Hiring a Contractor: Who Will Do The Work?

When you hire a contractor, you also are hiring the other workers the contractor uses for various parts of the project. The plumber, electrician and painter might be employees of the contractor's company or subcontractors. What are the pros and cons of each type of relationship?

Working With Employees
Some medium to large size contracting companies use employees, as they see this as a more efficient way to do business. Some say they can offer a more reliable workforce with regular employees who are dedicated to the company. These companies may have employees who have been with the company for many years and are highly skilled. They also have more control over the employees.

One downside is that it costs more money to have employees. With benefits and employment taxes, it can add a significant sum to a contractor's bottom line. These costs typically are passed on to the home owner in higher fees for the services.

Many contractors say this system allows them to provide higher quality work and more reliable employees. It can also help them complete the construction on time. As a home owner, the tricky thing to decide is whether you want or need to pay more for the extra skills and service.

A Look At Subcontractors
When dealing with subcontractors, a contractor assembles all the tradespeople and schedules them to work on the project. In the ideal situation, a contractor has been working with the same subcontractors for many years and can count on their attendance and work quality.

Many home owners save money with this system because the contractor is not paying all the employment costs. The downside is that you may get subcontractors who are not reliable--or who get delayed on one project and are late getting to yours. This can cause a domino effect that leads to frustration and extra costs, especially if you have a construction loan--there are penalties for going beyond your allotted building period.

When debating the pros and cons of these two situations, consider the size and scale of your project. With smaller projects, subcontractors are common and the system often works fine. A large project sometimes runs more smoothly with employees who are properly scheduled and trained.

Questions to Ask
When interviewing contractors, ask how long they have worked with the employees or subcontractors? Look for signs of good, strong working relationships between the contractor and other workers. In the end, that could be the deciding factor.

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