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How to manage tradespeople like a pro

Making home improvements can be a costly business, so you want to ensure you hire ​​​​​​​someone you can rely on…

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You might think you’ve done all the hard work in sourcing a reliable trader for your latest home improvement project, but then somewhere along the line things grind to a halt. As you wander among the rubble, wondering whether the job will ever get done, you rack your brain – trying to work out why this seemingly perfect relationship is suddenly going so badly. The advent of social media has made it easier than ever to source a reliable tradesman, but once the job starts, you’re on your own.

According to a poll of 2,000 Britons commissioned by Helly Hansen Workwear, more than three-quarters said they’re nervous about using new tradesmen for the first time, with almost 40% admitting they’d had a bad experience in the past. So how do you make sure you don’t become another statistic?

Clarity is one of the key things your trader needs from you. So start your relationship off on the right footing by outlining everything you’ve discussed to date – in writing.

Misunderstandings and mistakes will happen in any job, but you will cut down on these no end by adopting the same, careful approach you used when sourcing your contractor. Work from the quote and add in any other details that you’re expecting or have since agreed upon – including storage, access and payments. This will give you both a set of detailed notes to refer to and hopefully avoid any showdown scenarios.

“Making the odd brew is a nice thing to do and will be appreciated, but don’t feel obliged to keep the tea on tap”

KNOW WHAT TO EXPECT

If you’re having any walls knocked down or floors sanded, it’s going to create dust – and a lot of it. Unfortunately, with the best will in the world, some of it is going to find its way into other parts of your house. Ask your trader about any potential mess, so that you can actually take some measures to combat it, rather than simply walking in on it. Stipulate what you would like to see done in terms of any daily clean up, but be realistic at the same time.

DON’T BE A DOORMAT

Making the odd brew is a nice thing to do and will be appreciated, but don’t feel obliged to keep the tea on tap. By hovering too much, you’ll interfere with the flow of work and potentially cost yourself money. What’s more, you’ll end up changing the dynamic of the relationship and find it harder to raise any concerns – something that won’t suit either of you. Remember: you are the employer here, so maintaining a slight distance is perfectly acceptable.

SPEAK UP!

If you have doubts as the job moves along, say so straight away. Leaving any concerns to fester will only make matters worse. That shouldn’t be an invitation to keep changing your mind, however – one of the biggest bugbears traders have with clients, by the way. Keep your written notes to hand, so that you can both refer to them.

LEARN THE LINGO

Conversations with your trader will prove much easier if you understand the references they are making. Ahead of the project, familiarise yourself with the jobs being done and the corresponding materials/permissions/ certificates required. This will not only help you navigate the necessary terms, but furnish you with the right questions to ask. Planning permission is notoriously difficult after the fact, so don’t just take people’s word for it. Find out what’s needed and whose responsibility it is to have things in place.

KEEP AN EYE ON THE FIGURES

You should have already agreed costs for your project, as well as a payment schedule, before engaging a trader’s services. As a rule of thumb, it’s usual to pay on completion for smaller jobs and stage payments on larger projects – with a remaining percentage due at the close. If you are paying for materials, only do this once they are on site. Be methodical where money is concerned – it will help avoid any misunderstandings and prevent spiralling costs. Get a receipt for any payments you make and add it to your log so that you can update your budget accordingly. 

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