If you’re an established builder, you probably already have a list of go-to subcontractors to handle every board, pipe, wire, window and everything else that goes into a project. Or perhaps you have a general contractor to handle most of it – and chances are, you’re guarding his or her phone number as if it were pirate’s gold.

Of course, there always comes a time when you do need a new subcontractor. Maybe you’re just getting established in home construction, branching out to new regions, or replacing someone who’s booked up – subcontractors are extremely busy right now. Many good tradespeople left the industry during the pandemic, and builders now have to dedicate more time to finding and vetting new ones.

With everyone so busy, where do you start your search? Then, how do you vet the people you find? Here are a few tips to get you started. Matt Risinger, host of The Build Show, and Paul Evans, VP of Millwork and Innovation at Builders FirstSource, discussed this topic in a recent webinar.


Construction is a relationships business. When you find people you like working with, you hold on tight. Some of it might be stubborn loyalty, but it also makes sense: why take a chance on someone new when you have a proven entity that you know will do good work? Trust is essential if something goes sideways, which we all know it sometimes does, no matter how carefully we plan. Strong, lasting relationships can help calm the waters – protecting you, your subcontractors and everyone involved.

As Risinger puts it: “I have very long-term relationships with my trades. They trust me and I trust them. If I have a sub who makes a mistake, I take care of them. I make sure they’re not left high and dry. If I have a sub who makes a mistake on a bid, I make sure they’re made whole. Because I want to make sure they’re around for that next job. As I’ve done that over the years, that’s bought me a lot of loyalty. Now, I’ve got trades that have been with me for more than a decade, and that makes a big difference.”


“Don’t expect to make a phone call and have other builders give up their secrets,” said Risinger, discussing how he protects his trades. “If I have an ‘A’ sub who only works for other ‘A’ builders, I don’t know if you’re an ‘A’ builder asking me, so I’m hesitant. I’m reserved to give up one my trusted trades because, frankly, I don’t want them to not get paid, and then all of a sudden they’re in dire straits, and that affects my job.” Recommendations cut both ways, after all. Builders are recommending you to their trades as much as recommending trades to you.

Expect to do some sleuthing instead. You can do some research online to see who has favorable reviews and recommendations, but better yet, drive to local jobsites and see who your competitors are using. The work you see might speak for itself.


Walking jobsites is a great way to see the quality of a subcontractor’s work. Once you’ve made contact, ask if you can take a closer look and see if they can direct you to other jobs they’re currently doing, or where you could see their finished work.

You should also be sure to ask for at least three references from builders, even if you only call one or two. “Ask pointed questions like how are they doing on their warranty and punch list,” Risinger recommends. “Builders will be honest with other builders.”

Paul Evans, VP of Millwork and Innovation at Builders FirstSource, recommends another way for builders to ensure they're protected: “Go to your lumber and millwork suppliers and ask if they do turnkey, because then you can control the whole thing, from initial materials drop to when it’s going to be completed.”

With turnkey suppliers such as Builders FirstSource, you can combine materials and labor, avoiding the stress of ordering products and scheduling labor separately or juggling multiple bids and bills. You get a guaranteed price for the whole project upfront, and pay only after inspections are complete and your green tag is in hand. There’s also no blame game to play, because the materials and installation are all done by one company.

“When you do have a guaranteed item, we’re not going to leave you high and dry, we’re going to be there for you,” Evans points out. BFS employs qualified and insured installers to minimize callbacks and punch list items, and their field supervisors do the quality assurance and inspections for you to guarantee the job meets your expectations, so you can be confident the work will be done correctly – with one point of contact to fix any concerns.

However you choose to find your next subcontractor, remember the rule of relationships. Treat them well and look out for them. Chances are, they’ll come through for you, on this job and many to come.

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