Working with subcontractors
Types of Contractors
- General Contractor (GC): Type of manager who is in charge of overseeing the entirety of a project. For a home remodeling job, the GC will meet with the homeowner to go over the initial project details, estimate the cost of the project, draft a contract, hire workers and handle the daily operation of the job. General contractor usually don’t perform any of the labor, but instead hire skilled tradesmen as subcontractors.
- Subcontractor: A worker who is hired by a general contractor to perform the obligations of another's contract. Also referred to as specialty contractors or “subs,” subcontractors are typically hired to perform a specialized type of labor. They are the plumbers, roofers, carpet installers and electricians who are essential to any large remodeling project. As the name implies, subcontractors work under contract with, and get paid by general contractors.
It’s important for you to check that the subcontractors are experienced and reputable.
“As the homeowner you should be involved in the process of choosing subcontractors so ask for a list of subcontractors the contractor will potentially use and then check them out yourself. Check them out on Angie’s List, check with friends and family and find out exactly who is going to be working on your house," says Angie Hicks, founder of Angie's List.
Angie’s List Tips: Know your subcontractors
- Ask your general contractor for a list of subcontractors to be used on a project, and then check the subs out.
- Angie’s List recommends soliciting at least three bids, properly vetting contractors and subcontractors by checking references and verifying licensure (if applicable), bonding and insurance, and negotiating a detailed contract.
- Ask the contractor how long he/she has worked with the subcontractors. What is their experience working together?
- Insist on a lien waiver, which protects the homeowner from liability if the general contractor fails to pay the subcontractors.
A nationwide Angie’s List poll found:
- When asked what aspects of the hiring process or contract were important – 10 percent of the respondent said lien wavers.
What is a lien waver?
If a home improvement contractor fails to pay his employees or fails to pay for the building materials used in the project, a lien can be placed on your property and you, the property owner, can be held liable for the unpaid expenses if a lien waiver was not established.
- To avoid unexpected fees or liens, homeowners should consider always including a lien waiver or lien waiver clause in the project's contract. With a lien waiver, when the project is successfully completed, both parties sign off and state that the contract obligations have been met, including the general contractor making all necessary payments to materials suppliers, subcontractors or vendors.
- If the general contractor doesn't agree to sign off on the lien waiver, you can withhold payment until he or she has proved they've paid their suppliers or subcontractors.
- One of the most essential things to know about liens and lien releases is how they're enforced in your area. Although the general principle is the same for most areas, each state or municipality has different standards for the application of liens and their releases.
“If the contractor refuses to have a lien waver it’s a red flag and you should walk away," says Hicks.
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