Being a drywall contractor I really like what I do for a living, but I wouldn’t do it every day for free. Matter of fact, if I could make more money doing what I do, I would like what I do even more. But I guess I am pretty happy if I at least make what I figured on making. I never really lose money (have no profit on the job) unless I don’t get full payment at the end, but that is another story.  All in all making what I should be making is pretty rare.   In my personal experience, it is a rare occurrence to have a job properly prepared and go according to plan?  That is having the heat on, the site clean (photo on right), no other subs working in the way, and completely ready as scheduled.  Recently I completed taping a house that was all hung when I arrived. The conditions were ideal; heat was on, hangers did a good job, rooms were cleaned, key to house was supplied, and I received my down payment. I was able to complete the job in the allotted time and I provided my customer with a quality finished job.  But you know what? I didn’t make the money I should have on the job. The reason is that I was scheduled to start two weeks earlier. The job just wasn’t ready because of poor coordination on the part of the GC.  I run a pretty tight schedule and am in constant contact with the GC or homeowner as the start date nears. I talked to the GC and the crew hanging the drywall and everything seemed to be on schedule. A few days before I was supposed to start I found out that it was not going to be ready. That job was what I planned on doing so at best I was going to have a few unplanned days off. Luckily, I managed to rush another job to change my schedule. I know this happens but I have trouble excepting it. I did not make what I should have, but I worked late a few days and completed all the work. So when I caught my breath I tried to figure out what went wrong, what could I have done differently, who was at fault, and do I want to work for this contractor again?
When a job is not ready I stress out!
Three big stressors are:

  •  not being on schedule
  •  not given enough time to complete work
  •  not the money I was supposed to make.

A subcontractor can make money if given a clean work area and if job is 100% ready when scheduled. If the job is not ready or conditions are not as agreed the sub must decide if new goals are possible to achieve and decide if more money is needed to complete work. If extra effort must me made to meet strict deadlines more money should be paid to subs. GOOD LUCK!

Even though problems are often the norm we bid for a job being ready and problem free. Or do we? I know that if I do bid on work for a contractor who does a poor job getting things ready for me I add money to the bid, figuring if I get the work the profit will be what it should be or I just won’t get the job and will avoid all those headaches. 

Mistakes a contractor should avoid

If delays do occur don’t try to make up time by pushing subs to do more with less time or working out of sequence. When the schedule slips the problems begin. This affects the profits of the sub. Recovery mode begins and work becomes less efficient, more delays, congestion, materials in the way, and other trades in the way. Subcontractors should be charging for chaos instead of paying for it. It’s tough to stay on a strict schedule, GC must be ready to make changes and communicate with subs. It is not an easy job, but it is a necessary help the job run smoothly and effectively. I have never taken a class to learn what a General Contractors job actually is. But as far as I am concerned it is to make sure the job is completely ready for each subcontractor when they arrive, coordinate with the subs so they arrive on schedule, and pay for extras and inconveniences.  The GC not only has the subcontractors to work with, but also the homeowner, so making sure the homeowner makes necessary decisions is equally as important. As you know a poorly run job will impact relationships. Most subs will avoid working for a general contractor who is always off schedule. Nobody likes playing the guessing game and having profits on the job reduced.  With so many ways to communicate and coordinate it still comes down to being organized at the top and hiring quality subs and allowing them to do their work while providing them the best conditions to do it under.

Mistakes we have all made

Assist contractor in getting ready. Could become norm, must be careful.

Assuming the site will be ready despite previous experience with particular contractor.

Change orders can be reasons for losing money.  I may go home with more money after the job is complete but often change orders mess up the flow and hourly profits go down. Often I will say I just want to get the work I have been contracted to do finished first and then I can think about additional work.

Just being busy does not mean I am making money.  Until I started doing the math I just figured as long as I am busy for my 9 or 10 hr day and making progress what’s the big deal. But I know that if I can come in and get all the drywall hung and then clean up the site and then tape all the drywall, I am working in the most productive manner. If I am switching from hanging to taping and back to hanging and then moving someone else’s tools out of the way or working around another contractor and their tools, I can stay real busy but of course I am not making as much profit.   After all time is money.

Of course I am writing about the building contractor’s role in the scheduling process, but this could just as easily be about the sub contractor who is unorganized and behind schedule or just completing part of a job. The inadequacies of one sub contractor on the job can affect everyone else’s bottom line.  Ultimately it is about the homeowner or finished quality which still has to be satisfied but at whose expense?    All in all timely Communication is the key!!!




  1. This seems to be the norm these days. Poor scheduling, unrealistic deadlines. I have been through great runs over a few months where everything falls on line, and I’ve also been through the worst of it. Having to lay guys off when a huge job was supposed to fall. Like you say, if I could do this every day consistently there would not be so much frustration.

    • I guess that as long as at he end of the year you have made what you needed. Of course there is no doubt we could make more money or many better yet actually schedule some time off.
      Most of my work nowadays is for homeowners who I think are even more difficult. They don’t want to be inconvenienced at all if possible and at least at first are reluctant to leave you in their home without them being there. I did a job last summer where I had to hire an electrician to do just an hours worth of work.
      The schedules of all three of us the homeowner, myself and the electrician all had to fit. It took a month to actually get done and then the customer sent me a bad review for taking too long.

  2. After 24 years of being a drywall plaster sub, im not sure i can handle it much longer. I lose way more than i make , between false workers comp claims, unpaid change orders and uniiscened uninsured competition its just crazy.
    25 employees and im the last to get paid and the gc s could care less

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