In the remodeling industry, building a stable of trusted trade partners is essential. Every renovation we do in Washington, DC – be it a small kitchen project, or a full-scale addition – will involve some electrical, plumbing, HVAC or other specialty task(s). Furthermore, trade specific permits are often required, which a licensed professional must obtain.
Most DC contractors find that it is not cost effective (or practical) to keep a licensed plumber or electrician on payroll. Much the same, it makes no sense to have a skilled highly paid lead carpenter hanging drywall or painting. Therefore, nearly all Washington, DC remodeling companies typically use DC subcontractors to complete trade-specific portions of their renovation projects. This is the logical approach to take in order to keep company overhead and project costs down.
While logical, finding, hiring and managing the best subcontractors in the Washington, DC area is far more difficult than it sounds. In fact, it is one of the most challenging tasks that contractors face. Hence, it is often done poorly, which has earned the process of subcontracting a black mark among homeowners. There are two primary reasons why subcontractors have garnered such a toxic reputation:
Lack of Supervision: Once a project has started, many contractors turn their subcontractors loose with little guidance. Different crews completing different tasks wonder on and off the job site at will. There is rarely constructive communication between the subs, so corners are cut and work scopes are completed out of sequence. The job site is often unsecure, and is usually left a mess at the end of each day. Periodic visits from a Project Manager do little good, as it is impossible to hold people accountable from afar: “I didn’t do that – it was the other guys who were here this morning” is a line (or some variation thereof) that is repeated with frustrating consistency.
Lack of Investment in the Finished Product: Many subcontractors have tunnel vision. Their goal is to complete their task, and get out as soon as possible. (If they can be on the road before 3pm to beat rush hour traffic, even better!) Little regard is given to what has come before, or the steps that still must be completed to achieve the finished renovation. In the case of the plumber, if the path of least resistance means running a plumbing pipe straight down a wall cavity, that’s exactly what will happen. Never mind that the blueprints call for a storage niche at that very cavity. “That’s not MY problem,” is the prevalent attitude. Consequently, work often has to be redone; timelines are delayed, and a sub-par finished product is often produced.
At Four Brothers, we have worked diligently over a number of years to develop a group of loyal “trade partners”. We refer to them as such because we view them as partners as opposed to separate entities. Although our electrician, plumber and HVAC technician are not direct employees of Four Brothers, they are invested in the final outcome of each project, and in the success of our company as a whole. They understand that we bring them a steady source of work (a number of our trade partners don’t work for any other contractors), and appreciate the consistency and pleasant working environment. (It also helps that we structure our payment schedules as such that a final draw is withheld until the successful completion of each project.)
More important than anything however, is the close supervision our in-house team members provide. No matter how loyal or trustworthy, none of our trade partners will ever be on a jobsite unsupervised. This is because a Four Brothers Lead Carpenter is assigned to each job once it transitions from design to production. Not only does he perform physical carpentry tasks, but he is also the on-site project manager. He is the first person at the job site every morning, and the last one to leave in the evening. He is directly responsible for keeping his job on schedule, so will make sure that every trade partner shows up as planned, and finishes their work on time. The lead carpenter is also responsible for jobsite security, cleanliness and quality control, thus, holds every trade partner to a lofty standard. For more detailed information on the Lead Carpenter System (which governs all Four Brothers field activities), visit: