Which is better: employees or subcontractors?

March 27, 2022

When I’m checking out roofing companies to install a new roof, is it important to find out whether the contractor is using employees or subcontractors?

The construction market has evolved over time into specific niches. In the commercial market, or very large residential projects, the companies use employees because they are big enough to keep them busy, and there is a higher degree of accountability. There are also labor unions to deal with, which adds another layer of bureaucracy and cost. Most laborers on single-family residential projects are subcontractors, and there are good reasons for this. Most roofing companies would go out of business if they had to use employees instead of subs. The added expenses would make it very difficult to compete.

Subs get paid by the job, not by the hour, so they have an incentive to work quickly and efficiently, but also to do a good job so the contractor will keep using in the future.

Are the laborers being exploited?

It is possible, depending on how tight the labor market is, but generally they make decent money.

Should I make sure they are all legally able to work in the USA?

You certainly have the right to ask your contractor if his subs are citizens or if they have green cards. A good contractor will usually know his crews well enough to be able to answer your questions. Also contractors usually have more than one crew.

The bottom line is, for homeowners, employees vs. subcontractors is not really an issue to be concerned with. There are a lot more important questions to ask!

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