Sub Contractors: Adversaries or Allies

We have post titled: “To Pre-Pay or not to Pre-Pay”.  In that post we speak of prepaying subcontractors,  basically don’t.

But on the other hand… Treat your subcontractors with respect.

MOST subcontractors are just people out there trying to make an honest living.  In every project mistakes are made.  If you decide to build a house or townhouse and act as a general contractor, you will make mistakes.  Get over it.

Most subcontractors will do their best to prevent you from making mistakes.   But, like you, they will make mistakes too.  Plumbers/electricians will drill through beams in the wrong places or cut out floor joists to make room for toilet drains.  Drywallers will use long screws and put a screw through a wire or water pipe.  We could go on for pages.

The question becomes how to handle it.  Most of the time they will fix their errors then tell you about it.  If it is out of their expertise they will just tell you about it.  They may try to hide their mistake, which upsets me.

When you see a mistake, politely ask about it.  If you have no idea how to fix it, ask them for ideas.  “How should we fix this?”  Almost always they’ll fix it.

HUGE mistakes are generally not too bad.  One of my neighbors townhouse projects was framed with the top floor three inches too tall. The city inspector caught it.  Vaulted ceilings were framed in, beautiful exposed 6″x14″ beams 15′ in the air.  The roof sheathing installed.  On the plans were two different measurements.  The home owner/contractor saw it, but never asked.  The framer saw it and never asked.  P1010470The architect did not know his mistake existed. To a layman it may seem a disaster.  But the three met on site, had a discussion, called in the structural engineer, who said support the roof, cut the studs shorter, lower the roof back down. It was three guys two days.  $40 an hour x 3 guys x 16 hours = $1900 in labor and few hundred in materials, mainly new top plates.  Now the problem came of who pays?

The homeowner offered to pay.  The framer was too embarrassed to let him.  So the homeowner had the framer do other work, (build decks, and side the house)

If the homeowner started the conversation by shouting, screaming, pointing fingers and declaring war – the process would become a long drawn out mess. As it was it was less then a week start to finish.

I guess what I am saying is, it is not a battle of who is right, or who is in control.  It is a battle of trying to build a house and get it done, quickly.  The less drama, the better.  There is enough drama with the Weather, Building Department, OSHA, L&I, Utility Companies all things you can’t control.  And must do what they ask. (more or less)


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