Quality of Trade Partners
Trade partners are specialty contractors. They have one set of trade skills. They are required to have special licenses for their particular trades, i.e. electrical, plumbing, heating or stucco. In some cases, general contractors are not allowed to perform the work of the trade partner because they are not licensed to do that work. Trade partners are a very key element in almost every project and can make or break them. They are not employees of the general contractor, so the contractor literally has no control over their schedule or how they do their work. If he did, they would be his employees, losing their independence and creating tax ramifications. The relationship between a professional contractor and a trade partner is nurtured over many years of concerted effort on the part of both parties.
It is important on every project to identify the key trade partners that will be involved in the project. Your task is to determine what kind of relationship your prospective contractor has with his trade partners. Has he worked with them for years? Has he ever had a problem with a trade partner that was not resolved satisfactorily? Do any of his subs have a history of not showing up, not following through or not taking care of warranty work in a timely manner? The trade partners are essential to keeping the job running smoothly. Your general contractor is always only as good as the others on his team.
The cost of your project can be greatly affected by the cost of the trade partners’ contributions. When a general contractor is bidding a project, there is always a great temptation to find a cheaper trade partner in order to bring the total cost of the project down and have the bid be more competitive. This practice can compromise the project and begs the question about price, bids and the overall cost of the project. There is a correlation between the quality of work and the cost of the trade partner. I think some consumers fear that a general contractor will give a lump sum bid for the job and then use the cheapest trade partners and the cheapest products to produce the project, leaving the most profit attainable left for the general contractor. There are ways to structure the bid so that the homeowner gets what is bid and pays for what they get. Some contractors use allowances for the costs associated with the trade partners, sharing the trade partners’ bids with the consumer.
Unacceptable: The contractor hires the cheapest trade partner every time so his bid is the lowest. The jobs suffer for the lack of professionalism.
Good: The contractor has a working relationship with trade partners and shares the names of those trade partners with the prospective clients.
Better: The contractor has evidence of long, healthy working relationships with professional trade partners and involves them in the project early.
Best: The contractor has developed a core group of trade partners in the various areas that he always uses. He knows their workers and managers and how to get a hold of them. Expectations are clearly spelled out in a separate Trade Partner Agreement written up and signed by both parties outlining all policies, procedures and safety issues.