Construction Payment Blog

Comprehensive Collection of Construction Payment & Lien Rights resources

Types of Construction Projects – What Are They And Why You Should Care

Last Updated on

Reading Time: 3 minutes

North Carolina Mechanics Lien Law

What type of construction project are you working on? This is an important question for your mechanics lien and bond claim rights. In fact, if you use zlien to manage your lien and bond claim compliance, it’s an essential question that is asked of you every time you enter a new project.  What type of project is this?

Different Construction Project Types: General Information

Since zlien‘s inception, we’ve published a number of articles discussing the different types of construction projects that exist in the United States.

Generally speaking, however, you can separate construction project types into three categories: (i) Private construction; (ii) State construction; and (iii) Federal Construction. Before getting into these three categories more specifically you may find some helpful information on this topic by reviewing these two articles:

Wikipedia’s Entry for “Construction:”  Section 1 contains a discussion of the “types of construction projects,” and contains great detail about the different construction types. Their entry’s perspective is a bit different from mine, because it discusses a “type” of construction by the character of the actual facility being constructed and not the party underwriting the costs. Their different types, therefore, are simply residential building construction, industrial construction, commercial building construction and heavy civil construction.  This is okay and a good reference, but I disagree with the framework.

An Ezine article titled “Types of Construction Projects” is also pretty useful, despite being an SEO ploy. Again, however, this article stays with Wikipedia’s framework of classifying the construction type by the character of the building itself.

1) Private Construction Projects

The first type of construction project is the Private Construction Project. Put simply, private projects are projects of every type that are owned, controlled or commissioned by a private party.  Private parties include individuals, homeowners, corporations, other business entities, non-profit associations, privately funded schools, hospitals, publicly traded companies, etc.  Anything, in other words, that is not the government.

Private construction projects come in all different shapes and sizes, and this is when it’s useful to look at the character of the work performed to segment private construction into different subcategories.  These subcategories would include:

Residential Construction:  Whenever construction work is being performed to a single-family residence or a residential facility with (usually) less than 3 or 4 units.  If you are working on an apartment complex this would more likely be considered a commercial project instead of a residential project. Similarly, if you are working at a condominium, the work would be residential if upon a single unit, but if on the entire complex or the common elements, the work would more likely be considered commercial.

Commercial Construction:  Commercial construction is the construction of any buildings or similar structures for commercial purposes. Commercial construction includes a huge variety of projects including building restaurants, grocery stores, skyscrapers, shopping centers, sports facilities, hospitals, private schools and universities, etc.

Industrial Construction: This is a relatively small segment of the construction industry. These projects include power plants, manufacturing plants, solar wind farms, refineries, etc. While termed “industrial construction,” it is pretty interchangeable with “commercial construction.”

2) State Construction Projects

Some people get confused by the term “state” when talking about state construction projects because the term “state” can refer to projects commissioned by a county, city, municipality, government board, public school board or any other state-funded entity. The term “state construction” means, therefore, any government funded construction that is not “federal” – which is discussed in the next section.

State construction projects can take a variety of forms.

They can be pretty traditional projects like the construction of a public school or government building (like a court room).  These projects can also be pretty sophisticated, such as the construction of a bridge, sewer line, highways, etc.

3) Federal Construction Projects

Federal construction projects are very similar to state projects.  Just like state projects they can take on a variety of forms: very simple and traditional, and very complex.  And the stuff being constructed can be pretty similar to the stuff constructed by state authority:  courthouses, government buildings, flood control projects, etc.

The difference between state and federal projects simply depends on who owns or controls the underlying project site. The difference is not which entity funds the project, because federal funds are all over state (and even private) projects. The difference is in who owns and controls the project.

If work is done on a state courthouse using federally provided funds, it is a state project. If work is done on a federal courthouse, however, it’s a federal project.  Work done on a federally funded interstate is usually a state project because the states control the highways. Work done through the US Army Corps of Engineers, however, even on state land such as the levees, is always a federal project because it is federally controlled.

Why It’s Important To Know The Different Construction Project Types

Why does this all matter?  The differences are very important because the laws governing your construction project are significantly different depending on the type of construction project.

This blog’s clear focus is on lien and bond claim laws, and it’s clear that the laws are drastically different depending on your project type. But, that is not the only laws that are different. Labor laws and contracting rules are different depending on your project type, and more. There’s an easy way for you to make sure you don’t get tripped up by these nuances. Learn about it here.

These legal differences are why I disagree with the classification system Wikipedia uses.  While the character of the underlying work is important to some degree, the big legal differences hinge on the private or public nature of the work.

Talk to Us

If you’re having trouble getting paid on a project, we might be able to help. Let’s talk about getting you paid.

Last Updated on Jan 09, 2019
Published on Jan 21, 2013


A husband, dad, & entrepreneur in New Orleans, Scott founded zlien to even the $1 trillion construction playing field and make payments easier, faster, and more predictable. zlien is used by thousands of contractors and suppliers nationwide to make payments easier on billions in contract value each year. Scott is a licensed attorney who previously practiced construction law. Recognized by New Orleans City Business as an “Innovator of the Year” and part of their “Leadership in Law Hall of Fame,” Scott has been on the Silicon Bayou 100 list every year since 2014, is a winner of Idea Village & Jim Coulter’s IDEAPitch, is the ACG’s reigning Emerging Growth Company, and a Junior Achievement Rising Star.

Leading Thought on Construction Payment, Delivered To Your Inbox

zlien's Construction Payment Blog helps professionals in the construction industry navigate complicated payment issues. Join over 20,000 people who read our blog each month and subscribe.


Read Next