Should your contractor use subtrades or should they do everything themselves?

Creating a wheelchair accessible bathroom.
December 26, 2018
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Old tools on a wooden table

Hiring the right contractor for you renovation project can make or break that project. An often overlooked point when choosing a contractor is how involved they are in the actual nuts and bolts of the renovation. So, which is better? A contractor who does everything themselves or one that hires out sub-trades to complete the work? The answer is not so cut and dry, but it’s my belief that sub-trades are an important component to any renovation project in order for in to be successful. Here are a few reason why:

Certified trades should be used for certain tasks.

Certified trades are those that require specialized training to perform a certain function. You can recognize which ones are certified trades by which ones require permitting to complete various parts of the project. Plumbing, electrical and mechanical (HVAC) all fall under certified trades. It’s very important that these items are done by folks that are licensed to do them in order to both ensure that the work is done correctly and, if there happens to be a problem, insurance will then cover any potential issues. 

Here is is a scenario we hear about all of the time. A contractor decides instead of getting a plumber to hook up a sink and dishwasher, he will do it himself. Now, maybe he has hooked up thousands of them in his lifetime and knows exactly how to do it, but if on that small chance that the plumbing fails and floods your house, you (and the contractor) may have a difficult time with the insurance company. Sure, hooking up a sink and dishwasher is relatively easy, but why even take the chance?

Sub-trades are good at what they do.

As a contractor, I know what I’m personally great at doing and what I could do better. So, for those tasks that I’m not as proficient, I leave them to others to do. Sure, a contractor could do every single thing needed to complete a renovation, but what are the chances that they are amazing at everything. A contractor might be a great cabinet installer and trim carpenter, but are they also good at tiling, taping, flooring and painting?

In our company, I am actively involved in all of my projects. However, I leave certain tasks to my sub-trades because I know that they will give me better results. Painting and tiling are two areas that I sub out because I’ve found some sub trades that not only do a fantastic job, but my clients also appreciate the attention to detail that they bring to the project. Flooring and cabinetry are two other areas that I sub out simply because the vendors I purchase them from have installers to handle the installation. The fact is that sub-trades do the same work day in and day out and are generally better than others at what they do. Using sub-trades simply make sense.

Sub-trades can save the client money.

Sometimes I’ll hear from a potential client that it will cost more money to have me hire a sub trade than if I just did the work myself because I’m adding a management fee to have the sub-trade here. Although this is true, sub-trades are likely to complete their tasks in less time with fewer mistakes. In the end, the costs usually balance themselves out and if there is a difference, that difference is usually very small. It leads back to what I mentioned in the previous section. Sub-trades do what they do day in and day out. The work is generally better and more efficient.

Fewer mistakes are made when sub-trades are involved.

One would tend to think that more lines of communication in a project would lead to more mistakes, but I’ve learned that sub-trades actually help to ensure things are done correctly. For example, my flooring contractor that I use informed me that going over top certain types of existing flooring with luxury vinyl plank product is not the best idea, even though a lot of contractors will do this. The reason is that some of the adhesives used with vinyl plank do not bond well with certain surfaces and the manufacturers recommend removing the old flooring. Wouldn’t it be terrible to find out that a couple of years after having a new floor put in that there are some problems and the warranty is void because the product wan’t installed correctly? Having sub-trades can help to ensure these costly mistakes don’t happen.