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Dealing with tradesmen

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When you commence a Do-It-Yourself improvement, or you operate as an owner builder you are going to have to deal directly with all tradespeople.

Tradespeople are now highly paid workers, and sometimes not as skilled as you would like. In the last decade there has been unprecedented demand for their services and their charges have skyrocketed.

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When you engage a tradesperson, ideally you get a quote from more than one person but often on small jobs this is not possible. It is essential to determine their hourly rate before you hire them. If you don't inquire about rate it means that you are a greenhorn, and it is likely the bill will be more than you are expecting.  Some tradies have been known to vary their rate according to the postcode, especially if no rate has been set in advance. To get the best price always say that you are on a strict budget and need a fixed price for the work.

Also ask the tradesperson how many of them will turn up to do the job. Some tradespeople work in a two man team and you will have to pay for both. Quiet often when a tradesperson quotes an hourly rate it is just for one person.

Scheduling how long jobs take, and who comes when, is a big part of being an owner builder or renovator. If you are an infrequent owner builder you will unfortunately have trade problems. Despite promises, there will probably be many times when a tradesperson does not appear and will not call to reschedule. They may have multiple clients and may not have finished the job before yours on time. This may completely throw your well planned building schedule out, so you need to call them ahead of time to confirm they are running as planned. 

Quality control is another tricky area. Always check the quality of the work at various stages. Picking up the errors and mistakes early will ensure the worked gets done to the standard you expect. Once the job is complete it is very difficult for trades to come back and fix their work, always hold 20% of payment  back until the work has been completed as agreed.

It is very important when dealing with trades to watch how you request changes or ask questions. You should mix a negative comment with a positive. Prefix your criticism with a compliment like "great tiling job here, but..." If there is something wrong that needs to be done again, you can question whether you are paying for that time or not, but this is dangerous territory and should be approached with caution. You don't want the tradesperson to become negative about the relationship, it may reflect in their work.

If you're a regular renovator and you surround yourself with trades you have used before, renovating can be a joy. But if you are a novice ask someone you know that uses trades regularly for their recommendation. 

Also remember that you need to communicate with your trades regularly if you want them to understand your vision, other people do not think the same way as you do.

It is difficult to pick the right tradesperson. You not only need to find a trade that does good work, but you also need to find a tradesperson that is professional, that has ideas and ethics that are aligned to your own and who communicates well.