Are you a San Diego homeowner trying to understand the difference between residential remodeling contractors and residential general contractors?  If you are not from the construction world or you have never had to do any home renovations then you may not know who to contact when a problem arises at your house.  Provided in this article is an explanation on the differences between residential remodeling contractors and residential general contractors.

Residential Remodeling Contractors – General Contractors

Once you have decided that you need to hire a contractor, you will need to figure out what type of contractor to call.  California requires that anyone working on your home charging more than $500 (including both labor and material) must have a Contractor’s State License.   If you have a project that you don’t want to spend more than $500 for – reach out to a handyman.  There are 44 distinct types of classifications for contractors so it’s understandable why homeowners sometimes do not know who to call for their home remodeling projects.

front yard with new driveway and stamped concrete
Residential Remodeling Contractors, Classic Home Improvements, were hired to add a new driveway, paint the exterior, replace the roof, add artificial turf, and add a stamped concrete walkway

Does your home remodeling project require two or more unrelated building trades to framing and carpentry?  If it does, you will need to reach out to a General Building Contractor – or a “B” Licensed General Contractor.  Some examples of projects which may require two or more unrelated trades to framing and carpentry are:

  • Removing wood siding and replacing with stucco siding & replacing windows (and/or roofing)
  • Adding a new window opening.
  • Adding a new door opening
  • Widening or shortening a door or window opening
  • Repair or replace roof and windows plus exterior painting or stucco
  • Front yard remodeling (adding a new driveway, artificial turf, sprinkler system, deck and/or pavers, exterior painting)
  • Backyard remodeling (landscaping, adding a deck or hardscaping with a patio cover, exterior painting)
  • Kitchen remodeling
  • Bathroom Remodeling
  • Room Additions
  • Custom Homes
  • Whole House Remodeling
  • **Renovation due to a flood

A Licensed B General Contractor can offer all the services for your front yard remodeling or backyard remodeling but if you are requiring only one of those trades to be working on your home, you could also hire what is called a specialty contractor.

**If you have a flood and need to get your home remodeled, it is recommended you reach out to a Licensed B General Contractor who specializes in “restoration” due to water or fire damage.

General Contractors are not all built the same.  Know the difference between a person who is a licensed general contractor and a general contracting company to be sure you are working with the best contractor for your remodel!

Residential Remodeling Contractors – Specialty Contractors (aka sub-contractors)

Specialty contractors are residential remodeling contractors who specialize in a specific trade.  Most specialty contractors work as sub-contractors to Licensed B General Contractors but there are also a lot of them who cater specifically to homeowners.  Additionally, some specialty contractors prefer to ONLY work with Licensed B General Contractors who work in commercial spaces while other specialty contractors would rather work with Licensed B General Contractors who primarily work in residential spaces (either occupied or not).  It will be important if you reach out to a specialty contractor that you determine if they work homeowners directly.  It is also recommended you ask them if they have worked in an owner-occupied home.  As mentioned above, there are 44 specialty contracting licenses so who you call will depend on what you need accomplished.  For a full list of specialty contracting license you can go the Contractor’s State Licensing Board website.

Residential Remodeling Contractors – Limited Specialty Contractors

There are very few times when a homeowner might need to reach out to a limited specialty contractor.  In fact, when researching for this article we found that most limited specialty contractors in San Diego actually carry their “B” license as a general contractor.

Common Home Remodeling Projects & Who to Call

Here are some common home remodeling projects that San Diego homeowners have and some guidelines on who to call if you run into a comparable situation.  Note that a “B” Licensed General Contractor can offer any of the below services, provided they are performing more than two services that are not related to framing/carpentry.

  • Kitchen Remodel – General contractor
  • Bathroom Remodel – General contractor
  • Replace carpeted flooring – Floor covering contractor
  • Replace or repair tile flooring – Tile contractor
  • Thermostat is broken – HVAC contractor
  • Toilet is overflowing – Plumbing contractor
  • Install baseboards – Handyman
  • Add insulation – Insulation contractor
  • Install new heating and air system – HVAC contractor
  • Fence needs repair-  Fencing contractor or handyman
  • Build a new fence-  Fencing contractor
  • Install fans – Handyman or electrical contractor
  • Cabinet refacing or refinishing – Painting and decorating contractor (or B General Contractor if you are doing additional remodeling associated with the cabinets like plumbing, electrical, flooring, etc)
  • Concrete driveway is cracked – Concrete contractor
  • Install a pre-fabricated cabinet – Cabinet, millwork, carpentry contractor or handyman
  • Paint some rooms in the house – Painting contractor or handyman
  • Replace countertop – Limited specialty contractor (search for “countertop contractor”)
  • Install pavers – Masonry contractor
  • Install window coverings – Limited specialty contractor (search for “window coverings contractor”)

Home Remodeling Estimates – Finding a Contractor

There are many places you can go to find a contractor for your home remodeling project, once you have determined what type of contractor you need.  Some online recommendations who verify the contractor is currently licensed and insured – and provides reviews from actual clients – include:

Home Remodeling Estimates – Scheduling the Appointment

Many homeowners do not know what to say or ask when scheduling an estimate or consultation for their home remodeling project.   Here are some basics that you should cover on the phone call:

  • I found your information from (how did you find them?) and I live in (city), do you service this area?
  • Do you work with homeowners?
  • Who can I speak with to schedule an appointment for an estimate?
  • Are the estimates free?
  • This is my problem or this is what I am trying to accomplish ……..(explain)
  • Do you have a minimum service charge?
  • How far out are you for starting a new project like this?
  • Can we schedule an appointment?

Using the information in this guide should help you with determining what type of residential remodeling contractor you should reach out to for your home remodeling project.  Finding the right contractor is an important step in making sure your project is a success so if you have any questions feel free to give us a call and we can guide you in the right direction!

Classic Home Improvements is a General Contractor (corporation) so if you need work done on your house, and we are the type of contractor you are looking for, give us a call or fill out the form below and we will reach out to you to schedule a free in-home consultation!


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  • (858) 224-7373


  • (CA State License #944782)
    600 S. Andreasen Drive, Suite A
    Escondido, CA 92029

  • Monday through Friday 7am – 4pm
    Design Center by Appointment Only

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