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Choosing Sub-Contractors - Aging Well With Marjorie
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Choosing Sub-Contractors

Choosing Sub-Contractors

I thought we were prepared about choosing sub-contractors to build our new house. We knew to ask around for recommendations, especially from suppliers of materials. We knew to get several quotes, and what to look for in quotes. What we didn’t know was how much the human element would play in making decisions.

Greetings and meetings

We soon realized a significant difference: those who e-mailed us a quote directly, and those who asked to meet with us before submitting a quote. This gave us a chance to get a feel for the sub-contractor, and for him/her to get a feel for us. It’s important to feel confident that you can trust someone to work well with them, and meeting with people before we received a quote has been part of choosing sub-contractors.

We also found that meeting ahead of time was useful for pointing out how details of our project differed from usual construction. Here’s a tiny example. Usually 10mm rebar is used in footings for an ICF foundation (Insulated Concrete Form). We wanted 15mm rebar for greater wind resistance, as noted in our building plans, but this was completely missed by a sub-contractor who didn’t meet with us, along with other items he missed. We won’t be choosing him.

Responsive to needs

Some sub-contractors were really good about meeting our needs. One man in particular stands out for us. He took the time to truly understand our goals, including how to save money. For instance, in his review of a quote from a materials provider for his portion of the project, he identified savings of about $1,300 in a total quote of $12,768. That’s a reduction of 10% which, if multiplied here and there over the total project, would yield thousands of dollars in savings.

We also learned to be sensitive to their needs – to make a profit, have control over their work schedule, and be paid in a timely manner. Both parties need to benefit.

Social needs and personal emotions

We weren’t at all prepared for how soft-hearted we sometimes felt when we would learn, for instance, that a potential sub-contractor has a very ill spouse and is feeling very stressed. We also ran across quite elderly sub-contractors in whom we had a lot of confidence, but some were cutting back on their work schedule, so it was sometimes difficult to find a time that would work for both of us. Of course, this also happened with very busy sub-contractors who simply couldn’t fit us in.

Moving forward

And so we carry on, phoning potential sub-contractors, sending requests for quotes to them, waiting for the kind of response they will make, following up, comparing quotes, and choosing the ones we want.

I’m actually enjoying the process very much, somewhat to my surprise. I used to feel shy and hesitant making phone calls to people I didn’t know, but I happily pick up the phone these days to make those kinds of calls. I know that at the other end, there are sub-contractors trying to make a living that matters as much to them as building our new home matters to us.

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