A subcontractor is a person or a company hired by a general contractor to perform part of the work of a construction job. For example, a contractor might be building a house, but might hire a firm or a person specializing in electrical engineering to install the electrical systems needed in the house. Generally, the specialist will either relieve the main contractor of part of the building work or will be able to perform work at lower expense or at a greater skill level than the general contractor could.
Often, a subcontractor, whether an individual or a business, forms relationships with several general contractors. The general contractor does not employ the subcontractor as a regular employee in most cases. Instead, the person is either an independent contractor or is a company that provides its employees with required benefits like health insurance coverage.
Not having to extend benefits to a specialist only needed for one part of the job is one way that the general contractor saves money. If problems occur because of faulty work on the part of the subcontractor, however, usually the general contractor is held liable. The general contractor may attempt to seek redress with the individuals or companies he works with, or have defined terms in the contract between them stipulating that the liability would be more evenly shared.
Frequently, though, hiring a subcontractor, or several, is a way to avoid problems in construction. Specialized workers like plumbers, electricians, or people who install heating and cooling devices, often called HVAC workers, tend to have more knowledge and training in their given field. While simply building something requires training and knowledge, people who are specialists better perform certain types of work.
The two types of contractors are served well by being able to form good working relationships with each other. For the general contractor, access to a reliable specialists can mean finishing jobs on time and on budget. For subcontractors, a good reputation among contractors means greater opportunities for consistent work.
A subcontractor often holds licenses in his or her specialty field. He or she might hold a general license to conduct work in a state or region, and also hold advanced licensing. Such licensing implies a certain amount of hours practicing his or her trade and knowledge regarding state building codes.
In some cases, people may also use this term to refer to a person hired for a few days of work, without a specialized field. Really, the more accurate term for such an employee is independent contractor. The person is usually a temporary employee of the contractor, hired to finish work on time, or to temporarily replace another worker who is ill. This worker may not have a general contractor’s license but may be hired for his or her carpentry skills.