project proposals

  • Establishing and modifying employee schedules

  • Ensuring compliance with safety regulations during work operations

  • Analyzing blueprints and project plans

  • Constructing and installing interior finishes, cabinets, fixtures, and furniture

  • Delegating tasks and scheduling for project completion

  • Formulating plans to enhance employee efficiency

How to become a general contractor (GC)

Blur image with contractor equipment in the background

Source: Canva

Becoming a general contractor in Ontario is not as simple as putting on a hard hat and ordering people around. Starting this career requires a combination of education, hands-on experience, and a solid understanding of the construction business.

Firstly, you need to complete your education and be 18 years or older. In Ontario, it's recommended to have at least a high school diploma or GED equivalent. Focusing on subjects linked to the construction industry, such as math, physical education, and woodwork, can be beneficial. It's also recommended to take courses such as business and accounting to better prepare you for the business side of the role.

Post-secondary education or technical training in related fields like Building Science, Construction Engineering, or Construction Science, is also highly valued. Colleges and universities in Ontario offer a variety of programs for aspiring contractors.

After completing your education, gaining practical work experience is crucial. This can be obtained through internships, apprenticeships or working within the construction field. This real-world experience is invaluable and aids in honing your skills and understanding of the industry.

Finally, you must prepare to pass the licensing exam. This involves understanding the business and safety regulations associated with the construction industry. It's also vital to be aware of the responsibilities of a general contractor, as outlined by the Ministry of Labour and the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Licence need-to-knows and requirements

Regulated by the Ontario College of Trades, some trades, called compulsory trades, will require a licence or Certificate of Qualification before a tradesperson can legally work in the province. While the general contractor role itself doesn't require a specific licence, when we mention the 'Contractor Licence,' it specifically pertains to these certifications.

In order to get certified, a tradesperson first needs their Certificate of Apprenticeship which proves that they've completed all necessary training per the provincial standards. When an individual meets their apprenticeship program's requirements, they're eligible to write a Certificate of Qualification Exam.

Obtaining their Certificate of Qualification (C of Q) means that the individual is certified to practice their trade in Ontario. Some practices, like cabinet making, painting, and roofing, do not require a certification.

Trades like plumbing, gas/oil technician, and refrigeration/AC mechanic all require a C of Q. While electricians require a Certificate of Qualification, they must also hold a valid Electrical Contractors Licence which requires registering with the Workplace Safety Board and at least $2,000,000 in damage insurance coverage.

Furthermore, businesses involved in the construction or sale of new homes or condominiums need to be licenced by the Home Construction Regulatory Authority (HRCA) which enforces professional standards for conduct and competence.

Still, other key requirements come into play. Principally, starting a general contractor business necessitates a business licence from the city. Additionally, business insurance is a must-have to protect clients and the business itself. At the very least, you need general liability insurance.

Additional licensing for Toronto

Contractors may need additional licensing to practice their trade depending on the municipality. In Toronto, for example, the bylaws dictate that contractors — including non-compulsory trades — must have a City of Toronto Trades Licence, a valid Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) number, and up-to-date liability and workers' compensation insurance.

Red Seal certification

For those wishing to take their know-how beyond Ontario, the Red Seal Program may be of interest. It establishes uniform standards for evaluating tradespeople's skills across Canada. Holding a Red Seal on your trade certificate authorizes you to practice your craft in any part of Canada where that trade is recognized as a Red Seal trade. Professionals who pass the Red Seal exam earn an endorsement on their Certificate of Qualification, signalling excellence to employers, facilitating labour mobility, and fostering pride among skilled trades workers.

Important skills to have

Possessing all of the right certifications, licences, and insurances is by all means important in being a successful contractor, but they alone will not get you to the top. Being a general contractor also requires communication, problem-solving, and management just to name a few. 

Communication: Contractors communicate with clients, team members, vendors, and worksite leaders to bring projects to fruition. An ability to effectively and clearly communicate is therefore essential. 

Problem-solving: In the construction field, you'll often encounter unforeseen issues or challenges. The ability to think on your feet and find solutions is crucial.

Management: Running a project means managing resources, timelines, and people. Strong leadership and organizational skills will ensure everything runs smoothly.

Commercial awareness: Understanding the business side of construction is equally important as having technical knowledge. This includes budgeting, contract negotiations, and understanding market trends.

Technical skills: Knowledge in areas such as plumbing, HVAC systems, and drywall installation can be highly beneficial. Being well-versed in construction law and safety regulations is also essential.

Networking: Building strong relationships with clients, suppliers, and other industry professionals can open up opportunities and help your business succeed.

Remember, these skills can be developed over time, through education, training, and experience.

Read more about general contractors

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Last modified 2024-05-08

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