Head Contract and Subcontract

Head Contract and Subcontract: Understanding the Difference and Importance in Construction Projects

In the world of construction projects, there are two types of contracts that exist: head contracts and subcontracts. While both of these contracts are essential to the completion of a project, they serve different purposes and have different obligations. In this article, we will explore the differences between head contracts and subcontracts, and why understanding those differences is important for any construction project.

Head Contracts

A head contract, also known as a primary contract, is a legal agreement between the owner or developer of a project and the main contractor. The purpose of a head contract is to establish the terms and conditions for the delivery of the project. This includes the scope of work, the timeline, the budget, and the quality standards. Once both parties agree to the terms of the head contract, it becomes binding and enforceable.

The head contract defines the relationship between the owner and the main contractor. It sets out the responsibilities and obligations of both parties, and it provides a framework for resolving disputes. The head contract also includes clauses that address issues such as delays, changes to the scope of work, and termination. It is essential for both parties to understand the terms and conditions of the head contract before signing it.


A subcontract is a legal agreement between the main contractor and a subcontractor. Subcontracts are typically used when the main contractor does not have the expertise or resources to perform a specific aspect of the project. The subcontractor is responsible for delivering a specific part of the project, and the main contractor is responsible for ensuring that the subcontractor performs their work in accordance with the head contract.

Subcontracts are often necessary for large construction projects that involve multiple trades. For example, a main contractor may subcontract the electrical work, plumbing, or HVAC installation to subcontractors who specialize in those areas. The subcontractor’s obligations include completing the work according to the specifications and schedule set out in the subcontract, complying with applicable laws and regulations, and ensuring the quality of their work.

Why Understanding the Difference is Important

Understanding the difference between head contracts and subcontracts is important because it affects the responsibilities and liabilities of each party. The main contractor is responsible for coordinating and managing the project, and for ensuring that all work is completed in accordance with the head contract. Subcontractors are responsible for delivering specific aspects of the project, and for ensuring that their work is of high quality and completed on time.

It is important for both main contractors and subcontractors to understand the head contract and their respective responsibilities. Failure to comply with the terms of the head contract can result in delays, cost overruns, and disputes. Understanding the head contract can help avoid misunderstandings and disputes.


In summary, head contracts and subcontracts are essential legal agreements in construction projects. A head contract sets out the terms and conditions for the delivery of the project, while a subcontract establishes the obligations of a subcontractor in delivering a specific aspect of the project. Understanding the differences between the two contracts can help main contractors and subcontractors fulfill their respective responsibilities and avoid disputes.

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