It’s nearly Christmas and everyone is frantic trying to get jobs finished before the break. That stress puts pressure on all of us, including tradespeople.
But whatever the time of the year, there are ways to get the best out of your tradie, and it all comes down to communication and expectation, says Jeremy Wyn-Harris of online tradie sourcing website Builderscrack.co.nz.
With that in mind, here are the experts’ list of things tradies want you to know.
Homeowners may think a quote seems high, without being fully aware of exactly what is involved. The costs will most likely include travel time and time spent buying materials. “These things are a cost to tradies and they need to make a living,” says Wyn-Harris. “A five-minute job is never just a five-minute job for the tradie. They can’t work on jobs that cost them more than they get back in revenue.”
For this reason also, many tradespeople will now charge for quotes. The amount of time these can take can be enormous, especially if the project involves an extension or a new kitchen. Visiting the site and pricing up the job is extremely time consuming. Other tradies will have this built into their hourly rate and won’t charge for quotes, but you can sure you are paying for it. “They are not rippling you off,” says Wyn-Harris. “There’s just a bunch of other stuff that needs to happen behind the scenes.”
2. SKILL LEVELS
Tradies’ costs also reflect their skills and high level of specialisation. “It isn’t just the time spent doing the job; it’s the time spent learning how to do it,” says Wyn-Harris. For this same reason, it is best if you don’t follow a tradie around asking questions on every aspect of their work. They know what they are doing and it’s best if you respect their skill set and just let them get on with it. It will also mean they finish sooner.
“Don’t waste their time and they won’t waste yours,” says Wyn-Harris. “I’m not a fan of micro management. No-one likes being watched while they’re working. Someone asking questions just slows up the process.”
3. PATIENCE REQUIRED
A good tradie is a busy one, so you may have to wait a couple of weeks or months if you want their services.
4. THE LEGAL STUFF
New Health and Safety legislation introduced this year means your home becomes a legally designated work site when you have a tradie working. The tradies should be able to show you their health and safety plan for the job. This is something they work through before they start. Wyn-Harris says he has had complaints from some tradies about others who are not complying with the regulations, so you should talk to them about this before they start work.
Also the law requires a written quote for any work over $30,000. It is in the interests of both parties that this is complied with. The quote should detail what the work is and what it will cost. It is also important that the homeowner clearly understands the difference between a quote and an estimate. A quote usually leads to a signed agreement, which is legally binding, while an estimate is a “ballpark” figure that can change dramatically.
Some types of work require special accreditations, such as structural changes to your house. You have every right to ask your builder if he is a licensed building practitioner. Carpentry jobs do not generally require this. Plumbers and electricians also need to be registered.
5. SITE PREP
Think about what a tradesperson might need at your home. Handy parking and access to power are good examples. Is there any other way you can prepare the site in advance so they can get on with the job quickly?
You also need to provide a toilet and washbasin. If you don’t provide a toilet, then they will have to travel elsewhere to find one, which will be time consuming and a cost factor. Or they might hire a Port-a-loo, the cost of which will be passed onto you.
Which brings us to:
HOW TO GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR TRADIE
1. Provide that toilet, and make sure the tradies know which one you would like them to use.
2. Establish the etiquette. Tell them whether you want them to remove their boots at the door. Also let them know at the outset if there are any parts of the house that are off limits.
3. Establish good communication. Don’t worry about asking what you think might be a silly question if a problem has arisen. It’s easier to find solutions together. Good dialogue works both ways. If something unforeseen does crop up – a common problem with renovations – the tradie will communicate that there might be a change in the scope of the work. This needs to be discussed and any actions and consequences understood by both parties.
4. Keep a written record of what is agreed on – the start and end date and price.
5. Read the online reviews and ask for word-of-mouth referrals. But don’t be put off by a single bad review. “Feel free to ask a tradie what might be behind a bad review,” says Wyn-Harris. “Often it’s just a personality clash or client expectations that were way beyond what was reasonable. You can tell a lot about someone just by having a conversation with them.” But websites, such as Builderscrack.co.nz, where reviews are posted do help everyone work to a higher standard. Good feedback is very valuable for tradies.
6. Ask about the tradesperson’s liability insurance. The bigger the job, the more important this is.
7. Friendliness goes a long way, and that may include an offer of a cup of tea. “Keep the relationship healthy and hydrate your tradie, and the work will proceed a lot more smoothly,” says Wyn-Harris.