Many remodelers are turning to subcontractors during this tough time because they provide fixed costs, but it takes communication to make the relationship succeed. Having recently worked for a kitchen and bath company, I have a few tips from the sub’s perspective.

  • Provide complete paperwork. Since subcontractors typically will not take responsibility for jobsite decisions, your paperwork must be complete and include plans and a full scope of work. If you don’t provide product/design decisions before the job begins, the sub will end up spending site time that he did not include in the original estimate, resulting in frustration and change orders.
  • Define the sub’s responsibilities. This is not about the scope of work but about other related activities such as when and how subs should communicate with the client, who writes up change orders, how you expect subs to leave the jobsite at the end of the day, and so on. A subcontractor job description will help prevent miscommunication.
  • Set the payment schedule. Money is at the root of many arguments. Whether you pay by draws or at the end of a completed job, set expectations. Also include how and when you will pay for extra work.
  • Focus on customer service. A single subcontractor can create a happy client or can ruin your referrals. Explain to the sub that quality work, being on time, cleaning up, and communicating affect your ability to sell jobs and, in turn, give the sub work.

—Tim Faller is president of Field Training Services and author of The Lead Carpenter Handbook.