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How to Save Money Using Subcontractors vs. a General Contractor

Hiring subcontractors directly for your home remodeling project can be a cost-effective alternative to hiring a general contractor. Here’s how you can save money by managing the project yourself and working directly with subcontractors:

1. Understand the Roles

Know the Differences:

  • General Contractor: Manages the entire project, hires subcontractors, coordinates schedules, and oversees the work. They charge a fee for their management services, usually a percentage of the total project cost.

  • Subcontractors: Specialists in specific trades like plumbing, electrical work, or carpentry. They perform the actual work and charge only for their specific services.

2. Directly Hire Subcontractors

Eliminate the Middleman:

  • Cost Savings: By hiring subcontractors directly, you can save the markup that a general contractor would add to their services.

  • Direct Negotiation: You have the opportunity to negotiate prices and terms directly with each subcontractor, potentially securing better deals.

3. Thorough Planning and Scheduling

Efficient Project Management:

  • Detailed Project Plan: Create a comprehensive plan outlining each phase of the project, including timelines and milestones.

  • Schedule Coordination: Coordinate the schedules of all subcontractors to ensure the project progresses smoothly and efficiently, minimizing downtime and delays.

4. Get Multiple Quotes

Compare and Save:

  • Competitive Bidding: Obtain quotes from multiple subcontractors for each trade to compare prices and services.

  • Transparency: Ensure each quote is detailed and itemized, making it easier to compare costs and identify the best value for your money.

5. Source Materials Yourself

Control Material Costs:

  • Buy Direct: Purchase materials yourself instead of relying on subcontractors to supply them. This allows you to take advantage of sales, bulk discounts, and clearance items.

  • Quality Control: Ensure you are getting the materials you want at the price you’re willing to pay, without paying a markup.

6. Handle Permits and Inspections

Save on Administrative Costs:

  • DIY Permits: Apply for necessary building permits yourself instead of paying a general contractor to handle this.

  • Coordinate Inspections: Schedule and coordinate required inspections directly with local authorities.

7. DIY Where Possible

Reduce Labor Costs:

  • Preparation and Cleanup: Handle tasks like demolition, site preparation, painting, and cleanup yourself to save on labor costs.

  • Simple Tasks: Take on simpler tasks that don’t require specialized skills or licenses, leaving the complex work to the professionals.

8. Build Good Relationships

Loyalty Can Lead to Savings:

  • Repeat Business: Establish good relationships with subcontractors. They may offer you better rates for future projects if they know you’re a reliable client.

  • Referrals: Ask for referrals from trusted subcontractors to find other reliable tradespeople, which can save you time and money.

9. Monitor the Budget Closely

Track and Control Expenses:

  • Detailed Budget: Maintain a detailed budget that tracks all expenses, including labor, materials, permits, and contingency funds.

  • Regular Reviews: Review your budget regularly and adjust as needed to avoid overspending.

10. Communication and Coordination

Ensure Smooth Operations:

  • Clear Instructions: Provide clear and detailed instructions to each subcontractor to avoid misunderstandings and rework.

  • Regular Updates: Maintain open lines of communication and regularly update all subcontractors on the project’s progress and any changes.


Managing a home remodeling project yourself and hiring subcontractors directly can save you significant money compared to using a general contractor. By thoroughly planning, obtaining multiple quotes, sourcing materials yourself, and handling simpler tasks, you can reduce costs while maintaining control over the quality and progress of the project. Good communication, efficient scheduling, and careful budget management are key to successfully navigating this cost-effective approach.

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