Types of Contractors
This article is geared more toward selecting a person or company to make repairs or perform maintenance on your home rather than selecting a General Contractor (GC) or Builder. A General Contractor or Builder is a company that will construct a major renovation project or build a new home. For these types of projects please see the Before You Remodel Your Home article by About Architecture Guide Jackie Craven.
The Repair and Maintenance contractor you will need is usually different than a GC.
Typically youll be dealing with a type of tradesman called a subcontractor for home repair instead of a General Contractor who hires and manages multiple subcontractors to build a home or do a major renovation.
The GC is the overall coordinator of a larger project. Typically, he or she does not provide the labor to build the house. That comes from the subcontractors or the "trades" (construction trades). On a new home or larger renovation or expansion project, these may include the excavator, concrete sub, rough framing carpentry crew, roofer, plumber, electrician, finish carpenter, painter, flooring, etc. The GC hires these subcontractors directly and "holds" their contracts. That means they work for him, they are under contract to him and he pays them. You would have a contract with only the GC if you hired one.
The GC makes his money by marking up the subcontractors' costs as a % of the construction amount (common) or as lump sum fee (not too common). For this fee he or she provides the management and scheduling of subs, paying the subs, provides supervision of the construction, provides dumpsters, port-a-john, insurance and other miscellaneous things you need to build a house or construct an addition. The subcontractors make their money by charging for labor and by marking up material.
The GC is the generalist and the subcontractors are the specialists. But when you need a specific thing fixed in your home, you need a specialist. And that person is the specialty subcontractor, for example, a plumber.
When it comes to hiring someone for maintenance tasks a lot of people who do this work may not be a licensed subcontractor at all. They may just be a guy with a truck, for example a gutter cleaner, or leaf-raker or sometimes a painter. Although using these types of people may work out, you must be careful since workmanship concerns and liability issues still exist but you wont have the legal protection you have when using a licensed contractor. So I recommend just avoiding the temptation altogether and always use a licensed contractor.