A reno is only as good as the team behind it. Our DIY expert Cherie Barber provides you with her top tips to find the best tradies for the job.
One thing I’ve learnt from 23 years of professional renovating – your renovation is only as good as the team behind it. That goes for everyone, from the architect, to the builder, to the creatives, to the tradespeople who labour away to bring your grand plans to fruition. I’m very fortunate to have found a great builder and team of tradies I know I can depend on. I’ve worked with them on many, many renovation projects now.
I haven't always been so fortunate however. Over the years, I’ve occasionally used an untried contractor, only to be bitterly let down. That drives home to me two absolute essentials that anyone in the renovating game needs to stick to:
Always do proper due diligence on ANYONE you’re hiring for your renovation – whether it’s your architect or a labourer who’s going to gut your bathroom. Impulsive hiring decisions are a gamble that can cost you dearly.
When you find someone good, appreciate your good fortune and make sure you hang onto them. Acknowledge a job well done – perhaps even with a thank you note and a small token of appreciation, like a gift voucher or a pack of beer – always pay them promptly, and never let tense situations get the better of you. A few undisciplined words said in anger can destroy a relationship forever. Be firm, but fair, in all dealings.
Here are my tips for weeding out potential cowboys and finding the best people for the job.
1. Start by asking friends, colleagues and family for their personal recommendations. Having someone you trust vouch for a person’s quality of workmanship, reliability and that they charge a fair price for the work they do – that is GOLD! You still want to do some due diligence of your own, but it’s a massive headstart if someone comes recommended. Knowing that you, the client, is connected to an established network of past clients is a real incentive for them to do the right thing by you.
2. There are some key people in your team – and one is definitely your builder. Even if he comes recommended, ask if you can speak to the property owner on his current job and the one before. If he’s confident in his work, this shouldn’t be a problem. When it comes time to sign your building contract, make sure everything is itemised, right down to the last light switch, and that you’ve read over every term and condition to minimise costly variations during construction. And always go for a fixed price contract and even consider incentivising your builder with a cash bonus for a quicker build that doesn’t sacrifice quality.
3. Do standard due diligence on all tradies you use. This can be done online in minutes, so there’s no excuse for not doing it. You can check licences of any builder or tradie at licencerecognition.gov.au/authorities.aspx. Make sure they’re licensed for the work they’re doing and have all the necessary insurances. Make sure you cite a copy of their licence and insurance policy. Public liability insurance and Home Warranty Insurance are two important ones to check for. And never agree to an hourly rate; this is giving them every reason to drag the job out.
4. Get at least three quotes for any job. A seasoned renovator will have a ball park of what things cost; a novice won’t. The middle range quotes are generally the most realistic guide to the true value of the job. The cheapest quote should ring alarm bells and the highest is possibly just trying it on. You may be able to haggle to get the price down, but be fair. Tradespeople don’t often make big profit margins and have families to feed too, so make sure it works for them financially, otherwise shortcuts can be taken that ultimately affect the quality of the job.
Follow some of these basic and simple rules and you’ll have the best chance of getting the right people on board, from day one.