6 reasons to hire subcontractors in construction

reasons to hire subcontractors in construction

In construction, the ability to adapt and manage resources efficiently is key to success. One crucial strategy that many construction firms rely on is hiring subcontractors. Subcontractors are independent teams or individuals hired on a project-by-project basis to perform specific tasks. This approach offers several advantages, from cost savings to specialized expertise, making it a popular choice among builders and project managers.

This article delves into the myriad reasons why construction companies choose to hire subcontractors. We’ll explore the benefits they bring, such as financial flexibility, access to specialized skills, and the ability to meet tight deadlines, among others. Whether you’re overseeing a small renovation or a large-scale construction project, understanding the value of subcontractors can help you make informed decisions that lead to successful outcomes.

Why hire subcontractors in construction?

Here are seven reasons why you should hire subcontractors as a general contractor:

1. Cost-Effectiveness

One of the standout benefits of hiring subcontractors in construction is the potential for significant cost savings. Unlike full-time employees, subcontractors are only paid for the work they perform, which means no ongoing labor costs like salaries and benefits when they are not actively on a project. This arrangement is particularly cost-effective for construction companies that face fluctuating workloads and need to manage their budgets carefully.

Subcontractors also help reduce overhead costs. Since they typically come with their own tools, equipment, and sometimes even their own insurance, the primary contractor can avoid the expenses associated with purchasing and maintaining these resources. This is especially advantageous for specialized tasks that require specific, often expensive, tools that might not be used frequently enough to justify a full purchase.

For instance, consider a construction project that needs intricate electrical work. Hiring a subcontractor who specializes in electrical installations can be more economical than employing a full-time electrician or investing in specialized electrical equipment that won’t be used regularly. This way, construction firms can allocate their financial resources more efficiently, ensuring that funds are available for other critical aspects of the project.

Furthermore, subcontractors can also offer a more competitive pricing structure due to the nature of their work and the competitive market in which they operate. They often have to provide clear, competitive bids to win contracts, which can result in lower costs for specific tasks compared to what might be spent on an employee with a similar skill set.

2. Flexibility and Scalability

In the dynamic field of construction, the ability to adjust the workforce as project demands change is invaluable. Subcontractors provide a level of flexibility that is hard to match with traditional full-time employment. By hiring subcontractors, construction firms can quickly scale their workforce up or down without the complexities associated with hiring or laying off employees. This agility is crucial for staying competitive and responsive in an industry where project scopes can change overnight.

Subcontractors allow construction companies to adapt to both bustling peak seasons and slower periods. During busier times, additional subcontractors can be brought on board to handle increased workloads, ensuring that projects continue to move forward efficiently. Conversely, in slower times, reducing the number of subcontractors can help control costs without the burden of carrying a full roster of employees.

This scalability is not only about adjusting to the quantity of work but also adapting to the type of work required. Construction projects often involve diverse tasks ranging from basic construction to highly specialized work like precision carpentry or advanced electrical installations. Subcontractors bring specific skill sets for the duration of their needed contribution, ensuring that the right skills are available at the right time without long-term commitment.

A real-world example of this flexibility can be seen in large projects with multiple phases. In early stages, general subcontractors might handle groundwork and framing; as the project progresses, more specialized subcontractors step in for tasks like roofing, plumbing, and finishing work. This method allows for a smooth transition between different phases of construction and ensures that each stage is completed by knowledgeable professionals.

3. Access to Specialized Skills

One of the most compelling reasons for hiring subcontractors in the construction industry is the access they provide to specialized skills that might not be available within the company. Construction projects often require expertise that goes beyond the general capabilities of a company’s permanent workforce, especially for tasks that are complex or highly technical.

Subcontractors are typically seasoned professionals in their specific fields, bringing with them a wealth of experience and knowledge. This expertise can be critical in areas like masonry, electrical work, and plumbing—each requiring a distinct set of skills and certifications that may only be necessary for certain projects. By hiring these experts on a need-basis, construction firms ensure that every aspect of their project meets high standards of quality and compliance.

Moreover, these specialized subcontractors often come equipped with the latest tools and technologies related to their trade. This not only elevates the quality of work but also introduces new methodologies and efficiencies to the project. For instance, a subcontractor focusing on green building techniques can provide sustainable building solutions that an in-house team may not be familiar with, giving the project a competitive edge in the market.

