subscontractorsThis is a long article, but worth your time.

Subcontracting small portions of the work we do like sheet metal work beyond our capabilities, or oil tank removals, is a sensible way for a business to control costs, savings that are passed on to our customers.

However, there are companies in this business that seek to subcontract all of the work done in your home.

There are a number of reasons a firm would approach your project in this manner, some are listed below with insight on why, and you can imagine how these could affect your project;

  • Insurance: a big box style retailer, does not carry the type of business insurance required to do installation work involving plumbing or torch work, coverage for under-insured subcontractors, or other third party perils that exist in construction work. We do.
  • Fixed Installation Costs: Typically a subcontractor will provide a simple rate structure to the firm, usually after promises of more work than they can handle. This approach does not work, as each job has a number of variables in terms of scope and time to complete, and inevitably the subcontractor finds themselves doing more work for less money. This leads to higher rates, and typically along comes a new subcontractor, maybe just starting his or her business, who will do it for less, and there is now a new subcontractor learning the same lessons.
  • Ongoing employee costs: We train our staff. New product training, various trades certifications required to work in the building industry, and other ongoing license requirements. We hire and train apprentices through the ITA (Industry Training authority) to Red Seal standards. We train our staff to be proud of what they do, and how they do it.

The biggest single issue we had with a number of firms we subcontracted with was quality control. Essentially working piecework, the only inspiration to the subcontractor is to go faster and cut corners in order to do more in a day, thus earn more money. Workmanship, the appearance of the final product, and set up and adjustment of equipment all suffered. We had one full-time position just cleaning up after them.

We made the decision to bring all gas work in house in 1993. We train people, we retain people, and the collective knowledge of our staff’s combined hearth experience is second to none in Greater Victoria, and our 37 year track record of work shows it. We have four licensed fitters on full-time staff, and do all our own gas installations.

We’re not saying that all subcontractors are bad, far from it, we were subcontracted to install 350 fireplaces at the Oak Bay Beach Hotel re-birth. What we’re saying is that no company that we know of has managed, in this industry, to subcontract the installation work to the level of quality it requires to meet our standards, which we pledge to you, with the contractual and legal requirements clearly defined and the respective parties understanding who is responsible for what, when. We signed an 87-page long contract, witnessed by our lawyers to install those 350 fireplaces at the Oak Bay Beach Hotel, not a “Shoot me an email with your hourly rates” type of arrangement.

Yes we use the occasional sheet metal, tank service or refrigeration subcontractor, but for their strengths when we need them, not to shelter us from the costs of doing business properly and fairly, or to shift any risk or liabilities arising from the products we sell to the subcontractor, without their knowledge, or the homeowners.