Renovation with big company, subcontractor

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Posted by: from Montreal
10/29/2016 at 11:30:31 PM

We started a renovation with a big box store today, kitchen and bathroom. The price was very competitive compared to other fully licensed companies we checked out. The sub-contractor came today to start working. He's nice enough but made me nervous by telling me a couple hours in that he wasn't contracted to demo the kitchen, just the bathroom, and we would have to pay him separately. I called the guy I'd done the estimate with and he called me back to say everything was fine.

So when later the guy called me up to show me where the bathroom floor needed to be leveled, he again said that we could pay him separately to fix it, or go through the official channels and pay their mark up.

I'm not sure he's lying, the floor leveling was not officially part of the estimate although we'd already discussed the possibility of needing it with the main contractor.

But it does make me nervous. I wouldn't mind saving the money, but I don't know if they were going to charge us on the official bill anyway.

Is this normal? Is there a course of action you'd recommend when a sub contractor wants to do part of the work under the table, so to speak?

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Jeff from JTL Construction in Winnipeg
Date/Time10/30/2016 at 8:28:30 AM

Typical Big Box store renovation starting out poorly because their is no onsite project manager onsite who would act as a liason between owner and subcontractor. In most renovations their are always incidental costs incurred. The lack of respect between subtrade and Big Box store subtrade by trying to undercut is also alarming. Big Box store renos need a project manager. I couldnt imagine running a project like a kitchen and bathroom without any representing their company. Any changes or adjustments need to be accounted for by way of change order. The Big Box store could end up charging you as well as the subtrade if they find out. Keep the project on the up and up especially from the begining or it could turn out to be a problem later.

Just a reminder to all is Big Box Stores rely on subtrades so when you hire a BigBox store you are actually hiring mystery companies that you have no opportunity to check references or work experience.

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Dave from 360renos in Ottawa
Date/Time10/30/2016 at 8:52:50 AM

Hi Rachel,

I would inform your company that did the estimate that the floor needs leveling according to the sub-contractors review of the space. Ask the guy that did the estimate to come to your home to verify that if in fact it does need leveling.

Do not pay the sub-contractor for any work as the agreement/contract is between you and the Box Store. As well, if there any future problems with your installation you will not have any recourse to fix the issues as the Box Store was not advised of the problems.

Never pay under the table or with out a contract or change order

Great article written on the Trusted Pros site about under the table deals.


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Thomas from Trusted Trades in Cambridge
Date/Time10/30/2016 at 10:03:03 AM

I would agree with both prior posts. Go through the necessary channels to have the work completed.

A sub-contractor taking work from the contractor, big box store in this case is undermining the relationship he's built. The relationship that got him that work, the reason he's there. If he's saying it would save you cost-sure it probably will, but don't think his actions/suggestion is focused on your benefit.

If he cant be trusted on site to not steal business from the company that gets him work to put food on the table, how can you trust him?He's untrustworthy.

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Rachel in Montreal
Date/Time10/30/2016 at 10:10:58 AM

Thanks for the advice. I had originally thought I'd do it his way but I took your advice and contacted the main contractor. He's coming to see the site on Tuesday anyway, so he'd see the work in progress and there's no way I am in pretending the work is progressing differently than the reality.

What's your opinion on having the sub contractor do a couple other things on the site, if they aren't related to the main project - say the electrician comes, and while he's there, asking him to do a separate job in another area? I've heard of that kind of thing happening a lot.

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Date/Time10/30/2016 at 10:34:08 AM

All the previous posts are correct. If you are a good project manager yourself, you could probably hire all the various trades required to do your reno and save a bit. If you had one main detailed estimate for all the work to be done, this is the contractor you must only be dealing with.

When problems arise and changes must be made they must go through your main contractor, in writing is good but verbally is fine. If problems come up after the job is complete and is not either written down or been OK'd by the Contractor, unfortunately the problem is yours. In this case only deal with one person. Warranties and fixes do not cover work & materials outside the written contract unless it has been approved in writing or verbally by one person at a certain time.

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Date/Time10/30/2016 at 10:47:46 AM

Get everything in writing because if you go through the sub contractor with no written contracts, you are vulnerable and won't be protected by the big box store. Anything done seperately will not be covered under the original contract.

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Date/Time10/30/2016 at 11:07:01 AM

For a job with any level of complexity I would suggest looking elsewhere for a good general contractor who is able to understand the entire project and take responsibility for coordinating and warranting all the work.

However, in the situation you find yourself in currently I'd recommend that you deal directly with your box store contact to ensure you are only paying for the job once, and to ensure that the box store warrantees the work. If you get part of the job done for "cash" you will likely void your warranty and have no recourse to get repair work done in the future if the job is not done correctly. You may save a few dollars now, but there is some risk that you are taking by saving that money.

Good luck!

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Date/Time10/30/2016 at 11:53:24 AM

Don't do any work through the sub-contractor even if something new and not related to the original contract. This is not a proper course of action for either you or the sub-contractor

Sometimes people think that big store / companies are able to provide good work and professional trades however such big companies is just charging extra money and hiring in-ethical trades to do the work without any supervision which is really frustrating.

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Date/Time10/30/2016 at 5:21:39 PM

I'm afraid you made the choice. You went with a Big Box store rather than a reputable Contracting company that handles all the site supervision. If we run into anything unexpected, we go through it in detail with the client. And my sub trades answer to me. I only hire good and reputable electricians and plumbers. Roofers as well. Something like the floor being uneven should have been seen while the original quote was being put together. I strongly suggest you go through the main contractor "big box store" for any changes and check out the pricing.

Please anyone reading this. Find a reputable contracting firm to handle the job for you! And good luck with your project.

I hope it ends well for you.

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Rachel in Montreal
Date/Time10/30/2016 at 7:30:33 PM

Well, we did know, or we were pretty sure anyway. It was just that it was a slightly bigger slant than originally thought because the older bathroom had it corrected, although inadequately.

I will say though that I got quotes from over 7 contractors. A few who were recommended, a couple whom I knew, and a couple cold calls. It was insanely frustrating... Several with good prices weren't adequately licenced or seemed unprofessional, a few just wasted my time for weeks before saying they couldn't do the job, or quoting a price triple my budget... And a couple I knew were good were booked for months, and it's a rental, so time sensitive.

So I get why people don't like the big box installations, but with the trouble I had nailing down a reliable, fair priced, and available contractor, I feel like I made the best choice possible.

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Date/Time10/31/2016 at 8:47:03 AM

When a subcontractor is hired by your original contractor first they should notify you of who that person will be, what they'll be doing and the terms of the contract.

If you pay a subcontractor who you didn't hire for work that you may be paying for already, you'll end up paying twice. Usually the contractor when hiring a subcontractor will set out terms like the subcontractor isn't to offer his or her services to that customer, for work that is or within the job which he was hired to do.

If your floor is torn up and needs leveled request that your original contractor come and determine what should be done.

Who would you go after if something went wrong? Who would be liable? Hiring the subcontractor could cause issues in the future If a warranty claim was needed.

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