Grand Designs Australia

Tips For Working With Tradesmen

Your renovation bible comprises the contact details of good builders and tradespeople: electricians, plumbers, plasterers, painters. Good help is gold and you get what you pay for. Inform yourself as to what certain procedures involve (you don’t have to be able to do them yourself to know how they’re done) and research the going rates.

It’ll benefit you to pay your people well – what they’re worth and more – to have your projects run smoothly. Remember you need these people on side. Without them, you won’t get quotes lined up, or a renovation completed, in the timescale you want.

When you begin recruiting the members of your renovating team, keep in mind it’s always a good idea to employ locally. (You’ll pay travel time even if it doesn’t appear on the quote.) Look in your local papers and use online services such as and The locals of one profession will know the other locals of the others, and can refer you on.

You can also find local tradespeople by doing a drive-by: when you’re out and about, look for their signs in front of houses in your neighbourhood. Or look on the internet. Websites to assist you with finding tradespeople include: The Housing Industry Association website,, (the tradespeople listed here are current and linked with an association that requires an ongoing process of qualification) and

Your relationships with builders and tradespeople are pivotal to your accomplishing a successful, timely renovation. You need to learn their language. To ensure healthy interaction, remember some dos and don’ts:

Do be precise. Know exactly what you want, and communicate this in short sentences, minus any waffle. Most tradespeople have a book of pictures of their work. Use these to communicate your requirements, or cut out your own pictures from newspapers and magazines to clearly show what it is you require.

Don’t have all your tradespeople at the property together. They hate it, and it’s an inefficient use of time. Draw up a timeline and schedule the workers as their skills are required.

Do ask each tradesperson exactly how much time is needed for a task.

Do draw up floor plans for each tradesperson.

Do ask a tradesperson what you can prepare in advance. For example, if you want an electrician to install downlighting, do the preliminary work: mark the light positions; measure and cut the holes. This time-consuming chore is the kind of thing an electrician hates. If you do it, you’ll make him happy and he’ll want to work with you again. Also you’ll save a lot of money because he’ll be quicker.

Don’t be demanding.

Don’t niggle over a sum less than $100.

Don’t call tradespeople before 7am or after 7pm. They have families and lives too.

Don’t ask for a receipt for a cash job. Ever.

If you’re concerned about how long your builders disappear off-site for tea and lunch breaks, keep them there by bribing them with food. Put a bar fridge on-site and fill it with water, lollies and biscuits. Make sure there’s free-flowing tea and coffee. You could even ring up the day before and find out what each member of the team wants for lunch. If you take your lunch along too and eat with them, you’ll not only keep them on-site and stay up-to-date with the project, you’ll be the good guy they’ll want to work with again.

By Eynas Brodie © Australian Property Investor magazine - Reproduced with permission.

By Eynas Brodie © Australian Property Investor magazine - Reproduced with permission.

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1 comment
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Posted by AccaReport
So no receipt for a 'cash' job?! So to be clear you want me to pay some random guy cash with no record of work carried out. One tradesman I worked with wanted half the amount in cash for about half the work carried out. What guarantee would I have had for him to return to complete the job in a timely manner (if at all). Why do you want 'cash' anyway? I assume to do something less than legal like defraud the Tax Dept? Sorry, I don't want to pay 'cash'. We would've had no recourse when our flooring 'expert' screwed up our floor finish that didn't stand up to mere water droplets! (Bad batch of flooring oil - it happens). Lucky I didn't pay him cash. Pls kindly Pull ur head in....