Make Your Project Work With Subcontractors

While the General Contractor is the manager of a project, Subcontractors are the crew. They do the dirty work. From painters, carpenters, and sheetrockers to electricians and data cable installers, there are subs to fill just about any need. One of the biggest dilemmas for "Do It Yourselfers" is finding and selecting the right ones. Should I look in the yellow pages, on the bulletin board at the hardware store, or ask a neighbor? The truth is, any one of those options will work. It all depends on your needs and wants. The first and most obvious place people look has, for years, been the phone book. Though the internet is quickly, if not already, changing that. I believe both sources are good places to start, but they are definitely not the only options. I strongly believe that, by far, the most reliable method for finding service companies is recommendations from friends, family,neighbors, or co-workers. It always makes me more comfortable when someone I know has actually done business with the company. The only warning I would give is; make sure that whomever you are relying on has similar standards and preferences to yours. What I mean by that is; your neighbor may believe he has the best painter in town just because the guy works cheap. But other things, like reliability and quality, may be more important to you. It's just a matter of what you're looking for. The Yellow pages and the internet are good sources where you can find lots of contractors to choose from. But, there are things you should be aware of. Contractors that do a lot of advertising are generally some of the more expensive. After all you do have to pay for those ads. Additionally, just because they have a full page ad doesn't mean they're a great, honest company to do business with. They may be, but, there are no guarantees. Some of the positives about these contractors are; they usually carry all necessary insurance, it is easy to check on them through sources like The Better Business Bureau, and many of them offer financing or accept credit cards. Another good source of potential Subcontractors is bulletin boards in local home improvement, paint, and hardware stores. These boards are usually available for subs to post their business cards or fliers. The fact that they took the time to place the card shows you that they are hungry for business, but may not have the money to pay for advertising. This could be a sign that their prices are reasonable. One of my favorite sources for finding subs has become small local newspapers or classifieds. Generally, the businesses that place these ads are somewhat established, but still trying to get over the hump from a very small to medium range business or, perhaps, they've just found a niche in the discount market. Several years ago I found a carpet company in a local classified paper in Houston. This guy buys leftover stock that has been discontinued by manufacturers or from large home builders that bought in bulk and had some left. I have used him on many projects through the years and he is one of the most honest, reliable subcontractors I've ever had. As a matter of fact, he recently installed new carpet in my own house after we suffered hurricane damage from hurricane Ike. I got a carpet that would normally sell for $ 30 -$ 40 per: Square Yard, for $ 14. It is extremely important, no matter where you find contractors, to check their histories and backgrounds and get references. When it comes to pricing, try to get as many bids as possible so you can make a comparison. For more about this process, see our section on cost estimating and check out our Do It Yourself Contractor Kit . It's loaded with fill-in-the-blank forms, questionnaires, cost estimating worksheets, and contracts. There is no secret formula for finding reliable Subcontractors to work with. It is a trial and error process. But, be diligent in your screening process and you'll stay ahead of the game.

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