Contractor and subcontractor, What’s the difference?

Save Money While Being Warm and HealthyAs a contractor that sometimes gets used as a subcontractor, sometimes the question arises as to what the difference is between the two and why it is important. A contractor is someone you are in contract with to complete a task. Maybe your roof needs to be replaced, you need new plumbing, or you are remodeling. Whatever the case is you need to contract someone to do the work. If they then turn around and hire a contractor to help do the work the second contractor is a subcontractor, and is under (sub) the original contractor. There are pros and cons to having subcontractors on your job.


  • The job gets done quicker- We all have probably heard the statement, “time is money.” This is true also to how fast your project is being done. The longer it takes, the more likely you are to have setbacks.
  • They are licensed in a specific field- General contractors can do all the work, but keeping up with codes and practices in 15 different fields is not easy. Just in our field of cooling and heating, we have to do yearly training to keep up with all of the new technologies and changes in our field.
  • Less time planning- If you let a general contractor do the selecting of who will do what jobs, then you spend less time doing interviews of different contractors, and more time getting the work done.


  • It’s their fault- When you do have subcontractors, it becomes very difficult to know who to hold accountable and how to get any issues fixed. You call the contractor, they call the sub and a week later you call the contractor back because you have not heard anything from them. It becomes very cumbersome.
    You lose some control- While letting the contractor pick the subs saves you time but you don’t know anything about them. Are they insured? Do they background check? Are they drug tested? Are they some buddies of your general contractor that needed some work? Are they the right person for the job? Let’s just say I hope the general contractor is a really good person because at this stage, they can take advantage of you.

  • No firm price- Because you do not select the subcontractor, you actually don’t know what your final price is going to be. The final price could come in thousands of dollars higher than your original estimation. If you spend the time talking to each of the subcontractor prospects before they are hired, then you can have a more concrete idea of the cost of your project.

    While there are many other pros and cons to having subcontractors, I hope this at least gives you the insight to beginning the selection process. If this will be your first time selecting a contractor I highly recommend going back and reading 10 things you should know before hiring a contractor. As always, feel free to email me with any comments or questions you have. I truly have enjoyed your ideas and suggestions. [email protected]


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