The Difference Between a Contractor and a Subcontractor
A contractor is someone a business or individual hires to complete a job instead of hiring a full-time, in-house employee.
Contractors are brought in via contracts on a case-by-case basis. Oftentimes, this position is titled a general contractor because they’re the ones overseeing the job sight.
Contractors, in turn, hire subcontractors as part of their project management plan. They usually have a special skill that the project needs and contractors will hire them for their expertise.
Rather than always hunting down the next gig, subcontractors often work with contractors to find work and handle certain elements of a project.
So essentially, if a roof needs replacing, the business or individual will hire a contractor.
The contractor will then find subcontractors who specialize in installing asphalt shingles or whatever skills or materials the project calls for.
Roles & Responsibilities of Contractors and Subcontractors
To put it simply, the roles of the contractor are to keep the project on schedule and hire subcontractors. While the subcontractor’s roles are to complete their tasks successfully and on time.
However, let’s break down their individual roles and responsibilities a little further.
Common roles for a contractor:
- Negotiating contracts with clients
- Providing the required materials and labor for a project
- Hiring subcontractors for specialized projects
- Monitoring the day-to-day of a job site
- Monitoring a project's schedule, payments, and cash flow
Common roles for a subcontractor:
- Comply with the terms of the subcontractor agreement
- Frequently communicate with the general contractor and customer
- Adjust to policy and procedure changes as needed
- Perform labor and complete construction projects by their due dates
- Stay within a set budget
At the end of the day, the contractor handles the managerial responsibilities while the subcontractor focuses on their specific role/area of expertise.
Benefits and Drawbacks of Hiring a Contractor
There are many pros when it comes to hiring a contractor. However, like with anything, there are some cons too. One of the main benefits is that a contractor will help keep a project on schedule.
By staying on track, a job can avoid many future costs and headaches. Another benefit is that they’ll handle the hiring and managing of subcontractors. Plus, they’ll hire people they know and trust for a project well done.
The only major drawback of hiring a contractor is their cost. In addition to labor and material costs, general contractors will add a service fee in order to make a profit and earn a living.
You might also have to make compromises with the contractor. They’re hired for their expertise, so if they disagree with a design preference listening to them and making changes might be the only way to go.
Benefits and Drawbacks of Hiring a Subcontractor
The main reason subcontractors are hired is because of their expertise in a specific area. So you can trust that they will complete their tasks with top-notch precision and attention to detail.
Another benefit is that there are many subcontractors with many different skill sets out there. If your project requires a niche skill set, finding a subcontractor with the necessary toolkit should be easy enough.
Similar to contractors, the largest drawback of subcontractors is their price. Because they’re specialized, subcontractors’ hourly rates are higher than the standard.
Another problem could arise if a subcontractor is hired without the help of a contractor. A homeowner might not know who is the right person for the job, or even if they’ll do a good job.
If the chosen subcontractor produces low-quality work it’ll lead to a longer and more costly project.
Factors to Consider When Selecting a Contractor or Subcontractor
There are multiple factors one should consider when selecting a contractor, from price to whether or not they form meaningful relationships with clients.
That being said, here are a few key things to look for when choosing a contractor:
- They have good online reviews. The internet has made it easy to rate and review products and services, with plenty of renovation/home project-focused review sites.
- Your neighbors like them. As a way to bolster online reviews, chat with neighbors, friends, or family in the area who have gotten recent home renovations. Did they like their contractor, would they recommend them?
- The contractor has been in business for a while. A contractor whose been doing work for a while probably has deep roots with the community and a good working relationship with manufacturers.
If you are not a contractor but are hiring a subcontractor, here are a few things to look out for:
- Be sure to assess their capabilities. You don’t want to hire the wrong subcontractor for the job. You also don’t want to hire one who doesn’t have the right skills or equipment to get the job done correctly.
- Experience is important here too. You want to find someone whose had a lot of experience working with different contractors, teams, and projects.
- Always check subcontractors’ certifications to make sure they comply with industry standards.
The Bottom Line: Who Should You Hire?
It all comes down to the type of project that needs to be completed.
If your home’s whole exterior needs renovating you certainly should hire a contractor.
They’ll handle the logistics of a project of that magnitude and they will find and hire the right subcontractors when necessary.
On the other hand, if you have a small, specific project in mind, simply hiring a subcontractor would be the better move.
For example, if you have mechanical, electrical, plumbing, or excavation jobs, subcontractors would do great.
Using HOVER With Contractors and Subcontractors
When working with contractors, using HOVER’s technology can make everyone’s life a little easier.
Using some photos of your home, HOVER's mobile app will create a 3D rendering so you can test out different siding or roofing options before finally deciding what’s right for your house.
The software also offers direct ordering, production management, remote measurements, and automated estimates to make jobs more cost-effective and efficient - saving both you and your pro time and money.