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David Cartwright

Construction, Business - 5 min read

Subcontractor Horror Stories

Jason Hook

Head of Sales and Marketing

Sep 22, 2016 7:53:00 AM

Subcontractors can mean the difference between a job getting done well, or a job not getting done at all. They’re a key element of the construction equation, in fact 70% of builders use between 11 and 30 subcontractors when building the average family home.

When you hire a subcontractor, you expect to hire an expert with specialised skills, saving you time, money and effort. However, things don’t always go to plan. From shoddy workmanship to disappearing acts and on site disputes, underperforming subcontractors are a general contractor’s headache.

Unfortunately, troublesome subcontractors are not uncommon.

We’ve curated some subcontractor horror stories, as told by real people on online building and construction forums.


1. Plasterboard Problems

The first horror story was submitted by Reddit user Clincoln15, who was searching for some legal advice after a subcontractor fudged work on a plasterboard, leaving him out of pocket and angry. 

Clincoln15, a small business contractor who works on residential properties, was working on water damaged basement walls. He hired a subcontractor to complete the plasterboard patching and texturing work, as he wasn’t confident doing the work himself.

After agreeing on a rate the subcontractor began work, however when Clincoln15 checked in on progress he found it was of a “horrible” standard. 

“Someone with no drywall (plasterboard) experience could have done better work,” he wrote. 

He told the subcontractor how to fix his mistakes, yet the sub demanded money, started to pester the client directly, also threatening legal action and violence. He amended his mistakes, yet the work was still of poor quality. 

The subcontractor then went as far as to demand entry to the client’s house to photograph what he argued was satisfactory work.

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2. Tear It All Down

Two Australian subcontractors took matters into their own hands when their payment was late, destroying the work they’d done with chainsaws.

Video of the incident was uploaded to Facebook, where people criticised their actions. 

“He did this for not getting paid on time? People think it’s easy being the boss and paying everyone on time. Well, it’s not easy at all,” said one Facebook user. 

While general contractors should always strive to pay their subs on time, they shouldn’t expect work to be destroyed if they lag. Check out these 6 things to remember when managing subcontractors for more advice on how to effectively handle difficult subs.


3. Disappearing Act 

It’s not only subcontractors who sometimes reveal themselves as the bad egg. Michael in Canada shared his nasty run in with a shoddy contractor - the Houdini. After paying for materials, the contractor got down to business before disappearing with the work only half complete.  

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The contractor then screened his calls, leaving Michael out thousands of dollars. After doing license checks, Michael discovered these to be fake and was forced to seek the help of an investigator.


4. Communication Breakdown 

This simple subcontractor mishap set the project back weeks, and could have been avoided with clear instructions.

Susan asked her contractor to redo their ceiling with a textured finish. The contractor hired a sub, who then applied texture to the ceiling, every wall and surface in the kitchen. It all needed to be scraped, sanded and smoothed.

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