For many remodelers, the first and best place to look for a siding contractor is in their Rolodex, address book, or electronic equivalent. But if nothing turned up, many would do what Dennis Gehman, of Gehman Custom Homes in Harleysville, Pa., does. He'd ask suppliers for a recommendation, then inquire at the local NARI chapter. Failing to find the right sub from either source, "I'd ask my counterparts and competitors," he says.

Protective measures

Once Gehman found a sub, he'd first ask about insurance. "I'd want to be sure that if someone on their crew falls, or something happens, they have coverage for it," he says. He'd also ask about licensing. Pennsylvania doesn't require a contractor's license, but some townships elsewhere do.

For most of his jobs requiring a siding sub, Louisville, Ky., remodeler Ben Tyler uses the services of a carpentry company. He met the owner on a jobsite 15 years ago. The company installs wood, composite, and fiber-cement siding. On the infrequent occasions when he needs a vinyl-siding sub, Tyler seeks recommendations from other area remodelers. "We'd require good references, workers' comp, and general liability insurance," he says. "We'd also go and look at one of their jobs."

Sub's side

Maple Shade, N.J., siding contractor John Marnie, who subcontracts for several general contractors, says GCs usually want to know about his price lists (one for labor, the other for supply and install), his insurance, and the experience and reliability of his crews.

"I also have them call one of my accounts and verify," Marnie says.

Marnie points out that the key to successful subcontracting -- a good portion of his company's revenue -- is a willingness to work with GCs in solving problems, even while balancing their scheduling needs against his own jobs. For instance, he asks that all exterior portions of the building be completed before his crews begin installing the siding. But on those occasions when, for example, the windows haven't been installed, "we work around it." Special-order materials didn't arrive? "We'll leave and come back in a week."

Marnie also advises those who subcontract to get a contractor's agreement and a work order. Sound elementary? Verbal agreements between longtime collaborators abound. That's fine, until something goes wrong. "You don't want to end up in court," Marnie warns. "Then, everybody loses."