Your Guide to Subcontractors

“ I’m doing his project on my OWN! I don’t need any other contractors to do my work. Besides, I want to save money!”

Adam here, and unfortunately I have thought these very same words before. But just as much as I have wanted to save a few dollars and lay claim to all of my work, hiring a few subs have saved me more time, money and sanity than if I just completed the work myself. You see even as a professional contractor I have many skills, but I don’t have all of them. Surprise, surprise! I can do most every single thing that would need to be done, but sometimes we have to weigh the “cost” of doing everything ourselves.

Have you ever considered the cost of time? Time is never guaranteed, but valuable to all of us. Even though you are renovating this house yourself to keep costs down, don’t be fooled. Time is our most valuable asset! Sometimes the savings of having someone else do a certain task while you plow ahead with other tasks can give you some much needed momentum.

I can hang sheetrock, but I am not a professional. There is an art to hanging this that takes me more time to complete than I care to admit. After having spent a few solid days hanging sheetrock in a small bedroom, I finally swallowed my pride, said enough is enough and hired a dear friend to do the work. Yes I had to pay him, but he hung what would have taken me a few days, he completed in a few hours! By paying him, I not only had seamless sheetrock, but also a few days extra to work on what we really needed to do.

Not only does hiring a Subcontractor save you time, but it also saves you from having to re-do the project yourself. It is so frustrating to have a project close to completion only to find out that you made a mistake. Again, this is my relationship with sheetrock. I can hang sheetrock, but once that wall is primed and painted I notice all the know those lines underneath the wall? Because I have an eye for detail, I'm driven mad by this sight! And the worst part about it, unless I want to rip in the wall, I have to live with those unsightly seems.

Next there is the underrated price that many people do not think of...the cost of safety. Tripping breakers because you weren’t up on codes and overloading a circuit.. these are all endearing quirks of the job, right? Wrong! Doing any electrical and plumbing work without the expertise of a licensed electrician or plumber can have some serious implications, implicating not only your safety, but the integrity of your home.

I have found that there are some things that are WELL worth hiring someone else to do. For us, we drew the line on things that I wasn’t as good at, like sheet rocking, plumbing and electrical. There are many tasks that perhaps aren’t very fun, or glamorous, but we sucked it up and did those, saving money for the tasks we weren't good at, which allowed us time for those tasks that we could tackle.

Now that I convinced you to hire a subcontractor for those tasks you just weren't meant to do, here's a little advice on hiring a good contractor. Self proclaimed "Professional" contractors are a dime a dozen but it doesn’t mean that all of them are good, and it can be hard to sift through to find the good ones. Some cut corners for the sake of cost, and unfortunately some have horrible communication skills, and others are just downright shady! So what do you do when looking for a reliable subcontractor?

First thing is your trust gut... yep, your gut. Do you have a good feeling about this person? Remember, some of these contractors will be around your home and family for several days, or several weeks. You have to have a good feeling about this person, so you can remain comfortable in your home.

Also, pay attention to their communication skills! Chances are if they are a good communicator at the beginning of the project, they will be for the duration. Does the contractor give you a detailed estimate showing what the price includes as well as specifically outlining those items that are not included? Does the subcontractor call you back within a reasonable amount of time? Does the subcontractor give an estimated start date, and any updated prices to change orders being made? These are just a few questions to ask yourself to ensure a successful project.

We love references! References are always valuable; however, a list of references supplied by a contractor are about as valuable as ice cubes in Antarctica. We can all find people to say nice things about us. Where you should start to worry is if he has NO references. No references=no business, so stay away!

Flexibility is also a big deal when you are renovating your house. Does the contractor act like he is being inconvenienced every time you call? Granted, contractors are busy people, so be respectful of their time as well, but do make sure they exemplify the same degree of care with your small job as they would a larger project. Truth be told, we have found the best way to pick subcontractors is if you actually know something about them: "Who did Jane and Joe hire and love?"

If you can take away one thing from all my ramblings, take away this: the majority of contractors are good people and are just doing something for a living to put food on the table and to hopefully retire someday. Treat them like your asset, or your friend rather than treating them like they owe you something. Oftentimes, we, contractors, are big hearted people that will throw in “extras” if you are a nice person and easy to get along with. They will also take more care in your project if they feel they are valued. This isn’t the overall rule, but usually, if you have a good feeling about someone, they have good references, and you hit it off , you will receive great value for the cost!