How to Find & Hire Good Subcontractors

Skilled subcontractors will help you tackle complicated projects with ease, meet your project deadline, and expand your service offerings. Learn how to find and hire good subcontractors.

Where to Find Good Subcontractors

Ask around your personal network, beginning with your existing subcontractors and any other contractors you know. Trades professionals are always happy to recommend a good person.
If your network is small, try checking in at your suppliers, local building centers, lumber yards, and so on. Always approach the supplier for the type of work you need; for example, go to the tile centers near you if you’re searching for someone who can lay tiles. The employees at these places know the in-demand subcontractors, because they are always coming in to pick up supplies. A supplier might give you inside information about who’s good, who’s bad, and who’s lazy.

When you see construction sites in your service area, don’t be afraid to stop by and find out who is working there. You can follow up with these people later.
To get additional names, post online and let applicants come to you, or search on Craigslist for subcontractors advertising their services. Do a background check on anyone you find online to see if they are trustworthy. As long as a candidate passes the background check, set up a face to face meeting.

One final tip on finding skilled subcontractors. You’ll have more options if you identify skilled subcontractors before you need them to help out. As a general rule, identify subcontractors in areas like plumbing, electric, painting, and other specialties before you’re in a pinch to bring a complete team to your next job. Since not everyone in your network will be available when you need them, it’s wise to have two to three people in your network who can perform a given task.

It can be difficult to find good help, especially if there’s a shortage of trades professionals in your area. If you wait until the last minute to search for subcontractors, you might find out that the best people are already committed to other projects. You may wind up taking on an inexperienced contractor, paying more than you can afford for good help, or delaying the job and earning a client’s frustration.

How to Hire a Subcontractor

Gathering a list of names is only the first step in hiring a subcontractor. Interview anyone you’re thinking of hiring since they’ll be representing your company on the job. If a subcontractor does a bad job, you’ll wind up having to make things right with your client.

Prepare for these discussions by bringing along estimates for the jobs you’re hiring for; this way, you can share the estimate with the subcontractor and have an informed conversation. Use the estimate to guide your conversation; for example, ask a subcontractor about their experience performing the tasks you’ve agreed to perform for your client.
Bring up things that important to you and your client when interviewing subcontractors. If a client needs someone who understands the challenges of a historic home, for instance, your subcontractor must have experience renovating older homes.

During the interview, find out whether a subcontractor is properly licensed and has their own liability insurance. If you hire someone who does not have liability insurance, it puts you at risk. Consider giving someone a trial run by inviting them to join your crew for a week or tackle a gig for a client. This gives you a chance to observe their work ethic for yourself and see how they mesh with the rest of your crew.

Talk about availability and fees, so you know when someone is available and how much their services cost. These professionals set their rates widely, so you might be looking at a wide range of pay. Don’t assume that someone who charges less is less skilled or that the person with the highest rates is a master craftsman. Choose the person who is the right fit for your needs, and who has availability when you need them.

Be wary of anyone who requests a large up-front payment, even if it’s for materials. Until you know that someone’s reliable, it doesn’t make sense to write them a big check. If someone does need materials before they begin, it’s better that you pay for them and have access to them if the subcontractor flakes.

Have you ever looked for skilled subcontractors? If so, what methods did you use to find the right person for the job?

About CSLS:

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