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Should You Use a Subcontractor?

The relationship between home improvement contractors and their subcontractors works to the consumer’s advantage as long as all parties subscribe to best construction practices. It is the rare contractor who does not use subcontractors to provide finish work or other aspects of a home improvement job.

The advantage of subcontractors is that they are not employees of the contractor so the contractor can get fixed pricing for things like plumbing work, electrical work, roofing, carpentry and even excavation services. Fixed pricing allows the contractor to give the consumer a reliable bid that will include all labor and materials.

Another benefit is that the general contractor does not have to have all the licenses that might be needed for the job. Electricians have their licenses, plumbers have their own and likewise for roofers, carpenters and others. Many local building departments and zoning authorities only approve work performed by licensed providers. Homeowners can avoid citations and permitting pitfalls by using licensed contractors or subcontractors.

What is a Contractor

Contractors oversee the construction site. They negotiate remodeling contracts with consumers, provide certificates of insurance and are responsible for delivery of the finished product. One of the contractor’s biggest responsibilities is coordinating the work of subcontractors. Remodeling jobs do not go well when subcontractors are stepping on each other’s toes or in each other’s way. Similarly, these conditions can not only cause unnecessary confusion but they can cost extra money and yield time setbacks.

Contractors are responsible for supplying equipment, materials and labor to perform the work as described in the contract. However, subcontractors may provide their own equipment, bring their own tools and supplies to the jobsite. All terms between the contractor and the subcontractor are usually spelled out in a separate agreement between the two parties.

The subcontractor agreement lists the price, the materials and equipment and importantly the warranty terms provided by the subcontractor. The contractor who retains a subcontractor and does not have a contract is open to future problems that could work against the consumer.

Likewise, the contractor who does not verify the subcontractor’s insurance is putting themselves and the consumer at risk. In today’s litigious environment, the subcontractor contract is the contractor’s best line of defense and best protection for the unknowing consumer.

What are Subcontractors

Subcontractors are vendors that are hired by contractors or principles to provide specialized services. Even the most accomplished do-it-yourselfer may not be able to complete a job and get a permit or building certificate without using a licensed subcontractor such as an electrician or heating contractor.

Many times the working relationship between a contractor or consumer is informal, but this is an ill-advised practice. Subcontractors should have contracts that identify their responsibilities and the required specifications. This is the only way to ensure quality and sufficiently completed work. As the job changes, the subcontractor can approve official work change orders, which are modifications to the contract.

This protocol is the only way to be sure all parties, including the consumer, are on the same page. The last thing the consumer is qualified to negotiate is a misunderstanding between a contractor and subcontractor who took an aspect of the job for granted.

Subcontractors can be individuals or businesses. Usually subcontractors bid on components of a job and expect full payment upon completion of their work as long as it is in accordance with the contract.

The important thing to remember is that subcontractors are specialists. One project can include a number of subs. If the contractor plans properly, the use of subcontractors will help get the project completed faster. However, subcontractors should be held to the same insurance specs as is the contractor. This is how construction works today and it makes for a more fluid, more streamlined process than in the past.