Rebuttal to the “We Don’t Use Sub-Contractors” Commercials

HomeBathsRebuttal to the “We Don’t Use Sub-Contractors” Commercials

Have you heard the commercials where the company touts that they don’t use subcontractors?

What does that mean to you the home owner? Let’s look at the right and wrong way to do both regarding in-house trades and sub-contractors and the pros and cons accordingly.


Wrong way

Most of your bottom feeder contractors with no license, no insurance, pay their employees “under the table” (but really cheap prices!) will have “in-house” trades. These “contractors” will not (can not) pull permits, so it doesn’t matter if one guy does  all the plumbing, electrical, HVAC, carpentry, flooring, tile work, etc. In order to do a job with a permit (recommended) a licensed electrician, HVAC co., plumber is required to pull the trade specific permits.

Pros: These are usually the low bidders on a project. It is possible they do a good job and your house remains safe. But there would be no way for you to tell.

Cons: I am not even going to touch on the possible trouble you would get in with your local municipality. I have seen countless projects where a permit was not pulled and the customer suffered for it. Just recently I visited a prospective client’s home and discovered that they had a bearing wall removed on the first floor. The contractor put in an insufficient beam (not engineered to support the weight) and it was supported on the first floor plywood only. A support should be solid all the way to the basement concrete floor and a footing prepared to take the point load intended. I see electrical lines buried in walls (a big FIRE hazard), etc , etc. All this to say you have NO way of knowing if this contractor is competent to do the job and no checks and balances (county/city inspections). 

If you’re referral stated how great their prices were and that is it, you may get what you pay for!

Right way:

Mostly large remodelers will have this business model. They hire licensed electricians, plumbers, HVAC guys on full time. This isn’t a bad way to go if you have the constant need for these employees. 

Pros: They can boast on commercials that they don’t use subs? Seriously, if done right it would make for very quick estimates for the client, it may keep costs lower if they were continually busy. From what I have learned competing with the big boys is that their prices are substantially higher than mine so not sure how that works.

Cons: Just because these companies have a license for each of the trades doesn’t necessarily mean a licensed electrician actually completed the work. The person with the electricians license could be the owner of the company. He just pulled the permit. So make sure they pull a permit no matter what so at least the county/city will have a look at it before the walls are closed in.

Summary: To make this method work would be difficult. To find the best people who don’t want to venture out on their own (become sub contractors)would be a daunting task. We require top notch craftsmanship and it has taken me years to put together the team I have now. My electrician is simply the brightest guy I know and his team is a pleasure to work with, my plumber is a man of integrity and his work shows it, my tile guys are simply artists as is my painter. I could never assemble a team like this full time. We do all the job supervision and all carpentry and we sub the rest with no apologies.


Wrong way:

“Paper contractors” we call them. They sub out the entire project. They might not even supervise it! It is the equivalent of selling the job to another contractor. The problem with this is you didn’t contract with this other contractor. Most of these people have never picked up a hammer in their life. Why does that matter? You want someone who knows construction, who has knowledge and experience.  I’m not even going to bother with pros and cons on this one.


Right way:

When a general contractor pulls the general building permit and the subs pull their trade specific permits. In my opinion this is the way to go (hence this is my business model). I have had a hammer in my hand for almost 40 years. I know how to build, renovate and remodel.  This is what I add to Freeman Kitchen & Bath. I am not an electrician, plumber or HVAC person. My subs have been doing their trade for almost as long or even longer! They and their crew are professionals. They will do it right and when something goes wrong they know how to fix it.

Pros: I am not an electrician, plumber or HVAC person. My subs have been doing their trade for almost as long or even longer! They and their crew are professionals. They will do it right and when something goes wrong they know how to fix it.

Cons: I have to respond to commercials that give people the perception that not having subs is a great thing! Having PROS in their TRADE complete the work is a WIN/WIN.


Using Subs can be a huge benefit to the home owner. If the right sub-contractors are utilized it will guarantee that the work was done right and it was done quickly. “Paper contractors” are basically middlemen to be avoided.

I hope this helps!

John Freeman


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