The ability to bring in specialists also helps in adhering to stringent industry regulations and safety standards, which can vary greatly from one type of construction to another. Subcontractors who deal regularly with specific types of construction work will be up-to-date on all relevant laws and requirements, significantly reducing the risk of non-compliance.

4. Risk Management

Hiring subcontractors offers significant risk management benefits for construction projects. By engaging subcontractors, the primary contractor can delegate specific risks associated with certain tasks, particularly in areas requiring specialized expertise. This delegation is crucial because it allows the primary contractor to mitigate potential liabilities that might arise from unfamiliar or highly specialized work.

Subcontractors typically carry their own insurance, including general liability and workers’ compensation. This arrangement means that in the event of an accident or error, the subcontractor’s insurance can provide coverage, which reduces the financial and legal exposure for the main contractor. It also ensures that all parties involved are protected, maintaining a safer project environment.

Moreover, subcontractors often bear the responsibility for securing permits and ensuring compliance with local, state, and federal regulations related to their specific tasks. This further reduces the risk for the main contractor, as the subcontractor becomes accountable for managing the legalities of their work. This aspect is especially important in construction, where failing to comply with regulations can lead to significant fines and delays.

The contractual relationship with subcontractors also tends to include terms that specify project deadlines, quality standards, and other expectations. These contracts can provide a legal framework that holds subcontractors accountable for their work, giving the primary contractor additional safeguards against delays and substandard work.

5. Meeting Deadlines

In the fast-paced construction industry, meeting project deadlines is not just a goal—it’s a necessity. Hiring subcontractors plays a pivotal role in ensuring that these deadlines are met, particularly on large or complex projects. Subcontractors can be quickly mobilized to accelerate work phases and handle critical tasks, which helps keep projects on schedule.

One of the primary ways subcontractors aid in meeting deadlines is through their ability to focus exclusively on specific parts of a project. For example, while the main construction team works on the foundational aspects of a building, electrical and plumbing subcontractors can simultaneously prepare their respective installations. This parallel processing makes it possible to complete multiple project phases at once, significantly speeding up overall construction time.

Subcontractors also bring a level of efficiency gained from specialized experience. They have likely completed similar tasks on other projects and can perform their work quickly and proficiently. This expertise not only speeds up their own work but often raises the standard and pace of the entire project.

Additionally, the flexibility of hiring subcontractors means that if a project is at risk of falling behind schedule, more subcontractors can be brought in to ensure timely completion. This ability to scale labor quickly is crucial for responding to unexpected delays or problems, ensuring that the project gets back on track with minimal disruption.

6. Compliance and Standards

Ensuring compliance with industry standards and regulations is a critical aspect of construction that can significantly affect a project’s success. Subcontractors play a key role in maintaining these standards by bringing specialized knowledge and experience to the table, especially in highly regulated areas such as electrical work, plumbing, and environmental safety.

Subcontractors who specialize in particular trades or fields are typically well-versed in the latest regulations and standards affecting their work. Their expertise ensures that all aspects of a project comply with local, state, and federal laws, which can vary greatly depending on the project’s location and scope. This specialized knowledge is crucial for avoiding legal complications and potential fines that could arise from non-compliance.

Moreover, subcontractors often hold certifications that are required for certain types of work, ensuring that they are qualified to perform tasks to the highest industry standards. These certifications not only affirm a subcontractor’s ability but also provide peace of mind to the primary contractor and clients, knowing that the work will be performed competently and safely.

In addition to meeting legal and regulatory requirements, subcontractors can also help a project achieve certifications in quality standards, such as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) for green building projects. Their contribution can enhance the overall value and marketability of a construction project, ensuring it meets or exceeds the highest standards of quality and sustainability.

Case Study: The Riverfront Plaza Project

To illustrate the benefits of hiring subcontractors, let’s explore the Riverfront Plaza project—a large-scale commercial development completed in 2023. This project highlights how subcontractors can significantly contribute to a project’s success through specialization, efficiency, and expert execution.

Project Overview:
The Riverfront Plaza was a complex project involving the construction of a multi-use facility featuring retail spaces, offices, and residential units. Due to its size and the variety of skills needed, the project required precise coordination of various construction disciplines.

