A construction superintendent (commonly referred to as a foreman outside of the United States and Canada) plays a crucial role on many job sites. It’s an in-demand and highly specialized job – but does your investment property construction project really need one?
But below that, the lines aren’t as clear. Let’s explore some of the processes that professionals use to determine when a construction superintendent is necessary.
Please note that in many cases a construction superintendent is not just a practical and managerial luxury; there are often legal requirements. While we’ll be discussing some legal elements in this article, we won’t provide legal advice. Consult a legal professional who knows your local laws before making a final decision.
What Does a Construction Superintendent Do?
A construction superintendent is responsible for overseeing every phase of a project. They supervise and coordinate all progress on job sites, including safety, personnel, and even accounting.
There are construction superintendents that specialize in every type of project imaginable — residential, commercial, infrastructure, you name it.
Regardless of the project type, however, the role of a construction superintendent requires great expertise. Many employers will only hire a construction superintendent who has gone through the voluntary licensing process. In states like New York, prerequisites for a construction superintendent license includes at least five years of experience in a relevant trade.
This reflects the weight of construction superintendent duties; failure in these duties can cost money, time, and even lives.
Do You Need a Construction Superintendent?
A construction superintendent may seem like overkill for some projects. Indeed, smaller projects with less risk may forgo a dedicated, licensed construction superintendent in favor of a professional who carries out the same high-level monitoring of a project’s progress.
What counts as a smaller project? Generally, these are projects that do not demolish or significantly alter more than 50% of a building’s existing structure.
If a task requires underpinning, excavation, safety inspections, complex scheduling, timesheet reviews, safety logs, and/or the like, a job site superintendent is recommended — and sometimes even required by law once the project reaches a certain level of complexity. More on this shortly.
Typically, if you are working with a renovation company (or even specialized companies like those who pour and form concrete), they will have a construction superintendent on-staff. There are situations, however, when it’s up to you to decide if you’ll hire one.
What Does a Construction Superintendent Do That You Can’t?
Even if your project is on the more complicated side, you may be tempted to forgo a job site superintendent and manage it yourself.
This can lead to disaster; a construction superintendent is nothing short of a full-time role. Workers rely on a job site superintendent to maintain an overview of the project and provide direction.
Construction superintendent duties also include discussing with workers things like benefits and compensation – not to mention highly specialized construction terminology and processes you may know nothing about. There’s another reason not to forgo a construction superintendent on major sites, it’s the law.
Sometimes the Government Chooses for You
In New York, authorities mandate that a construction superintendent must be designated and present on a jobsite when the project involves the construction or demolition of a “major building.”
What’s a major building?
Simple a structure 10 or more stories (or 125 feet) tall or a building with a footprint of 100,000 square feet or more, regardless of its height or a building otherwise designated as hazardous by local authorities.
Even if your complex project in New York does not fit these parameters, you would be wise to consult a legal professional in your area to determine if there are applicable laws that would necessitate a construction superintendent.
Further, the rules provided as an example here pertain to the state of New York. Each state is different, so you should seek out your local regulations and act in accordance with them.
The Bottom Line
A construction superintendent with a license is a huge asset on job sites of all kinds. Residential, commercial, industrial, and government projects all make use of them.
In some cases, however, it can be unclear as to whether or not your project needs a construction superintendent.
In many states, the law makes things easy: major projects (this will typically be clearly defined in the relevant laws) require a job site superintendent.
For smaller projects, the choice may be up to you; consult a legal professional in your area to ensure this is the case. Even if it is, you need to think seriously about your project’s practicality and whether you are willing to manage the various components yourself.