What are Subcontractors and Why are they a Good Thing?

Sometimes our clients ask us why we hire subcontractors. It’s a reasonable question, as there are a lot of one-man shows that claim to be able to do all the work themselves. While there may be a few unicorns out there, it is certainly the norm within the building industry to hire subcontractors (or “subs”) for certain aspects of a job. Namely subcontractors are used for: plumbing, electrical, HVAC, and other specialty professions, and they’re used for good reason. The work subcontractors do is technical and requires precise execution. At Model Remodel, we have a trusted lineup of subcontractors we reach out to when these needs arise, and we have a strict vetting process that ensures they meet our company’s high standards and yours. We’ll share with you our reasoning for using subcontractors and how to make sure your contractor is vetting their workforce thoroughly.

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There are three reasons we, as a general contractor, like to hire subcontractors: specialization, timeline, and liability.

Subcontractors should be thought of as partners in a construction project. Just like you’d go to a dermatologist instead of a general practitioner, you’d hire an electrician instead of a general contractor. The generalist can probably give you an idea of what’s going on, and quite possibly do the work themselves, but a specialist knows all the ins and outs in their field.

Types of Subcontractors*:
– Plumbing
– Electric
– Tile
– HVAC
– Demolition/Excavation
– Concrete/ Foundation
– Landscaping
– Masonry
– Framing, Drywall and Insulation
– Siding and Gutters
– Hardwood Flooring
– Cabinetry & Countertops
– Painters

*This is a general list. We don’t use all these subcontractors for every project, and your contractor won’t either, but these are the specialties you might see working in your home.

Another major factor in hiring subcontractors is efficiency, which is a direct result of being specialized. Staying on schedule is one of the top 5 things homeowners value when remodeling.

To ensure we’ll stick to our schedule as best as possible, we’ll hire subs to complete certain aspects of a renovation or build. Because they do this work every day, subs have all the right equipment and experience. Naturally, they’ll be faster. Other times, the project scope is small or general enough that we can do the work ourselves.

Just a few weeks ago one of our supervisors stepped in to install bathroom tile. He had a background in tile work and had completed many successful jobs in the past—we knew this. In cases such as this one, it is more time and cost-efficient to get in there and do the work than to go through the process of bidding, hiring and scheduling a sub. General contractor often have some specialty crew in their workforce, and those people are wonderful resources when those specific jobs come up. Hiring subs doesn’t mean we aren’t qualified, and doing the work ourselves doesn’t mean we’re cutting corners. Simply put, if we can do the work in the most efficient manner, while maintaining quality, we’ll do it. If it’s going to save our clients money, time or both, we’ll hire subcontractors.

Liability is also a factor for a responsible general contractor, and is a factor in hiring subs that we always want to be honest about. We work with subcontractors that stand by their work, just as we stand by ours. Since the work of a sub is sometimes technical, and specialized, we make sure our subs can be counted on if a warranty issue arises. This is not to say you should expect these issues, but even normal ‘wear and tear’ requires maintenance from time to time.

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Vetting subcontractors is very important.

As an extension of our team, subcontractors are held to the same standards we hold all of our crew members. An experienced general contractor will have a similar process that ensures every subcontractor has the current and proper licenses, insurance and skillsets. When a job comes along that requires a subcontractor we request bids from our existing database of pre-vetted subs or we’ll vet new ones.

The MRM Process for Vetting a New Subcontractor:
– Word of mouth referrals are given priority, as we’ve heard they go great work.
– Check credentials: license, bond, W-9 and certificate of insurance
– Ask for a copy of their safety plan (if they have one) and/or fill out our site-specific Safety Plan
– Sign a “Master Subontract Agreement” that allows them to work on any number of projects with us, which includes:

  • Compliance with our project management
  • Daily disposal and cleanup
  • No subletting of work without consent
  • Conforming to federal, State, WISHA, OSHA, and local building codes
  • Progress schedule agreement
  • Timely invoicing and change order processing/fees
  • Warranty policy
  • Liability insurance requirements

After the Master Subcontract is signed, our subs sign “Project Subcontracts” for every project they work on that detail the scope and requirements of each specific job. Our strict vetting process is what makes our job sites safe and effective. It ensures that in addition to our full-time crew, subcontractors are held to high standards and know what is expected of them. A decent percentage of subs we come in contact with either don’t meet our requirements or don’t wish to go through our vetting process, but we are confident the ones that do are the best of the best and they understand The MRM Way.

Subcontractors are an essential part of construction. Remodeling and new construction alike require the work of specialists more often than not. Every project is different, but knowing your general contractor does the vetting for you should put your mind at ease. Don’t fret when you see extra lines items in the budget for subcontractors—they’re a good thing!