Building a house on your land: Which builder has the best subcontractors?

    When researching builders to make your custom home dream a reality, you may be wondering which builder has the best subcontractors. The short answer: They all do. That's not what makes the difference between builders.

    Here's a secret most builders don't want you to know: There are more builders out there than framers, trim carpenters, painters, plumbers, or other subcontractors. That means we're all sharing the same contractors (and the same material suppliers). So why do some builders build better homes than others?

    Actually answering that question completely would take more space than we have here, so let's hit the high spots.

    House design

    A poorly laid out house plan can make it difficult for a contractor to do his best work. For example, some roof lines simply don't work, such as when two roof slopes intersect at the bottom in a horizontal valley (called a "dead valley"). Water won't drain very well from a dead valley, and eventually it WILL leak. It's caused by poor design, but the framer and roofer get the blame for it. The builder should have chosen a better house plan (or better designer to create it).

    Poor planning

    Have you ever had to jump through hoops for your boss because he or she didn't plan very well? Did that hoop jumping allow you to do your best work? Well, the same goes for subcontractors who get thrown a curve ball by a builder at the last minute. Maybe the house isn't really ready for the electrician because the tile setter is still working, so the electrician has to work around the other contractor. Maybe the plumber had to set the toilets before the tile setter was done, which means he had to do a workaround for the toilets. Think those will leak at some point?

    Low expectations

    When people used to ask my dad why his trim carpenter was so much better than those of his competitors, he would answer, "I have the same trim carpenter those guys use. The difference is I don't accept crappy work." Funny thing, the trim carpenter stepped up his game on my dad's houses because that's what my dad expected. My dad didn't pay more, he just expected better. The trim carpenter was perfectly capable of superior work—he just wasn't going to volunteer it.


    Guess what? There's no test required to be a home builder. No license required (in Oklahoma), no continuing education, nothing. It takes more education, testing, and licensure to be a hairdresser than to build houses for families to live in. Many times, builders allow subcontractors to get away with sloppy work simply because they don't know any better.

    If you see one builder that has better workmanship than the other, it's probably not because of a difference in labor or materials. It's because the builder knows his craft and sets high standards for every single job.

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