Hiring trustworthy subs

I’ve always got my own jobs and did my own installations…business is growing and I’m looking to hire subs but trust is an issue. I know 90 percent of companies sub their jobs but how do you vet out the good from bad? Main question though, being they’re subs can they be supervised while they’re working to make sure everything is up to your standards? Thanks in advance

Certain subs are more transient than others. A smart sub will understand it’s a mutually beneficial relationship and be happy to latch onto a good contractor. Alternately, a smart contractor will also be wise and aware of the needs of those subs they work with and cater to them … within reason. It can work great for them if they value the benefit of working with someone who feeds them steady work, pays them appropriately and shelters them from the customer dealings. For you, it can give you access to a turn key applicator solution for a premium that is offset by self-governance.

  1. Never befriend your subs but maintain a healthy and respectful business relationship. Not unlike employees, get to know them and treat them as people who are also trying to get by in this world. Pay them fair and on time.

  2. Just as you are anxious about working with subtrades, they too are just as anxious about the relationship they are entering into. It’s a risk on both sides. It’s no different with any relationship.

  3. Be very clear and firm on the terms of engagement and look for a “white label” crew and not one that parades their retail ambitions. Understand that many subs are also your direct competitor and will sell their own job on the side, or from those who come onto your site. Establish the ground rules VERY CLEARLY and what those are from both sides.

  4. Most subtrades are their owns businesses and as so, should be held to similar scrutiny you are with your customers. Check licensing, insurance coverages, Worker’s compensation coverages, etc.

  5. Always … I mean always … pay for every extra and do not expect freebies and also refuse accepting freebies. Scope creep is the death of any good sub trade relationship and if the job scope changes and requires extra, pay them no matter how small it is. Own your side of the equation and don’t slough your errors onto them. This means you can also demand the same for them taking account for the work they do for you. It’s the unbalanced “favor” account that destroys good sub trade relationships.

  6. Check them out as best as you can. If they start the conversation with complaints about all the other contractors they’ve cycled through, you should see that as them being the problem. Run away fast!

  7. They will expect a rate that should mean they are mostly self governing. But, if you believe that to mean you can step away and not watch what they are doing, that is ridiculous. Time will heal that after mutual trust is built. Do they have money set aside to live or will they be demanding payment within 30 seconds of completing the project? Stuff like that is what you should be looking for.

  8. Ask how they feel about you earning money as their defacto representative. Many sub trades think the sales and business end of the relationship is useless and they have an unshakeable resentment toward anyone who does not operate a nailer. Get this out in the open right away and if they hate what you stand for from the onset, stay away.

There are many pros and cons to the subtrade relationship but the greatest benefit is that unlike employees, they are expected to sustain themselves when you don’t have jobs lined up. But with that, you are also often hiring a competitor who might be more opportunistic and do something you might find questionable.

Take a deep breath, ask to see their work, ask for references, verifiable coverages and sort all the hard questions ahead of time. After that, keep your fingers crossed and hope you made a good choice.


I tried subbing out roofing a couple times and will never do it again. Subbing to other trades is not a problem, if as IVO says, they pass the insurance/bond tests. I just hired a few more roofers. Look at your current crew and see if there are any foreman capable guys there.


Thanks for the advice!

You have to trust there won’t be a mutiny. Make sure the foremen are compensated appropriately.


Wow great advise Ivoman, i have been in the roofing business almost twenty years and you hit it right on the head. Great advise and hard to follow but keep trying to follow his eight points. don’t fall in love with your crews, keep it business and don’t let them advertise for other roofing companies or themselves and you always have to supervise your crews. Be fair and honest and pay them well when they do a good job. We incentive our crews to replace bad wood and occasionally give them bonuses. when you find a good crew try to keep them. Most crews will steal from you and take bundles and material keep them accountable. Good luck

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I have never used subs either and my foremen make 25-35$ per hr plus benefits/vacation pay. When we find good laborers we let them know there are a lot of opportunities to move up. In our area there is no need for subs and employees stay with us and make good money if they are the right fit. If I’m making money it’s important to me that they also make money and provide for their families.


I used to buy junk houses in September, so i had work to keep the crew together and their bills paid through the winter.