One of the major challenges was the tight timeline paired with the high standards required for each type of space. The project also needed to meet stringent environmental standards and incorporate modern, energy-efficient technologies.

Subcontractor Involvement:
The project manager decided to hire multiple subcontractors, each specializing in different aspects of construction:

  • Electrical Subcontractor: Tasked with installing an advanced energy-efficient power system.
  • Plumbing Subcontractor: Focused on modern plumbing solutions that would meet sustainability standards.
  • Masonry Subcontractor: Employed to handle the high-quality stonework that was a key aesthetic feature of the retail and public spaces.

The involvement of specialized subcontractors allowed the Riverfront Plaza project to proceed smoothly and efficiently:

  • The electrical subcontractor implemented a state-of-the-art system that later won an award for energy efficiency.
  • The plumbing installations were completed ahead of schedule, allowing subsequent phases to begin sooner.
  • The masonry work was not only completed within the tight timeline but also became one of the standout features of the plaza, attracting more tenants and visitors.

The success of the Riverfront Plaza project underscores the value of leveraging specialized skills through subcontractors. Each subcontractor not only met the high standards required but also brought innovation and efficiency to their respective tasks, contributing to the project’s overall success and timely completion.

Challenges and Considerations

While hiring subcontractors offers numerous benefits, there are also challenges and considerations that need careful management. Understanding these potential pitfalls can help ensure that working with subcontractors leads to successful outcomes.

Communication Barriers: Effective communication is crucial in construction projects, yet it can be a challenge when multiple teams are involved. Subcontractors might have different communication styles or use different project management tools. To mitigate this, it’s important to establish clear lines of communication from the outset, ensuring all parties are on the same page regarding expectations, timelines, and project specifications.

Quality Control: Maintaining consistent quality across various subcontractors can be difficult, especially when they are handling different aspects of a project. The primary contractor must implement rigorous quality control procedures and regularly monitor all subcontractors’ work to ensure that it meets the project’s standards and requirements. This might include frequent site inspections and regular progress meetings.

Dependency and Reliability: Relying on subcontractors requires trust in their ability to deliver work on time and to the required standard. There can be risks associated with subcontractor availability—such as delays or last-minute cancellations—that can impact the overall project timeline. It’s advisable to have contingency plans and vet potential subcontractors thoroughly before hiring them.

Contractual Issues: Legal and contractual issues can arise, particularly if there are ambiguities in a subcontractor’s responsibilities and obligations. It’s crucial to have clear, detailed contracts in place that outline every aspect of the work scope, payment schedules, and dispute resolution procedures. Ensuring these contracts are reviewed by legal professionals can prevent misunderstandings and protect all parties involved.

Integration with Core Teams: Integrating subcontractors with the core project team can sometimes be challenging due to differences in company culture or operational practices. Encouraging interaction between teams and fostering a collaborative environment can help overcome these barriers and enhance team cohesion.


Hiring subcontractors in the construction industry offers a wealth of benefits that can significantly impact the success of a project. From cost savings and enhanced flexibility to specialized skills and improved risk management, the advantages are clear. Subcontractors not only provide the necessary expertise and scalability but also contribute to meeting stringent compliance standards and deadlines, ensuring projects are completed efficiently and to high standards.

However, managing subcontractors requires careful consideration of potential challenges such as communication hurdles, quality control, and integration with core teams. By addressing these issues through effective planning, clear communication, and strong contract management, construction firms can maximize the benefits while minimizing the risks associated with subcontracting.

Ultimately, the strategic use of subcontractors can be a powerful tool in the construction industry, allowing companies to adapt to changing demands, access specialized skills, and complete projects successfully within the desired timelines. As the construction landscape continues to evolve, the role of subcontractors is likely to grow even more integral to project success.

Read our other articles where you can find useful and relevant information about subcontractor management:

About the Author

Taavi Kaiv: Bauwise customer success manager

Taavi Kaiv

Taavi Kaiv is a construction specialist with over ten years of experience in the construction industry. Taavi is an accomplished construction project manager with many successful projects that have been completed under his guidance. Taavi holds a master’s degree in construction management from the Tallinn University of Technology. View profile

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