The Chicago Real Estate Minute

General Contractors: Only as good as their subs

4 minute read

Just as a chain is only as strong as the weakest link, so too is the crew you choose to work for you. You may think that the general con­trac­tor (GC) you’re meeting with is the one doing the work, but they may rarely even be there much less picking up a hammer. “Subs”, short for sub­con­trac­tors, are not employees of the general con­trac­tor, but are rather being brought in to do a specific job within the framework of the larger project.

Know how extensive the scope will be

If it’s a small project and you’re likely hiring a handyman who does all the work, this doesn’t apply. But if it’s more extensive, there are things that you’ll need to know. The more detailed the work, the more people who will be involved — and the more extensive, the more likely that curve­balls and snafus will arise. You need to know what to ask and things to watch out for when hiring a crew to do a project for you.

Questions to ask the General Contractor

  • Will you be over­see­ing the work on a daily basis? If not, who will be?
  • Who will be doing each aspect of the work?
  • Do they work directly for you, or are they subcontractors?
  • How long have they worked with you? How many projects?
  • Will your crew be working every day until the job is done, or should I expect any breaks in progress to happen? If so, how long would those breaks be?
  • Do you have ref­er­ences I can contact?

Benefits of the crew not being subcontractors

Just because a GC has subs on the project doesn’t mean that it will turn out poorly, depending on how exten­sive­ly the subs have done work for them. If the crew works for the GC directly, they are more account­able to them. Their schedule is also in line with the boss’, whereas a sub is his own boss and their schedule needs to be worked into the equation (which can often delay completion).

An employee of the con­trac­tor has probably been trained exten­sive­ly by them, so when the GC is making a promise of how something will be, it’s more likely to actually turn out the way you were promised it would. Finally, one of the main reasons that a GC doesn’t have someone working full time for them is because they can’t guarantee them enough work — another nod to the con­trac­tor that employs their own crew.

Final word

Costs can easily run rampant if not discussed upfront and watched through­out. Be absolute­ly clear with what your budget is, and that you will not go above that number. The GC will be asking you for an initial deposit along with addi­tion­al deposits as the project goes on. The more defin­i­tive that is, the more likely they are to mention when it may be going above it. If you don’t emphasize this upfront and also during the project, the more likely it won’t be mentioned until the end.

As a long-time realtor as well as landlord, I have a lengthy list of trades­peo­ple (con­trac­tors, plumbers, elec­tri­cians, HVAC, painters, etc.), so don’t hesitate to contact me at for any rec­om­men­da­tions you may need.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *