After liaising with tradesmen for more than 30 years in various roles – in both the real estate and building industries – I feel I know what makes this type of beast tick.
Generally speaking, I have always enjoyed talking to tradesmen because of their laid-back and unpretentious nature. However, I must say – being an organised type of person myself – their lack of reliability has often caused me angst.
Good tradesmen are difficult to find because they don’t need to advertise their services. Because they deliver a quality service, they are able to keep busy purely with past customer referrals.
I recently experienced the frustration in finding a willing and able tradesman for a small but difficult job at my house. My front porch area is paved and the pavers adjoin a driveway. Unfortunately the driveway has slightly subsided, causing the pavers to protrude and creating a possible trip hazard.
The solution seemed simple enough: grinding the base concrete slab would lower the height of the pavers, which would align the pavers and concrete driveway. Amazingly it took more than half a dozen tradesmen to view the job before one finally kept his commitment to carry out the work. No doubt the others put the job in the too-hard basket.
The tradesman who agreed to carry out the work came up with a novel solution: instead of grinding the base slab, as the other tradesmen suggested, he recommended grinding the underside of the paver. According to him this would ensure all pavers would be level.
This guy sounded like he knew what he was talking about – I hoped. He also mentioned he had completed a lot of work for a local real estate company and had successfully completed similar jobs. To top it off he was very keen to take on the work. At last, I thought, I have hit the jackpot with this master craftsman.
OK, he did arrive late for our appointment to quote the job, but I took this as evidence he was much in demand.
During the appointment we had a discussion about the schools we went to as we are both about the same age. It was during this conversation he told me how he used to bully some well-known gangsters that happened to go to the same school as he attended.
After liaising with tradesmen for many years this did not deter me. If you are looking for the perfect tradesman, you could be looking forever. Perhaps his gangster story was part of his debt collection strategy. It certainly was a good motivator to pay his account on time, provided he did a quality job.
When looking to hire a tradesman, these are my tips:
- Engaging a tradesman through advertising mediums can be risky. Try to obtain a referral from a satisfied customer.
- Engage a tradesman that specialises in the type of job you require.
- Obtain a written quote outlining all materials to be used, including a scope of works for jobs that are not straightforward such as painting. The quote should include information such as what type of paint will be used, how many coats will be applied and what preparatory work will be required.
- For works costing more than $1000 obtain multiple quotes.
- Obtaining a set price for the job is preferable. However, if you feel you can trust the tradesman and the type of work justifies it, allow an hourly rate.
- Ask the tradesman for a certificate of compliance in relation to electrical and plumbing works.
- Does the tradesman have insurance?
- Does the tradesman need to be registered with the Victorian Building Authority as a domestic builder for the type of work you require?
- Does the tradesman need to take out domestic warranty insurance for the type of work you require?
- Is a planning or building permit required from the council for the work?
- Agree on terms of payment before work starts.
There are few guarantees with any tradesman. However, don’t pay his invoice until he has satisfactorily completed the work. If you are not happy with the quality of the work, ask him to have another go at it.
The tradesman completed my paving repair job in quality fashion, and as I arrived home he was in the process of caulking the joint between the pavers and concrete driveway.
I had specifically asked him to use a polyurethane sealant as it can withstand a higher degree of movement than normal silicon; however, he was using a roof and gutter silicon.
Most likely the easy option for him was to use the tube of sealant he happened to have in his van, rather than having to drive to a hardware store and buy the more expensive product that I requested.
I admit that the prospect of world peace wasn’t affected by his failing to use the most suitable silicon, but it does annoy me every time I walk out of my front door and am reminded of the inferior sealant that was used.
Perhaps I should have taken my own advice as stated in point three above: “Obtain a written quote outlining all materials to be used, including a scope of works.”