Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Can I Hire My Own Painter Instead Of My General Contractor?

Can I Hire My Own Painter? 

Or buy my own carpet...Remodelers get these questions a lot. Here's why a Yes answer is seldom in the homeowners' best interest.

It’s not unusual for homeowners to ask their remodeler to use a trade contractor with whom the homeowners (but not the remodeler) have an established relationship, or to let them buy their own plumbing fixtures or other items. The homeowners should not be surprised if the contractor discourages this. Sticking to known subcontractors is a policy that’s in the best interest of the remodeler and the homeowners. The reasons have to do with the business relationships between remodeler, suppliers, and subcontractors.

Purchases from approved suppliers

Lets start with purchases. Allowance selections and purchases are made with approved suppliers, and for good reason. The remodeler who agrees to use unfamiliar suppliers or owner-sourced products in critical applications can’t guarantee the reliability of those products, can’t stand behind the warranty, and risks problems with the schedule and budget.

As an example, imagine the homeowners order carpet from a non-approved carpet supplier, then find out that the carpet they chose is European, only comes in widths of three meters (instead of the 12 feet that the carpet allowance was based on) and is a special order that takes 20 weeks to deliver. Will the schedule accommodate that delivery restriction? Can the remodeling contractor trust the vendor's assurance that all seams will "disappear"?

Builder-selected Subcontractors

There are even more compelling reasons for using known subcontractors. Remodelers depend upon subs as much as they do employees – trade partners are an integral part of the project team. Thus, remodelers tend to award major contracts (the fabrication and installation of custom kitchen cabinets, for example) only to contractors that have proven themselves. With proven subs, accurate bids can be assembled quickly, and the remodeler can be confident in the quality promised by those bids.

A professionally-managed remodeling contractor whose focus is quality will test new subs out on small jobs and then evaluate their work over time. Do they consistently produce work that meets the remodeler's quality standards? Do they work well with the project manager or lead carpenter? Are their bids accurate? How quickly do they respond to service calls? Does their work stand up over a 3 or 4-year period? Yes, it can take several years to determine if a sub can be trusted on a large and complex job. Sometimes a new sub makes a good impression on the first job, only to disappoint on subsequent projects.

In fact the remodeling contractor who agrees to use unvetted subs risks losing control of the project. The painting crew that is doing just one job for the remodeler may not be as conscientious as the crew that relies on the company for a majority of its work. Even if the homeowner agrees to take responsibility for the end result, the truth is that any problems will reflect badly on the remodeler’s reputation. And remember: a good reputation is likely why the clients hired the remodeler in the first place.

The point is that good relationships between remodelers and subs are crucial to successful projects. Part of maintaining those good relationships is treating subs well, including paying them fair prices and not squeezing them out of jobs they have earned a shot at.

This pays off big when the inevitable problems arise. For instance when schedules change because of a weather delay or an unexpected structural issue that had been hiding behind that old plaster, subs that have been treated well are more likely to change their schedule and do whatever it takes to keep the project on time and on budget. After all, everyone’s on the same team.

Warm Regards,

Doug Abbott
Village Builders

This is an excerpt from a newsletter that is distributed to all former, current and future clients of Village Builders Inc.  If you would like to receive this newsletter feel free to email me at

Rob Abbott

Village Builders Inc

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